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Morris Police Department calls for service up in 2013

MORRIS – Although it has been a year of transitions for the Morris Police Department, Chief Ross Tiegs told the Police Civil Service Commission that he is pleased with where the department is at and the work of the MPD’s two newest officers, Brett Collins and Travis Clark.

“We think they’re doing a good job – we foresee no problems that they will not make probation” in five or six months, said Tiegs.

City Manager Blaine Hill agreed.

“I think everything couldn’t have gone better,” said Hill. “Any time that you have department head turnovers you never know what’s going to happen, we’ve been really fortunate having some good people waiting in the wings to move up – that’s the best way you can run an organization.”

On Tuesday, Tiegs presented the MPD’s annual report to city staff and members of the civil service commission.

In 2013, the MPD had 4,551 calls for service, the highest call volume in the last 10 years and a nearly 22 percent increase over the number of calls in 2012. A call for service is initiated each time an officer is assigned to a call.

The good news, said Tiegs, is that the number of type one and type two crimes – the more serious calls – has gone down, while there have been a higher than average number of traffic stops.

In 2012, the MPD issued 269 verbal or written warnings and 203 traffic citations. In 2013, the number of verbal or written warnings jumped to 583 while the traffic citations increased to 247.

Tiegs said he told the two new officers that they should issue more warnings than citations until they figured out their threshold for issuing tickets “and they took that to heart.”

“Any time you have new police officers and they want to do their job right, you have a few people that don’t like the fact that they got a ticket for driving a little faster than they should have been,” said Hill. “I think that settled down.”

Tiegs noted there was also a seatbelt enforcement period during the year where tickets were required. In 2013 officers issued 54 seatbelt violations and 48 speeding violations.

Total arrests for the year were about equal to 2012, but down significantly from 2010 and 2011. In 2010 the MPD made 131 arrests, in 2011 there were 159 arrests, in 2012 there were 115 arrests and in 2013 there were 116 arrests.

The number of juvenile arrests dropped from 10 in 2012 to zero in 2013. Tiegs credited the work of School Resource Officer Anita Liebl to address issues before they escalate.

“I don’t want to say that we don’t have juvenile crime, but with the SRO program we are addressing a lot more of it through diversion so we’re not showing the arrests,” said Tiegs.

Tiegs anticipated the number of juvenile arrests will increase in 2014 because of an increase in truancy issues.

There has also been an increase in the number of harassment cases by students using social media

“This is a hard issue to deal with at the school because the social media events are not happening at school, but are being brought to the school’s attention through incidents with the students involved,” said Tiegs.

The members of the Police Civil Service Commission are Peg Rinkenberger, John Amundson and Dale Peterson.