May 17, 2024 at 3:31 p.m.

Police Commission talks technology


By DENISE MARTIN | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment
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In this day and age it is impossible to ignore the role technology plays in our lives; and there’s nowhere this is more obvious than in the operations of local first responders.  Area police, sheriff, medical teams, firefighters all have to keep up with advances in an amazing array of tools meant to enhance successful outcomes.  The tough part is deciding which  technology is most cost-effective and yet, is relatively inobtrusive into peoples’ privacy.

The Lakes Area Police Department’s police commission meeting last week pretty much focused on tech.    

The Chief  asked  the policy makers and pursestring holders that they consider adding drone capability and license plate cameras (used to document vehicles on the road) in the Lakes Area police territory.

Chief Schlumbohm asked the four commission members to either give the thumbs-up to a deeper dive into costs and available programs for these two new budget items or to declare they oppose the concept.”I don’t want to do it if you don’t want to do it,” he quipped. 

None of the four commissioners said absolutely not, but members were lukewarm at the same time, wanting to learn more about the financial impacts.

Chief Schlumbohm said there are plate reader cameras in use in Wisconsin and as a border county, Chisago regularly gets alerts based off images recorded using these devices.  Stolen vehicle descriptions, suspects fleeing, and any number of cases potentially involving criminal activity have been resolved with knowledge of vehicles’ movement.

The Chief added that a premier company in the device business, FlockSafety.com, can provide cameras and operations at a  reasonable cost.  Cameras and connections are solar-powered.  Access to video footage is regulated by laws,  restricted and maintained independently.  The hurdle is that the program needs to be vetted to the public, similar to initiating bodyworn cameras now used by all area departments.  Can he proceed to write policy and compile costs or is the commission opposed, he asked?

Commissioner Jeremy Dresel said he understands it’s a useful device but it also is “a slippery slope” having surveillance everywhere all the time.  Commissioner Brian Norelius, however observed there are already cameras almost everywhere we go. Commissioner Judy Chartrand added this importantly is a budgetary impact, and the commission still doesn’t know where the request for state aid to help build a new police headquarters is at in the legislature session.

Chief Schlumbohm also  explained the department hopes to develop a drone program of its own.  (Chisago County sheriff supports drone units now.) 

This too necessitates a public outreach effort, policy development and there will be extra expenses.

Drone use has proved  invaluable, and is a time and money-saver.  Schlumbohm explained search and rescue efforts are made more efficient, and having an aerial viewpoint during fires and large scale incidents can be essential.

The sentiment seemed to be that any new initiatives should await the end of the legislative session when outside aid for physical space projects will be better defined.

One piece of technology nobody had any issues with is the use of AEDs.  External defibrillators, when activated in a timely manner, stops a heartbeat that has gone off kilter and it can be re-set.  AED use gives time to perform CPR and administer oxygen waiting for transport to arrive.

Two Lakes Area Police Officers were recently awarded “challenge coins” for life-saving use of AEDs, as recognized through the University of MN Center for Resuscitation Medicine.  

Officers Varco and Baumann utilized AEDs and complimentary lifesaving skills in two calls in 2023 and both subjects lived. 

Lakes Area AED units  were supplied through a three-year research program, funded by the Helmsley Charitable Trust. The research began in 2022.  The U of MN also provides special pads attached to the subjects and machines, that transmit electronic data to the university ECMO, a mobile extracorporeal membrane oxygenation response team.  This is all part of the university program to improve outcomes from sudden cardiac arrest and is reportedly the only one of its kind collecting this data in the nation.  In Minnesota 8,300 AED units were distributed for the program.

Commissioners gave congratulations to the officers, but they also expressed sadness discussing the resignation of 21-year Officer Haller, who has accepted a position in the sheriff’s department.  Next up to transfer over to county duty will be Officer Barwin, later this summer when his School Resource Officer schedule will be complete.


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