Gary G. Smith

Chief Blogger
A weblog by Gary G. Smith, Chief of Police, Northfield, MN

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Locking Doors
I reviewed a number of reports recently that indicates we still have thieves going around and getting into unlocked cars and garages. I would encourage you not to leave valuables in your vehicles. Right now, it seems like CDs, cell phones and cash are the items of choice. Unfortunately, these folks generally grab everything and dump what they don't want. It is definitely unwise to leave your keys in your car. Most of the vehicles stolen in Northfield are found with the keys still in the ignition.

We have also received reports that we have people traveling to Northfield driving around neighborhoods during the day checking out what is visible in garages where the doors are left open. The thieves then return after dark to help themselves to the contents. Oftentimes the garage doors are still open. Please be sure to lock your garage when you are not actively working in or around it.

A recent interview with an admitted thief caught in the act, revealed that among circles of drug users and car prowlers, this area is a good target to find unlocked vehicles and homes in which to steal items from. The Star Tribune published a recent article about this problem. To read that article, click here. And if you think the cops are immune, you may want to read this wire story found in the Star Trib by clicking here.

We are also getting increased reports of identity theft incidents. In many cases, thieves are removing mail from residential mailboxes that individuals have put there with the flag up for the postal carrier to pick up. The flag up on the mailbox is a signal for a potential thief as well as the carrier. We would strongly suggest that you take your mail, especially bills and items that reveal your identity to a U.S. Postal mail box for pickup.

There have been a number of inquiries lately about emails people receive that look like they are from a bank or credit card company. The emails are asking for account information and social security numbers. Your banks, credit card companies, and insurance companies already have your credit information and don't need to have it verified through an email There are also people who have taken a snapshot of the home page and are sending it to people asking them to fill in their information, including credit card information. I can't get a response from Amazon but an examination of the email I got showed it didn't come from, so be careful.

If you have a concern about anything you receive by mail, email or a phone, it is best for you to contact the business directly to determine if they sent you the request. Do not respond to emails just because they look "official." It is quite easy to acquire a web address containing the name of a well known business or financial institution within five minutes on the Internet. These folks establish the site for about 24 hours and then abandon it after they get the information from unsuspecting victims who respond.

On a brighter note I want to remind you that our National Night Out activity will be this Tuesday, August 3rd from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Northfield Safety Center. There will be many representatives present to discuss their programs. We will have crime prevention and Neighborhood Watch information available as well.

I also want to congratulate our Northfield Police Explorers and Sergeant Ted Berg on their successful competition at the National Explorer Conference. I've asked for some photos and information that I'll post as soon as I receive it.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Last night, I was engaged in a conversation with several people when the topic of conversation turned to mentoring. We discussed the importance of providing others the opportunity to learn and grow. We all cited examples of persons who helped us in the development of our law enforcement careers. Since I didn't ask permission to share the names of the individuals I spoke to, I will respect their privacy for now.

Once we all went our way to tend to business, I did think back to those who had an influence early on in my career. Several individuals came to mind and I ask your indulgence as I write a note of appreciation to them here.

I mentioned in an earlier entry that my uncle, Chuck Morgan, spent over thirty years with the Hastings, Nebraska Police Department. I had a number of conversations with him over the years about the issues that faced police officers in the early 1960's. Policing really began to change during that time. I feel that despite the times, many of the officers who worked during the 1960's and 1970's worked hard to change the culture of corruption, bias, and brutality to pave the way toward more responsible policing.

Another individual who comes to mind is Fay Obester. Mr. Obester was a high school English teacher when I attended Grand Island Senior High School in Grand Island, Nebraska. Mr. Obester is responsible for my passion for reading, particularly mystery novels. He is also the person who encouraged me to write about my experiences and feelings. Later, after graduating from high school and working and spending time on the beach on South Padre Island, Texas, Mr. Obester took the time during his vacation to locate me and invite me out for an evening meal. It's amazing how one sentence can change a person's life. Mr. Obester bluntly told me to get off my duff and get back to school. He was a bit more blunt that that..... Well, I took his advice and years later, I realize I owe him much for taking the time and interest to encourage me.

The next individual is someone I've never met in person. Sometime around 1996-1997, I was getting frustrated with the lack of overall progress in moving policing away from traditional policing practices and toward more of a problem solving, community policing philosophy. I found it often difficult to put into practice what I researched and wrote about in the classroom. One particular day, I picked up my recently arrived copy of the Law Enforcement News, a publication of John Jay College. On the front page was an interview with Herman Goldstein. Professor Goldstein has long been associated with problem solving in policing. His books Policing a Free Society and Problem Oriented Policing, changed my philosophy of policing and my life. In the article, Professor Goldstein discussed the changes in policing good and bad. Professor Goldstein's words in Policing a Free Society helped me realize that there had to be a fundamental change in how we as criminal justice practitioners, did our jobs. It required empowering of the community and those in the system who did the job. It forced me to take an honest look at my attitudes and approach to policing. Professor Goldstein's research and words are much of the basis of my approach to policing today. Often when I propose a new initiative or process, internal conversations often ask if the chief's new scheme is a "Herman Goldstein idea." I can think of no greater compliment.

Chief Howard Bacon hired me as a police officer in Grand Island, Nebraska in 1981. He had owned his own business and been a city council member before he joined the police department. The most important thing Chief Bacon conveyed to me was the absolute need for honesty and ethical conduct. He was uncompromising on these issues. He also taught me that regardless of the consequences, you tell it like it is. I often saw him suffer politically and professionally for standing up for what he thought was right but I will always respect his sincerity and honesty.

Gene Watson was the Administrative Division Captain when I started with the Grand Island Police Department. The first words I remember him saying was when he came over during the hiring examinations and told Lieutenant Bernie Shum he decided to drive over to see what kind of stock thought they were good enough to be Grand Island police officers. Captain Watson later became Chief Watson. He is still considered one of the most popular and progressive department heads the city has ever seen. Chief Watson had worked himself through college to get a degree. He promoted education within the department and he allowed many of us to experience various aspects of police administration as line supervisors not commonly found in departments the size of Grand Island. Gene's legacy is the fact that many of us have gone on to be chiefs, sheriffs, and officials of federal law enforcement agencies. Most, if not all of the command staff on the department now was hired or mentored by Chief Watson. Gene pursued excellence and taught me that you had to give respect to get it.

Gary Piel was the Deputy Chief of Police for the Grand Island Police Department in Grand Island, Nebraska when I started there as a patrol officer on January 5, 1981. Chief Piel was the first progressive police administrator I met. He fought to automate the department in the early 1980's and to improve the quality of police reporting and investigations at a time when such activity wasn't really in vogue. The chief and I had plenty of disagreements and I remember how frustrated I used to get when he would respond to my ideas with "Is it something we can afford and what is the long term implications for the department?" Chief Piel provided me the opportunity to learn and encouraged critical thinking and demanded a realistic view of real world public sector operations. Chief Piel went through some tough personal challenges. He never really complained, just kept on going when others would have probably given up. There are few individuals I hold in as high esteem as I do Chief Piel. He taught me that you can argue, and vigorously engage in debate, but when it's all done, someone has to make the decision, popular or not, and take the responsibility for the results. Chief Piel recently retired. Law enforcement in Nebraska is better for his public service.
A good number of Northfield residents recently undertook a challenging project to mentor young people in our community. There was an overwhelming response from the community when the volunteer question was raised. I understand that the willingness for adults to step forward on behalf of your youth has not diminished one bit and our kids are better for it.

Whether you participate in an established program or just live by example, what you do matters. You will never know when that word of encouragement or short time you spend to just listen will make a life changing impact on the future of another person.

I for one am glad for those who spent the time to encourage me. Because of their time and attention, I am able to write these words, put the passion in their meaning and live their legacy.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

FBI National Academy


This is the logo of the FBI National Academy

One of my associates took this photograph of me standing outside the entrance to the Jefferson Building on the FBI Academy grounds in Quantico, Virginia.  It was April 6th.
I attended the 217th National Academy Training Session from April 4th to June 11, 2004.  The Northfield News recently printed an article about my stay at the academy. The training involved both academic and physical training as well as the opportunity to attend seminars that featured well known experts in the field of criminal justice.

In addition to National Academy students who attend the facility, there are about 270 FBI agents in training as well as other students from both the FBI and other state, federal, and local agencies attending.  The FBI Academy also hosts the College of Analytical Studies for those involved in crime analysis.  The Academy has an outstanding faculty. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)  also uses the facility but has another dorm building and classroom on the campus.

This photograph was taken at a reception that was hosted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP).  This picture is a good example of the diversity of students that were in the 217th NA Class.  There were 248 students in the class.

This is an example of what most of the classrooms looked like.  The lecture classes had as many as 150 students in them and were generally held in lecture halls.  The smaller classes like this generally had about 50 students in them.  The classrooms are equipped with state-of-the-art electronics projection screens, sound systems and high speed internet access.   

This is an example of one of the obstacles in the 6.1 mile obstacle course that was the culmination of an eleven week challenge run program.  Each week we would run a bit farther and be challenged with obstacles or rough topography.  There were nine of these vertical wall climbs that we either went up or went down. There were about a total of fourteen obstacles during the 6.1 miles.   

This is the dining hall.  At any given time, there are between 250 and 450 students here during breakfast, lunch and dinner.  The flags around the walls between the upper and lower windows represent all 50 states and U.S. territories and other countries who have attended the National Academy.
Hopefully this gives you a glimpse of the experience at the National Academy.  As time permits, I'll try to highlight some specific events and activities that you may be interested in.  Please feel free to email questions you might have and I'll try to answer them.  If they are of a nature that may be of interest to others, I may post them and answer them here.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

National Night Out - 8-3-04
Give Crime A Going Away Party

The summer is really moving fast.  It's hard to believe that one week from today, August 3rd is the 2004 National Night Out.  We anticipate a good turnout and the weather is supposed to be good.  Activities start at 5:30 p.m.  Thanks to the generosity of a number of local business we will be providing free hot dogs and beverages until we run out.  I'll provide a "thanks" list once the event is over so I don't miss anyone.   Don't forget to bring a can good item to donate to the food pantry.

On the right is Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch, next to AG Hatch is Northfield  Officer Jody Spinner, who coordinates the National Night Out activities here in Northfield. You may click on her name and leave an email for Officer Spinner if you would like to help or participate in any of the neighborhood block parties scheduled before August 3rd. And finally, I'm on the left side of the picture.  The picture was taken last spring at the new BCA Headquarters in St. Paul. This was the second year in a row that Northfield placed in the national competition for best National Night Out activities.

A complete listing of National Night Out activities and events is listed on  I will try to get a few pictures during the event and post them here.  Please mark your calendars and do two things:

1. Sponsor a block party before August 3rd.

2. Come on out to the Northfield Public Safety Center (300 5th Street West) from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on August 3rd.  You will be glad you did.

You'll be glad you came!!

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

The British Are Coming!
Speaking of European Contacts...

Last Thursday night, I was invited by Griff  Wigley to spend some time at the Contented Cow to share the Brit atmosphere with three staff members from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in the Government of Prime Minister Tony Blair. 

A number of Northfield and Eden Prairie folks attended, including Scott Neal, Eden Prairie City Manager, blogger, and formerly my boss as Northfield City Adminstrator; and Dan Carlson, Eden Prairie Police Chief and also a blogger.

We met with Mr. Dylan Jeffrey, Senior Policy Advisor on Democracy and Local Government for the ODPM; Mr. Julian Bowrey, Local E-Government Programme Manager, Creating Sustainable Communities Division, ODPM, and Ms. Isobel Harding of a British IT services provider called Northlincsnet.  You can link to to learn more about the visit.

It was very interesting to hear the ideas and perspectives of others interested in finding new ways to reach out to their communities. I came away inspired to move forward with my attempts with a weblog.

Thanks to Steven Clift from Minneapolis who is associated with  Mr. Clift was kind enough to bring our British guests to Northfield with the help of Griff Wigley.

No matter how long I live in Northfield, I will always be amazed at the expertise and international connections in this community.  It's great to live in a place where one can shake hands with a sitting president of the United States, visit Germany on an exchange program, and discuss new weblog technology with British counterparts in an English Pub!

I was watching the news today and there was a story about German law enforcement. I was invited to Germany in 2002 to exchange ideas about community policing and problem solving.

This photo was taken in small rural German community.   I was in the German State of Schleswig-Holstein (SH).  My good friend "Yogi" Reppmann had arranged for the visit, having been invited to meet my German police counterparts to discuss various policing issues.  I was impressed with the friendliness and openness extended to me.  The chief of the state's police force is Wolfgang Pistol'.  Prior to getting into law enforcement, he was a commercial ship captain.  He was kind enough to invite me to a large gathering of police officials that showcased the various prevention programs and hosted many awards given to police officers for their innovative policing techniques to involve the communities in the prevention of crime. We left with the commitment to develop a cooperative program to bring German and U.S. police managers together to spend time in each country to work on new problem-solving strategies and how to get the community involved.

I have to confess that the Germans are ahead of the game with it comes to getting the community involved.  Some would argue that when you have a national police force, they have more resources.  I found that was not always the case.  When I rode with patrol officers, they shared their concern over lack of funding sometimes even for fuel to drive cars or purchase equipment.  What I found, was a more enlightened sense of community involvement.  Ironically, many of my new German friends told me they envied U.S. police because of the perceived respect U.S. citizens give to the police here.

I was able to visit many cities in SH.  I was lucky enough to stay with Sonke Behrman and his family.  Sonke is an investigator.  He is also one fantastic musician.  I was lucky enough to return the hospitality last October when Sonke and his family stayed with us in Northfield.  Sonke and his family had traveled to the U.S. to perform at a number of functions in Missouri, Iowa and Northfield.  Their program for the Northfield Rotary Club at the Grand Theatre was a big hit.

This is Sonke and myself outside his police headquarters.

I continue to work on finding funding sources that will provide scholarships for Minnesota officers to participate in our proposed exchange program.

I'm the one one on the left.  The person in the middle is the Governor of Schleswig-Holstein.  Note she is wearing a Northfield Police Department cap!  The gentleman on the right is one of her aids.  I was invited to attend an awards ceremony at the Governor's request.  Many awards were presented to various community members for their efforts to better the community.  The awards ceremony took place during Schleswig-Holstein Days.

I maintain contact with many of my new German friends.  I'm looking forward to traveling back on a follow up visit.  Hopefully, I'll be able to post some of the responses from a number of my international friends who I've invited to email me events and things that are happening in their countries.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Let's Get Started
It Begins....
About two hours ago, Griff Wigley, the shadow in the background who got me interested in this form of communication, sent me the instructions to get started.  As I sat here getting some basic tech stuff out of the way, I decided there was no time like the present to get started. 
Before I get too far into this, I also need to provide a disclaimer.  My views are my own and don't necessarily represent those of the City of Northfield. I am covering the cost of this weblog myself.  There are no city dollars involved in what I do here.
For those who don't know me, I've been the police chief in Northfield, Minnesota since March of 1999.  I came to Northfield from Grand Island, Nebraska where I had worked for the police department there since January 5, 1981.  I remember that date because it was the day I realized a dream and became a police officer.  My Uncle, Chuck Morgan served the Hastings, Nebraska Police Department for over thirty years.  He was a strong influence and a good role model that had a lot to do with my desire to be a police officer.

I've been married for 22 years.  My wife and I were introduced to each other by a police dispatcher!  Ruth works for Rice County Social Services. We have two children, Chris is 14 and his sister Sarah, who is 12. We have lived in Northfield since 1999.  Since this is a college town, I'd better tell you that I completed my Bachelor of Science Degree at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and my Masters Degree at the University of Alabama. 
If you did the math, you now know I've been involved in law enforcement a little over 23 years now.  It is a rewarding and challenging occupation.  Things change; however.  Instead of a beat on the street, my "beat" as the chief is the whole city: both externally, working to meet the needs of the community but also internally, meeting the needs of the fine men and women who I'm proud to be associated with. 
Scott Neal, who is currently the city manager in Eden Prairie hired me as the police chief in Northfield while he was city administrator here in Northfield.  Scott used to say a good part of our job as managers was to assist the elected officials develop and implement sound public policy that benefits the community and represents their priorities and concerns. 
As the police chief, I must balance the needs of the community, the concerns of the police department employees and meet the obligations of local, state and federal laws and mandates.  It is a challenge that I accept and strive to improve upon daily.  Hopefully, the more you learn about our police department and myself, the more comfortable you will be about sharing your ideas and concerns.  Each opportunity I have to reach out to the different segments of our community helps me to keep perspective and hopefully allows me to make sound decisions.
I recently returned from an eleven week stay at the FBI National Academy.  I'm looking forward to sharing some of the pictures and activities that I was fortunate to be exposed to and participate in while at the academy
Here's to a bright future and shorter entries hereafter!!

Around the Block newsletters
We've added a new section to the site for the Around the Block newsletters, weekly updates from the Northfield Police Department.

It'll be a growing archive of the editions, with the most recent on top.  We'll usually post a note to the weblog that a new edition has arrived and link to the PDF directly from here.

Here's the July 23, 2004 edition.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Email subscription form
The email list option on the eSubscriptions box (upper right of this home page) is now ready.

One click gets you subscribed; one click unsubscribes you.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

RSS: Syndication and aggregation
We've now added RSS to this weblog. What's RSS?

It's a radio signal for a website, most commonly used for weblogs. More technically: "Rich Site Summary (RSS) is a lightweight XML format designed for sharing headlines and other Web content. Think of it as a distributable "What's New" for your site." See Intro to RSS for more info.

The Newspaper Association of America site has an informative article titled Syndication Made Simple. "Just as free e-mail newsletters enable publishers to directly reach readers and promote online and in-paper content, RSS "pushes" headlines and succinct, one-sentence article descriptions to those who subscribe to the no-cost feeds."

The other side of syndication is aggregation. Here's an article from Wired News that explains why aggregators are all the rage: Aggregators Attack Info Overload.

This icon is the cue that we're RSS capable. So train your aggregator to grab content from the Gary G. Smith syndicated weblog.

Coming soon
Chief Smith will be posting to his weblog real soon now.

In the meantime, we'll keep adding new features to the web site.

Griff Wigley
Wigley and Associates

Friday, July 23, 2004

Contact form
The Contact form is now working.

The email list option on the eSubscriptions box, however, is not yet ready.



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