TTYLXOX or Something Like That

Last week, older boy became the proud owner of his first smart phone.
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ME: Hey guy, it is nice outside and mom wants to take a walk in a few minutes. Make sure you are ready.

Sitting on his bed and playing a game on his phone, my son responds.

OLDER BOY: Sure. Is everyone going?

ME: Yes, the whole clan.

He goes back to concentrating on the app.

OLDER BOY: Can you text me when we are ready to go?

ME: From downstairs? Ha!

I then walk downstairs and tell mom about her son's new found use for technology. Sissy (little sister) overhears the conversation.

SISSY: Can I text him? Please? Please?

ME: Hmmm. Oh yes, I think that is an awesome idea.

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With some help, here is the text she sent to older boy when it was walk time:

Time to go my BFF! :) LOL :D xox Sissy

Nothing like getting a digital smiley face with hugs and kisses from your elementary school little sister.

As such, our household is now modernized.

For better or for worse emoticon.
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Have a good weekend everyone.  

Your Employer: A Dumpster Fire

Last week, the consulting firm Manuel, Daniels, Burke International, LLC, released a report about the Savannah Chatham Metropolitan Police Department (SCMPD) in picturesque Savannah, GA.

For the public, that means lots of yawning.

But that department is trying to regain public trust after years of internal problems, and Interim Chief Julie Tolbert certainly has her hands full.

As in most places, change takes time.

For the most part, the report focuses on a single branch of the police department (IAD), but one released statistic is shocking.

Well, shocking in dumpster-fire fashion.

Get this:

Through attrition, the SCMPD lost 107 officers in 2012, and another 121 officers in 2013.

In other words...

THEY LOST 228 OFFICER IN JUST TWO YEARS!

The agency's website lists that the SCMPD employs around 600 officers.

So, the SCMPD lost over 1/3 of its uniformed workforce?

Wow!

Dumpster Fire! Dumpster Fire!

Now, there are legitimate reasons that officers or any other workers leave jobs.

Things like maybe the workforce was older and they just had lots ready to retire.

Or, their government offered an early retirement package in 2012 and 2013 to reduce costs.

Perhaps, the 228 officers are shared winners in the latest Powerball Lottery.

Ok, maybe not. What is more likely?

It was just a super sucky place to work.

Unfortunately, I usually assume the latter reason until proven otherwise, and the consultants (via their study) found evidence with the crappy employer theory.

On Page 7 of the report, the consultants admit that it is unknown as to why so many officers left the SCMPD, as the agency did not keep such records (really?).

But, their interviews with current personnel indicated that "dissatisfaction with the climate of favoritism" played a role.

Oh favoritism. That is a morale killer.

As such, the consultants recommend that the agency initiate an exit interview program to better understand employee attrition.

Exit interviews?

Genius!

I see that the police department maintains national accreditation through the The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA).

CALEA recognition is not easily attained.

Perhaps a good starting point for Chief Tolbert and agency reforms is to look at the CALEA standards that the SCMPD says it is meeting.

Are these required CALEA personnel and policy standards truly being met, or is it simply a game of smoke and mirrors to make the agency appear professional?

Currently, the dumpster fire continues in Savannah and the tax-paying citizens are the losers.

You can view the full SCMPD report by clicking here.
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Question: Exit interviews are effective and common sense dictates that they should be used regularly by employers. Have you ever participated in an exit interview when leaving a job? 

Memorial Day and Corporal Bausell

Since today is Memorial Day for us in the States, I wanted to remember American soldiers who died in service of their country.

And, what better way to do that then to tell of one person's sacrifice--that of USMC Corporal Lewis Bausell on Peleliu Island, September 1944.

Lewis Bausell

He is a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor:
...Valiantly placing himself at the head of his squad, Cpl. Bausell led the charge forward against a hostile pillbox which was covering a vital sector of the beach and, as the first to reach the emplacement, immediately started firing his automatic into the aperture while the remainder of his men closed in on the enemy. 

Swift to act, as a Japanese grenade was hurled into their midst, Cpl. Bausell threw himself on the deadly weapon, taking the full blast of the explosion and sacrificing his own life to save his men

His unwavering loyalty and inspiring courage reflect the highest credit upon Cpl. Bausell and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
A belated thank you in memory of Cpl. Bausell* and the so many others who gave all to protect the freedoms that I often take for granted.

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. -John 15:13
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*Note: Born in Pulaski, Virginia, Cpl. Bausell is the only enlisted Medal of Honor recipient from Washington D.C. He died at age 20, and was buried at sea.

If you are interested in reading other Congressional Medal of Honor stories, you can go here.

Rollie Pollie or Potato Bug?

In December, the New York Times published this test to evaluate where you are from based on word use and pronunciations.

In taking the test, I hoped that I had not lost my Southern roots--as I have lived in the Northeast now for more than a decade.

The results were painless.

Good to know that I am still a "country bumpkin."

My three match cities are: Little Rock, AR, Montgomery, AL, and Richmond, VA.

Unfortunately, my Mississippi & Arkansas good-humored relatives will still call me "Yankee" even if I do show them these results.

You can take the test, by clicking here.

Can people tell where you are from by the way you speak?

If you took the test, was it accurate?
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Enjoy your weekend.

Best Place to Eat in a Small Town

I know I live in small town America.

How?

When the favorite place to eat-out for the kids, as well as most of our neighbors, is..

A Local Gas Station.

Yes, fuel for the car, and then treats for the family.

It is the best place to eat in this small town.

A place where phrases such as these are common:

Did they run out of strawberry milk?

Are you going to eat those pickles?

Dad, could we get more onion rings?

With full bellies, the little gang is now ready to tackle a sunny Saturday afternoon.

If we lived in a big city, we could certainly find fancier places to eat.

But I would not trade the slower pace of a non-urban area for any of that.

A pace that promotes family time.

If you need us, meet us at the gas station.

You'll leave content.

In more ways than one.

Jacob Wetterling Abduction: A New Lead

A new lead is being pursued in the tragic child abduction case of Jacob Wetterling.

And it is due to the work of a writer and blogger named Joy Baker.

Case Background: Jacob Wetterling

Jacob Wetterling

In October of 1989, then 11-year-old Jacob, his brother, and a friend were bicycling home after renting a movie in St. Joseph, Minnesota. The boys were confronted by a masked gunman who ordered the kids off their bikes and onto the ground. He asked each of the boys their ages and looked at their faces. The man then ordered the friend and Jacob's brother to run to a nearby wooded lot, and not to look back or he would shoot. The two boys ran. 

Jacob Wetterling has not been seen since. 
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Despite an intensive investigation into the kidnapping, the case has baffled investigators for years.

Joy Baker's Work
In 2010, freelance writer and Minnesotan Joy Baker began examining the Wetterling abduction.

She compiled an impressive collection of information about the case on her blog.

She also began asking questions regarding other attacks of young boys that occurred prior to Jacob's abduction. Attacks that had occurred in nearby towns in Minnesota. Attacks with similar details.

One such attack was against a victim named "Jared" who was 12 years old at the time (source is here).

Jared was walking home from ice skating when a man in a car stopped to ask him directions. The stranger then told Jared he had a gun, that he would shoot him unless he cooperated, and forced the boy into the backseat of the vehicle. The man then drove him to a separate location, and eventually let Jared go.

Like the Wetterling case, Jared's abductor was never caught.

Through her research in the case, Joy began working with Jared. She got the idea to start looking for similar attacks on children from that time period.

She researched the topic and found an 1987 article from nearby Paynesville, MN (about 30 miles from St. Joseph, MN). The article described 5 separate incidents of a man accosting young people in their community, and that police were asking for the public's assistance.

The attacker described in Paynesville had similarities to the man described in both Jacob and Jared's abductions.

Joy then summarized the cases with what was available, and plotted the attacks on a map (go here to see that). She forwarded the information to police, and detectives in several jurisdictions are now looking at the lead provided by Joy and Jared.

Amazing.

As I discussed in a post recently about an amateur Civil War enthusiast uncovering an answer to a historical mystery, there are regular people doing the extraordinary.

Alfred C. Young III, Joy Baker, and Jared are accomplishing things that were not thought possible.

Don't let it stop with these heroic people, challenge yourself to do something amazing.

For Jacob and his family.

For others.

There is lots of good to be done in this world of ours. ______________________________________________

Joy Baker's post on Jared's attack can be read here, and her full series on Jacob Wetterling is here.

You can read more of my Missing Person Monday posts by going here.   

Driving Dumb

One of the biggest examples of what I refer to as "driving dumb" involves motorists who illegally pass stopped school buses.


These drivers are either ignorant, severely distracted, or simply don't care if their actions are putting others, even children, in danger.

But, it sounds like citizen complaints about this reckless behavior in North Dakota are generating action
North Dakota Highway Patrol plans to put a trooper on a bus in southwest North Dakota to observe drivers. A trooper will ride on a regular bus route on May 15 to observe drivers.

If the trooper sees a violation, he will radio information to another trooper in a squad car, who will initiate a traffic stop.

The trooper on a bus program is an effort to enhance enforcement of traffic laws and increase public awareness of the dangers created by drivers who fail to stop for school buses when children are loading or unloading.

Failing to stop as required for a school bus is punishable by a $100 fine and six points to the violator’s driving record…
Last week, I was approaching a stopped school bus on a two-lane road. The yellow bus had lights flashing and a stop-sign clearly displayed, when a four-door vehicle whipped past the bus on the other side and kept going.

No braking. No slowing at all.

The driver, an elderly man, seemed oblivious to the danger--that his actions could have resulted in injuring one of the elementary-aged kids that was being dropped off from school.

I can certainly see why troopers in North Dakota are riding buses to try and combat this problem.

Lives can be changed forever.

As it was yesterday in Gaffney, South Carolina when driver Leslie Littlejohn's vehicle struck student Chassie Alford as she boarded a school bus.

Littlejohn, who did not have a valid driver's license,  was arrested and claimed she did not see the bus' warning lights or sign (investigators determined that the bus equipment was operating properly).

Sadly, the student was seriously injured and is currently in an intensive care unit.

My prayers are with her.
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I hope you have a good weekend and avoid all those who are "driving dumb" out there.

Brady Cops

Pardon me while I use today's post to clarify what seems to be misunderstood by some in referencing police misconduct stories…
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"Brady Cops" and the "Brady List" refer to a 1963 Supreme Court ruling (Brady V. Maryland) that the government has a legal obligation to disclose evidence which may justify or excuse an accused defendant's actions.

In essence, the prosecution cannot withhold evidence that could strengthen a defendant's case.

From this decision, "Brady Cops" or being on the "Brady List" refers to police officers who previously have been shown as dishonest or otherwise acted in a manner to be discredited while serving in an official capacity.

When a district attorney uses a person on a "Brady List" in a case, he/she will certainly want to know as it could jeopardize that prosecution.

As you can imagine, the defense would certainly attack the credibility of any police officer with this negative designation.

Jurisdictions handle "Brady Cops" differently--whether there is a formal list or they rely on police agency notification--but officials are all still bound by this 1963 decision.

Recently, a reporter obtained a copy of a "Brady List" from officials in Broward County, Florida.

It is 22 pages long and includes 147 names and summary information on alleged/proven misconduct.

Some of the individuals are still being investigated, and would be removed from the list if the allegations against them are unsubstantiated.

If you are interested in seeing one, Broward County's "Brady List" is here.

A Day for Mom?

Near-empty.

It was around 1 pm on Sunday, and that was the first comment from the kids as we pulled into the parking lot of Toys"R"Us.

"Mom, I have never seen Toys'R'Us so empty," our elementary school daughter observed.

"Three… four… five cars? You are right." I replied.

With a laugh, mom added: "Well, I don't think that the 'world's greatest toy store' is on the top 10 most desirable Mother's Day destinations."

She had a point.

Nevertheless, we had a fun hour as a family looking and playing.

The moment reminded me of a discussion that I had when I was a child.

I remember asking my father: "Mother's Day? Father's Day? Grandparents Day? When will it be kids day?

Dad just smiled and replied: "Son, every day is kids day."

I guess we illustrated Dad's point decades later by starting a day for moms with a trip to the toy store.
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Happy belated Mother's Day to all those underappreciated moms out there.  

And don't worry, mom's day got better at our house.

How Not to Celebrate Star Wars Day

How did you celebrate May 4th better known as Star Wars Day?


Hopefully not this way:
VANCOUVER - ...A woman wearing a Star Wars Darth Vader mask has been arrested following an early morning robbery in Vancouver, said VPD spokesman Randy Fincham.

Fincham said at around 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, a 23 year-old woman was walking down Wolf Avenue near Oak Street when she was robbed by a woman wearing a Darth Vader mask and carrying what looked like a handgun.

The masked robber pointed the gun at the woman and demanded her cash. After receiving a small amount of money, the suspect ran off. The victim was not injured.

After the victim called 911, police then found the woman a short distance away, still wearing the Darth Vader mask, and she was arrested. Fincham said the suspect was searched and found to be carrying a replica firearm…
Ok, so this incident occurred on Tuesday and not Sunday.

But maybe she was hosting a blow-out Star Wars party in its 48th hour and really needed the cash to restock the cheese ball and pretzel bowls for the Jawas?

I just can't envision Lord Vader wielding anything but a lightsaber though.
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Have a good weekend everyone.

He Did Something No One Considered

Something inspiring happened in May of last year, and you likely did not know about it.

Alfred C. Young III's book was published: Lee's Army During the Overland Campaign: A Numerical Study.



Ok, not exactly the eye-catching title that would makes you grab it off the store shelf and begin reading, unless you are a historian or an American Civil War buff.

This was Mr. Young's first book, and may be his last.

He is not even a writer by profession, but just an "independent scholar."

But, it is not the bland title of Mr. Young's book, his writing style, or his resume that makes this work special.

It is the concept.

An amazing concept.

And one I think that transcends disciplines.

Alfred Young had an idea, and the book is the product of more than 6 years of diligent research.

In sum, Young's work is a valuable contribution to history as he provides new insight into a question that historians had given up hope in answering:

What were Confederate troop numbers during a series of battles (referred to as the Overland Campaign) near the end of the American Civil War?

Unfortunately, reports of soldier counts were not as well maintained by the Confederacy--further complicated by many of their records were destroyed prior to the surrender in 1865.

As such, historians relied on what few reports survived as well as interviews with survivors.

Knowing that these figures were inaccurate, they had been accepted for more than 150 years as "best guesses."

I mean, without a time machine, how would anyone know what Southern troop strengths in Virginia were in 1864?

Enter Alfred Young.

Mr. Young noticed that regimental troop reports were regularly published in hometown newspapers of the period.

The reports are equivalent to muster rolls.

For years, he tracked down 1864 newspaper articles corresponding to the units that fought for the Confederacy, and then compared the reported troop strength with the "best guess" numbers.

His research has now replaced some of the "best guesses."

He brought fresh and reliable insight, and did something that others had thought to be impossible.

Not bad for an "independent scholar."
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I think all of us have ideas racing in our minds waiting to be pursued.

You do not have to be a professional; just someone willing to invest in an idea.

Maybe you will be next and join Alfred Young.

Answering a question that the "experts" had given up hope on.

I think you can do it.

I hope you have an inspired Wednesday.

Vanished: Lucas Prassas


Photo Credit
Overview
Twenty-one-year-old Lucas Prassas was last seen at his residence in Wynne, Arkansas on the morning of November, 29, 2013.

The man's grandmother said that she stopped by his apartment two days later, found the door unlocked, but no sign of her grandson.

Nothing appeared to be missing from the young man's apartment, and concerned relatives contacted police.

Reportedly, Luke is autistic, suffers from depression, and is bi-polar. He disappeared without his medicines and does not drive.

Online Activities
Reading Lucas Prassas' past Internet posts and conversations are uncomfortable.

Perhaps the writings are the result of his medical issues, but nonetheless, it is still difficult reading.

His comments can be crude.

He appears angry.

Prior to his disappearance, he seems to be engaged in multiple arguments, and describes himself as an online troll.

In one conversation, he challenges individuals to face-to-face confrontations.

He uses his real name and provides his real home address; apartment number and all.

A standard missing person investigation is difficult enough--did the person leave and start a new life or could they have been harmed?

But Lucas' challenge and posted home address add an additional wrinkle.

What if someone that the missing man had been bickering with online, accepted the challenge and traveled to Wynne, AR?

Case Recommendations
I think the best approach in finding Lucas would be to focus on his computer activities:

1) Conduct computer forensics

Before his disappearance, the missing man was immersed in social media and obviously spent lots of time online. What sites did he visit? What postings did he make? Something valuable to the investigation could be waiting there to be found.

2) Obtain legal access to his "real name" social media accounts

Was he being threatened? Had he befriended an individual and had they agreed to meet somewhere? Since he previously lived in Illinois, had he been in contact with people he knew there? His email and private messages may be useful in identifying threats and/or opportunities.

3) Identify and then obtain legal access to his "alias" accounts

With the basic information the public has about Luke, what can be found and attributed to him is likely the tip of an iceberg. He alludes to having other Internet personas. Could he be hiding from someone and only checking accounts that are not linked to his real name? What information might those unknown accounts hold regarding his whereabouts?

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Portrayed as a missing person with medical issues that could jeopardize his safety would certainly help anyone trying to obtain a warrant to examine his computer and/or accounts.

Though the case has generated little attention from the media, Lucas Prassas' grandmother (Audery Waldo) has been very active online--repeatedly publicizing her grandson's case and pleading for anyone with information to go to authorities.

The details behind Lucas' disappearance are unique, but sadly, he is one of the over 16,000 stories of adults and children currently missing in the United States.
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You can read previous posts from my Missing Person Monday series, by clicking here.


Dignitaries Do Not Wait in Line!

Important policy change in Denver!

Please make a note that representatives from Mayor Michael Hancock's office or anyone else previously considered a "dignitary" will no longer be given enhanced service when they contact police.

My heart aches.

In December, the management that oversees Denver's 911 system adopted a policy that gave "important" individuals representing federal, state, or local government priority policing.

When a "dignitary" called the police in Denver, they were, in essence, to receive an immediate response.

Fortunately common sense prevailed, and the policy was rescinded this week.

I am sure the Denver Post's attention on this unfair rule helped to force the change.

Obviously, citizens were less than impressed that the mayor or anyone else should get immediate attention when needing police for non-emergencies, while all other "commoners" had to wait in line.

The impetus behind the policy, as reported by the Denver Post, was that the mayor's office had complained to leadership in the Denver Police Department after they had to wait over 35 minutes to talk to an officer about a burglary report.

Wow, 35 whole minutes on a busy shift in big city?
...Daelene Mix, communications director for for the city's safety department, said the policy had caused confusion and was never intended to supersede other policies governing prioritizing of police resources.

"We didn't want the appearance of special treatment for elected officials," Mix said. "That wasn't the intent at all..."
Really?

I would say that the policy was as convincing an example of special treatment that one will find.

Researching this story, a couple of themes are prevalent:
  1. An angry mayor's office resulted in policy changes because they were not given preferential treatment by police; and,

  2. A fired dispatcher (Traci Rhodes) dared put a "dignitary" in the queue behind others waiting to talk to police--probably behind undeserving folks like a teacher, a retiree, or some factory janitor.

I hope that Ms. Rhodes finds a much better job, and that future policies of priority service for the "wealthy" are met with laughter by those in power.
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Note: Having been a policing practitioner, I realize that mayors and other "dignitaries" do get enhanced police services anway--but to create a policy mandating it?

Ludicrous!