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Posts Tagged ‘Police Department’

Let the shooting continue: Police Department says the 2008 flood has helped it comply with State Ombudsman’s questions about shooting range

In Police Department on June 17, 2009 at 4:23 pm

Neighbors next to the Police Department’s regional outdoor shooting range have been trying to get someone to do something to quell some of the range’s racket for years.

The Iowa Citizens’ Aide/Ombudsman spent the last couple years reviewing the matter before, in April, sending City Hall a letter suggesting that the shooting range, at 2727 Old River Rd., SW, violated state law.

In the letter, Bert Dalmer, assistant ombudsman, noted that the particular section of state law in question falls under a section of state law that prohibits hunting near buildings and feedlots.

Nonetheless, Dalmer said the law prohibits discharging a firearm within 200 yards of a building “inhabited” by people without the consent of the owner or tenant.

City Hall now has answered back. In short, the city says the shooting will continue.

In a letter to the state office signed by Police Chief Greg Graham, Graham says he “doesn’t necessarily agree” with the office’s analysis.

Graham hones in on the word “inhabited.”

He notes that the 2008 flood drove residents out of two of three homes within 200 yards of the firing range.

A third resident has rebuilt his house, and in this instance, Graham says the Police Department can close down a section of the range so the remainder of the range is not within the 200-yard distance of this residence’s house.

A fourth structure is a truck repair shop, not a residence, and Graham argues that the word “inhabited” only applies to residences.

Don Sedrel, a retired firefighter who has most persistently complained about long hours of racket and some stray bullets, lives farther than 200 yards from the shooting range.

In a return letter to the city, the state’s Dalmer said his office is reviewing the city’s response.

Of note, the city has proposed building a new Public Safety Training Center, perhaps at Kirkwood Community College, that would include a shooting range. In seeking funding for the center, the city has pointed to the state agency’s probe of the current shooting range as a reason to build the new center.

After years of neighbor complaints about racket and stray bullets, state ombudsman descends on Police Department shooting range

In City Hall, Police Department on April 30, 2009 at 2:15 pm

The pleas from property owners next to the Police Department’s regional outdoor shooting range out on Old River Road SW reach back to at least 2004.

Those neighbors, led by retired Cedar Rapids firefighter Don Sedrel, made their way to the state office of Citizens’ Aide/Ombudsman, which asked the neighbors to try to reach a compromise with City Hall and the Police Department. In March 2007, the neighbors said the problem – the volume and frequency of noise and potential safety hazards from stray and ricocheting bullets – had changed little.

That’s when Bert Dalmer, assistant citizens’ aide/ombudsman, began looking into what state law might say about the police firing range so close to neighbors, Dalmer now tells City Hall in a letter.

In that letter that arrived at City Hall this week, Dalmer concludes that the outdoor range, at 2727 Old River Rd. SW, may violate state law.

He makes note that the particular section of state law in question falls under a section of state law that prohibits hunting near buildings and feedlots.

Nonetheless, Dalmer argues that the law prohibits discharging a firearm within 200 yards of a building occupied by people without the consent of the owner or tenant.

He says four buildings are within 200 yards of the police firing range: Tracy and Cheryl Sedrel’s home at 2901 Old River Rd. SW; the home of Pat Freilinger at 2949 Old River Rd. SW; the home of Chris Simonsen at 2849 Old River Rd. SW; and a business operated by Mike McMurrin at 2665 Old River Rd. SW. Don Sedrel’s place at 3261 Old River Rd. SW is a little farther away, though on Thursday he said he now owns 2901 Old River Rd. SW, too.

Dalmer says the specific section of state law allows exceptions for target shooting ranges that are open to the public and have been used prior to the erection of a building occupied by the public after May 14, 2004.

However, the police range is not open to the public and does not meet the second part of the exception. The range opened in the late 1960s, and two of the occupied buildings nearby were build many years before that.

Dalmer says city officials have noted in the past that the city has taken steps to better supervise the shooting range and to limit the times when shooting occurs.

But he says, “Regardless, I question whether these mitigating actions are adequate to address the prohibitions (in state law).” Neighbors have continued to complain that too little has changed, he adds.

Neither Police Chief Greg Graham nor City Attorney Jim Flitz returned calls on Thursday.

Out at Freilinger’s home and shop on Old River Road SW on Thursday afternoon, he and Don Sedrel said little had changed to make living next to the shooting range tolerable. Law enforcement officers were shooting at the range Thursday morning, they said, and shooting practice had taken place every day this week, Sedrel noted.

Sedrel said what has started out 50 years ago as a pistol gallery for city police officers has become a regional range with city, county, state and federal agencies using it. There are days when neighbors might have to listen to 8,000 rounds of shooting go on, he said.

“There’s absolutely no excuse that anyone should have to live with that kind of noise,” Sedrel added.

Neither he nor Freilinger have heard anything from city officials about the range for what Sedrel thought might be two years.

Both wondered if the city could take its shooting practice to the Matsell Bridge Natural Area near Viola where there is a public shooting range and where the Linn County Sheriff’s Department is establishing a range.

Both said they would not consent to the status quo, but Freilinger said he might be open to working with the Police Department if there is no option in the short run and if closing the range prevented the department from performing its job.

One thing that has changed is that the Linn County Sheriff’s Office has decided to leave the city’s shooting range and open its own in rural Linn County. Meanwhile, the Iowa City Police Department, which also has used the Cedar Rapids range, has been looking for its own place to practice.

Most interestingly, in January 2009, Cedar Rapids Police Chief Greg Graham and other city officials proposed building a $35-million Regional Public Safety Training Center with an indoor shooting range. One of the arguments cited for the need to build a new center was the problems associated with the city’s existing shooting range.

“The State Ombudsman is investigating the possibility of closing the police shooting range because of noise pollution and its proximity to houses and businesses in the area,” the city’s written request for federal funds for the new training center states.

The request went on to say that “the current situation dictates drastic changes and soon.”

In his letter to City Hall in late April, the state’s Dalmer asks city officials to respond within 30 days if it believes his arguments are in error or if the state law does not apply to the city’s police shooting range. After a review of the city’s response, he will decide if formal recommendations to the city are warranted, he says.

Red-light and speed-enforcement cameras a step closer as city seek proposals for “bullet-resistant” cameras that provide “indisputable” proof

In City Hall, Police Department on April 29, 2009 at 8:01 am

City Hall and the Police Department weren’t kidding.

The two have now moved ahead and are seeking proposals, due May 18, from contractors who will install and maintain red-light enforcement cameras at up to 10 intersections as well as a mobile speed-enforcement camera and a fixed speed-enforcement camera.

For the contractor who wins the city’s business, cameras are expected to be in place at four intersections within 90 days after the award of a contract and in place at six others within six months. The mobile speed-enforcement camera should be ready by Sept. 1 and the fixed speed-enforcement camera by Oct. 1.

For violators, warning tickets with snapshots of a violation will arrive in the mail for the first month the system is in operation.

The city is seeking an automated, digital traffic-camera enforcement program that is a “total turn-key operation with no program expenditures to be incurred by the city.”

Just how much an actual ticket will cost a violator to cover the contractor’s needs and the city’s needs will be part of each contractor’s proposal to the city.

The contractor pays for cameras, computer hardware, computer software, poles, wiring, installation, maintenance, training, reporting, community education and awareness on issues related to red-light violations.

Some intersections may have cameras at more than one approach to the intersection, and the city also wants a system that can expand to more intersections.

In its request for proposal, the city says it would prefer a camera system that provides both still photos and video of sufficient resolution to ensure “indisputable” proof of violations.

The cameras will capture an image of a vehicle’s rear license plate as well as a view of the specific intersection in which the violation is alleged to have occurred. The cameras must have a capability of flashing to take pictures at night and the cameras must be tamper-resistant and “bullet-resistant.”

The city’s request for proposals notes, too, that the red-light and speeding infractions will be city offenses and so will not be reported to insurance companies or the state motor vehicle office. Cedar Rapids police officers will review all photos and determine if an offense has occurred. Appeals of infractions will be made to the court system.

The contract is for three years.

The city’s proposal requires the contractor to remove the system at no cost to the city if the state of Iowa or the courts in the future decide that the cameras no longer are permitted. (To date, state courts have allowed the cameras). At each one-year point in the contract, the city also can ask that the system be removed if the city determines it is not effective.

The city is asking each of the companies submitting proposals to provide a fee structure, which details how much revenue goes to the company and how much to the city.

The city will pick a contractor based on 10 criteria, including qualifications and experience, references, total scope of services being offered and fee structure.

In the city budget for the fiscal year beginning July, the city anticipates it can raise $750,000 for the city from the enforcement cameras.

Tickets go to the owners of vehicles, whether they were driving or not. The city has said the owner has the responsibility to get the ticket to the driver or pay the ticket.

City Council wants police to help fix smaller, ‘broken-glass’ problems as a way to lessen scarier ones

In City Hall, Neighborhoods, Police Department on April 2, 2009 at 10:09 am

Council member Justin Shields says he constantly gets calls from citizens complaining about chronic jaywalking on busy First Avenue East near where police officer Tim Davis was assaulted Sunday evening while investigating a robbery.

With the attack on Davis fresh in his and other council members’ minds, Shields wondered just how unruly and unsafe some of these areas have gotten.

Council member Brian Fagan said any tougher police approach to crime needed to be seen in the context of the city’s Enhance Our Neighborhoods initiative.

The Enhance Our Neighborhoods (EON) program is premised on the idea that a many-pronged approach to problem neighborhoods is the way to revitalize them. EON, for instance, wants problem landlords to keep up their properties and problem tenants to get evicted.

Council member Monica Vernon said the model for “aggressive” community policing also envisions that citizens participate in helping police by reporting infractions of law and city codes to the city.

This is the broken-glass theory of neighborhood rebirth, Mayor Kay Halloran noted, which former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani gained some credit for putting in place in New York City. The idea is that a community that fixes small things like broken windows and jaywalking finds it takes care of bigger problems in the process.

Vernon suggested it was time for a “community cleanup.” Making neighborhoods look more “ship-shape” would have a favorable effect on life in them, she said.

It was some years ago when the Wellington Heights Neighborhood Association led just such a neighborhood cleanup effort that used neighbors and city crews to cart junk out of homes and to the landfill. So successful was the exercise that it spread citywide. But it lost the volunteer flavor, became a cost to the city budget and was abandoned.

Shields said problems in city neighborhoods were not limited to the area where the police officer was hurt on Sunday evening.

He pointed to problems in the neighborhood out by Kirkwood Community College, which is in his council district. And he pointed to his own southwest Cedar Rapids neighborhood. He said a burglar threw a rock through a neighbor’s window at 6 p.m. one recent evening as a way to get inside the house. The owner was on her computer in the basement when the intruder entered, and Shields said it scared her to death.

He said anymore you have to lock your house just to walk out to the mailbox.

The Tycoon closed for St. Pat’s; City Council backs police remediation plan to reform rowdy bars

In City Hall, Police Department on March 16, 2009 at 5:52 pm

The owner of downtown bar The Tycoon managed to convince five council members to put his expedited case for  liquor-license renewal on the agenda of a special noon council meeting on Monday. The meeting had been called for another reason, the selection the city’s new Local-Option Sales Tax Oversight Committee.

Why the rush for the bar? Tuesday is St. Patrick’s Day. What bar doesn’t want to be open for St. Patrick’s Day seemed to be at least part of the reason The Tycoon’s plight surfaced at City Hall on Monday.

The Tycoon shouldn’t have bothered.

For starters, The Tycoon needed a quick license renewal because it had failed to abide by the city procedure that requires a 30-day notice for such a renewal. The 30-day period gives the Police Department time to conduct a routine check to see if the bar’s license should be renewed.

Council member Justin Shields was sympathetic to The Tycoon when he first moved see if the bar’s license renewal could be expedited.

But Shields withdrew his interest in the expedited renewal after a presentation by Police Chief Greg Graham and comments by City Manager Jim Prosser.

Graham noted that police had been called to The Tycoon 17 times since the first of the year, a “high” number for a bar of its size, especially so since the bar has been open only two nights a week, the chief said.

Many of those calls to the police were from the bar owner or bar employees, noted Graham, which he said was a good thing.

“But clearly, he’s not doing enough,” the chief said of the owner, Tim Bushaw.

Graham said bar owners can take steps to reduce the need for police calls by making sure they have an adequate number of employees on duty, by banning misbehaving customers or by not serving too much to those who have had too much to drink.

The Police Department’s plan had been to handle The Tycoon much as it handled the R & R Corner Bar, 700 E Ave. NW, a few months ago. That plan would give the bar a six-month license if the bar owner was willing to sign an agreement to improve bar behavior and so cut down on the number of police calls.

City Manager Jim Prosser called the effort “problem-solving” and not punishment.

“We are not security for bars or other liquor establishments,” he said.

One possibility on Monday was to grant The Tycoon an expedited liquor-license renewal if it was willing to enter into an agreement with the Police Department to find a way to reduce police calls to the bar.

But Shields withdrew his interest, saying the owner’s version of police activity at the bar had not squared with the Police Department’s documentation of calls.

In the future, council member Tom Podzimek said businesses that miss important deadlines like this need to pay penalties to the city. Those penalties will help people meet deadlines and will help the city defray extra costs that come when it tries to expedite services, he said.

The Police Department had to hustle its review of The Tycoon after the owner managed to make it in expedited fashion to Monday’s council agenda.

Police Department is going after the BB, pellet and paintball guns

In City Hall, Police Department on March 3, 2009 at 6:02 pm

The Police Department will ask the City Council this week to ban adults and juveniles from carrying BB, air, paintball or pellet guns in public if they aren’t in a case, unloaded.


The request comes after a weekend in which the department received more than 150 reports of vandals shooting out windows with BB guns.


However, police Capt. Bernie Walther said Tuesday that the move to ban the carrying of BB guns and similar guns in public has been in the works for more than a year as part of the city’s initiative called Enhance Our Neighborhoods.


“I wish there was some way to get rid of them all,” Sandy Bell, president of CR Neighborhoods and president of her own neighborhood association, Lincolnway Village, said Tuesday. “Even when they’re not shooting out car windows, they’re shooting at neighbors’ dogs or something else.”


Walther noted that the cities of Iowa City and Waterloo are among those that already have bans on carrying BB guns and those like them.


Such a public ban is intended to reduce vandalism. But Walther said the ban also will lessen the chance that a police officer or a citizen will shoot someone carrying what looks like a real gun.


“We’re running into kids with these things tucked in their waistband, and sooner or later somebody is going to get seriously hurt because someone is going to take that as a real firearm,” he said. “I’m sure you’ve seen what some of these look like. They’re definitely realistic looking.”


From 2003 through 2008, the Police Department received an average of 1,170 criminal mischief reports each year involving BB guns, paintballs and similar items. Walther said that total is more than 50 percent of all the criminal mischief reports that come into the department.


At $200 a car window, that’s about $1.4 million in property damage, he added.


Walther said there also have been additional crimes against people in which BB guns or other similar items have been used or displayed.


A big part of the problem for police officers is that they can catch a person with a BB gun in the vicinity of vandalism but can’t prove the person did the shooting. With a law change, it will be a crime, a simple misdemeanor, to have the gun. Juveniles will be brought to the police station and their parents summoned, Walther said.


The ban, he noted, does not prohibit a parent from going to an outdoor range for target practice or from taking a child to such a venue for practice.


He said the change in ordinance will treat the BB-gun-like products no differently than firearms. Adults who own firearms can’t carry them in public and they can’t fire them at home except in self-defense, Walther noted.


Officers, he added, will have the option to use discretion.


“If little Johnny just got his little Daisy Red Ryder (BB gun) for his birthday and he’s running down the street to show his buddy, obviously, there’s officer discretion in that,” Walther said.