Happy New Year! The Rolla Police Department had a great, but very busy 2009 and are looking forward to the challenges and opportunities, 2010 will bring. We hope each and every one of had a joyous holiday and welcomed in the new year in a safe and responsible manner. As you can probably imagine our patrol division was very proactive during the holiday season in an effort to ensure our streets and neighborhoods were safe. I will present some stats from their efforts in next week’s column. As I mentioned, 2009 was a very busy year for the police department and this week’s column will feature a glimpse of 2009 as we present the year in review.
In January, we said goodbye to former Phelps County Sheriff Don Blankenship after 20 years of service and welcomed the newly elected Sheriff Rick Lisenbe into our law enforcement community. Sheriff Blankenship was a true asset to the Sheriff’s Department and made many improvements over the years to bring the agency to where it is today. Sheriff Lisenbe was certainly not new to the law enforcement community as having served as Deputy Juvenile Officer, Sheriff’s Deputy and as Sergeant with the Missouri State Highway Patrol before being elected as Sheriff. This past year has been very productive in the detection, apprehension and successful prosecution of hundreds of criminals, predators and other undesirables that have been preying on our community. This success is owed to the combined efforts of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Phelps County Sheriff’s Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Forest Service, South Central Area Drug Task Force and the Rolla Police Department. We are very fortunate to be able to serve in a community where the community and all these agencies work together for a common cause. On a sad note, in January we also lost 2 great men from our community to illness. Sgt. Mark Reynolds, a 17 year veteran of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, passed away after a brief illness. Mark was a friend and true professional and we miss him. We also lost Dr. Kent King who passed after a lengthy battle with cancer. Dr. King was the Commissioner of Education at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and also served as the Superintendent of Rolla Public Schools.
In February, our Volunteers in Police Services unit was up and running with Dennis Noel and Vince Giacolone at the helm. Noel and Giacolone traveled to service clubs, civic groups, radio talk shows and many other venues spreading the word on the organization and soliciting volunteers to help us complete our mission. To date we now have a very solid base of volunteers who perform vacation security checks, neighborhood and school patrols, data entry, crime victim liaison services, special event support and many other duties. In February we also purchased computer software to upgrade our departmental computer system. Sgt. Wayne Rapier and Cpl. Derrick Dillon successfully completed Crisis / Hostage negotiation. That month we partnered with Fidelity Communications to offer emergency messaging on Cable Channel 6.
In March, we were hit with a snowstorm that wreaked havoc on the community, the patrol division and Central Dispatch. We received over 200 calls in just 5 hrs. and responded to 39 traffic mishaps! This situation was very fitting as March is Disaster Preparedness Month. We did not need to do a tabletop exercise! We also responded to a 9-1-1 call in the 600 block of Curtis drive where he caller reported a home invasion and shooting. One suspect in the case was shot and was treated and released. 4 suspects in the case were arrested.
In April, we were hit again with an untimely snowstorm. Fortunately the road crews reacted promptly and cleared the roads for travel. April also featured National Telecommunications Week where appreciation is shown to telecommunicators in our Central Dispatch who work around the clock to keep our community safe. We also observed National Animal Control Appreciation Week where our Animal Control Officers are revered for their service to the community. In April our newest records clerk, Christy Ford was welcomed to our Rolla Police family.
In May, we observed National Police Week where the nation remembers and pays tribute to the men and women of law enforcement who have given the supreme sacrifice in the performance of their duties. During this time law enforcement officials, police survivors and members of the community attend candlelight vigils, police officer memorial dedications and many other functions to pay their respects to those who gave all. In May, the Central Communications Division was also awarded the 2009 Bramlett / Light award for their untiring dedication to preserving the safety and well being of the community. This award is named in honor of 2 former Rolla Police Chiefs and is awarded at the annual Law Enforcement Appreciation Banquet offered by the Rolla Optimist Club.
In June, we held an open house in our building for the grand opening of the Volunteers in Police Services / Behind the Badge offices that are now housed where the former Channel 16 studio was located. In June we partnered with Rolla Fire and Rescue to host our 2nd Annual Fire Truck Pull to benefit Special Olympics. This event was held during the Rolla Chamber of Commerce Rt. 66 Summerfest. That month, Cpl. Derrick Dillon, his wife Missy and the Behind the Badge organization partnered with the Wal-Mart Supercenter to donate 2 bicycles to a single mom and her daughter to replace bikes stolen from them.
In July, the Rolla Police Department and the American Association of Retired Persons hosted a driver’s safety course for senior citizens. We also hosted regional Active Shooter Training at the Rolla High School with several area law enforcement agencies in attendance.
In August, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Phelps County Sheriff’s Department, South Central Area Drug Task Force, US Forestry Service and the Rolla Police Department concluded an 18 month undercover drug operation with the arrest and apprehension of over 140 suspected area drug dealers and manufacturer’s. The arrests were the result of a cooperative investigation by all the aforementioned agencies and orchestrated in 3 separate warrant round-up sessions. This operation netted more arrestees than any operation of this type to date in Missouri’s history.
In September, the Rolla Police Department and VIPS assisted with the Tour of Missouri bicycle race that traveled through Rolla for the second year in a row. This month the Rolla Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team took part in the 3rd Annual Central Missouri Tactical Officers Association regional training camp held at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. Also this month marked the final transformation of our police vehicle fleet from the white car with blue stripe theme to the newly acquired black and white traditional paint scheme for higher visibility and better recognition. Our own Detective (handsome) Hank Harper was featured on a Discovery Channel documentary spotlighting his apprehension of an armed robbery suspect in a 1999 case.
October was National Crime Prevention week and we hosted our 1st Annual Celebrating Safe Communities event with attendance of our officers at block parties and social gatherings in our community to support Neighborhood Watch. The Rolla Police also hosted our 9th Annual Law Enforcement Torch Run to benefit Special Olympics. Sgt. Ken Moberly was elected to represent the Troop I region as a member of the Law Enforcement Traffic Safety Advisory Council. This month we were forced to change our business telephone number to 573-308-1213 due to the continuous influx of telephone calls requesting information on the Ashley Flores Amber Alert hoax.
November brought our VIPS organization to state wide recognition when Dennis Noel and Vince Giacolone were invited to represent the Troop I region as board members of the Missouri Volunteers in Police Service Foundation (MOVIPS). We were also awarded $10,000.00 in the 2009 Byrne-Jag Local Solicitation Grant to be used to purchase flashlights and overhead light bars for the patrol cars. We also welcomed Warren Hogan to our RPD family as our new Parking Control Officer.
In December, the Rolla Police Department opened a Facebook and Twitter internet account to provide another venue for community awareness of upcoming events, weather reports, criminal activity and Amber Alerts. The website also welcomes citizen and community input on improvements or ideas for better service to the community. Also this month, the N. Bishop branch of the Town and Country Bank was held up by a lone gunman who fled on foot with an unspecified amount of cash. Professional action by the bank personnel and quick response of area law enforcement prevented injuries during the robbery. Investigation by the FBI and our Criminal Investigations Unit revealed that the suspect in this crime may also be suspected in similar robberies in 3 other cities in Missouri. As I said, 2009 was a busy year and provided challenges and opportunities we hope to use to better serve this great community.
Have a great year!
Chief Mark Kearse