News from PoliceOne.com
Monday, October 15, 2018
Warren Wilson
Author: Warren Wilson

We are living in the golden age of defensive firearms. When I came up in the gun culture, it was a given that the smaller an auto-pistol was, the less likely it was to be reliable. That is much less true today and is probably a complete falsehood in reference to the ubiquitous mid-sized or compact pistol.

The guns in question generally have 15-round and 12-round magazines in 9mm and .40 caliber, respectively. They have barrels of about four inches in length. They are slightly downsized versions of larger duty pistols and have been mostly marketed for concealed carry and plain clothes carry. These guns are generally designated by their manufacturer as, “compact,” but may serve you just as well as a duty sidearm.

What characteristics would a pistol need to be considered for double-duty? It will need to be big enough for regular duty use and still small enough for concealed carry.

Big enough

Duty pistols aren’t pocket pistols or ankle guns. They must be big enough for street work. What characteristics make a gun suitable for the streets? It must be large enough to allow the user’s hands to get a solid purchase on the stocks. Duty guns must be big enough to retain under the worst conditions, including an attempted gun grab. Under the best circumstances they must have enough girth to effectively be used in training and qualification.

Sight radius may be another consideration. Naturally, a compact gun will have a shorter barrel, which will mean a shorter sight radius. Depending on the skill of the shooter, that abbreviated distance between the front and rear sights can have a negative effect on the individual’s ability to make good hits. That said, at distances common to law enforcement confrontation and qualification, this should be a relatively minor concern.

Capacity is a primary concern for a duty pistol. An often-quoted statistic is that an “average” law enforcement encounter results in only three to five rounds being fired by the officer. That’s often used as an excuse to disregard a gun’s lack of ammunition capacity. A mentor of mine impressed upon me that we shouldn’t only train for the averages. Many incidents have involved dozens of rounds fired and that number has increased over the years. How many will be enough and how much do you trust your luck? When using a subcompact pistol for off-duty carry, you might lose as many as 10 rounds of ammunition from your on-duty gun. However, a compact or mid-sized gun loses only a few rounds while allowing enough grip reduction for effective concealment.

Small enough

A concealed carry pistol must be small enough to effectively conceal. As stated above, we’re not talking about pocket guns or ankle guns here. Still, a double-duty pistol will need to be small enough to comfortably conceal. I’ve spent the last several years carrying such a handgun under a slightly oversized shirt in my off time without any trouble.

Bonus

Many of these quasi-compact pistols accept the duty-size magazines of their larger brethren. That increases the capacity of the compact handgun from 15 or 17 rounds to 13 or 15 rounds, depending on the caliber. Some manufacturers provide magazine adapters for their larger magazines that fill in the gap between the grip and the floorplate. It only makes sense to carry the full-size magazine with the adapter on duty and the slightly reduced magazine for concealed carry. With the shorter magazine inserted and with the proper holster, carrying a 14 or 16 round pistol is a breeze.

In a shopping mall some years back, an off-duty officer engaged an active shooter until help arrived. According to an interview he gave later, his 1911 only contained six rounds. He fired only three for fear he would run out of ammo before the threat was neutralized. The officer made the statement that he wished he'd had more ammunition; at least in the form of an extra magazine. I’m sure having a pistol with a capacity in the mid-teens would have been comforting for him.

Double-duty option

Firearms manufacturers are offering more viable handgun options for officers than ever before. Let’s face it, cops aren’t usually flush with disposable income. Having one pistol to serve two different roles is a great fiscal option for the law enforcement officer and his family. Do some research and see if what gun companies call a compact pistol may very well serve double duty for you.


Monday, October 15, 2018
Tim Dees
Author: Tim Dees

Diagramming a crime or crash scene can be a painstaking process, always preserving the possibility of missing a critical item of evidence or getting a measurement wrong. By relying on a 3D scanner, the crime scene investigator can produce a much more detailed record in far less time.

What the 3D scanners are able to capture and generate help give jurors and those in court an impactful visual of the scene and helps provide the spatial reference and at times can help stop trials from even going to court.

Hardware and mechanics

A modern laser scanner largely automates the process of recording the scene and everything in it. The basic technique begins by placing the scanner, mounted on a sturdy tripod, more or less in the middle of the area to be recorded. The scanner projects a vertically-spinning laser beam onto the surrounding landscape, recording points as reflected off every object in view. The scanner rotates 360 degrees in the horizontal axis as it scans, moved by a motor mount slaved to the scanner itself.

As the laser light is reflected back to the scanner, the time required for the light to make the trip there and back is recorded and converted into a distance measurement, using the speed of light as a constant. This is similar to the way that traffic LIDAR is used to get the range to a target vehicle. This is called a “time of flight” calculation.

At the same time, the scanner records the angle of the emitted light, the angle of the reflection, and the distance calculation to triangulate and establish x, y and z coordinates for that data point. This creates a fixed point in space for that point, relative to the scanner.

Point clouds

By recording these data points and displaying them graphically, the laser scanner system creates a “point cloud” that recreates the shapes of all the objects in the scanner’s view. Most scanners can record everything in their line-of-sight view from around 0.6 meters to 1,100 ft. (or more) away. The effect is to see a three-dimensional view of the area from the perspective of the scanner location, with a resolution of thousands of data points per inch. The scanners accumulate this data very quickly, recording between 10,000-100,000 data points per second.

When there are obstructions between objects of interest and the scanner, those areas hidden to the scanner will not be recorded. The image is fleshed out by moving the scanner to another location where the area of interest is not obscured, and repeating the scan. Software typically furnished with the scanner will stitch together the images, using GPS coordinates recorded at the time of the scan to register the combined data point sets.

Most scanners used for crime and crash scene reconstruction incorporate conventional digital cameras, so that the point clouds are superimposed onto the photographs. This results in a 3D representation of the area, recorded digitally and transferable as with any other digital file.

Analyses and calculations

Analysts can zoom in on any feature, determine distances and angles between points, and make calculations of relevant factors, such as vehicle force vectors and bullet flight paths. The images can be rotated and viewed from any angle, providing perspectives that would be impossible with a conventional set of photographs.

Representations of crime and crash scenes recorded by laser scanners are much more detailed and accurate than a human diagrammer could produce. They are more persuasive to judges and juries who have been “educated” by TV and movie depictions of forensic analyses, and who have come to expect high-tech evidence in the courtroom.


Monday, October 15, 2018
Author: Tim Dees

Associated Press

CHICAGO — More than 500 people have contributed over $45,000 for the two daughters of the Chicago police officer who was convicted in the shooting death of teenager Laquan McDonald.

One of Jason Van Dyke's attorneys, Tammy Wendt, launched the GoFundMe campaign shortly after a jury earlier this month found the officer guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm — one for each time Van Dyke shot the teen on Oct. 20, 2014.

Van Dyke is in jail awaiting sentencing.

Wendt says on the GoFundMe page that Van Dyke's wife, Tiffany, is "left to raise their two children on her own" and that she hopes to raise $100,000 for things like clothing, shelter and school. The donations range from $5 to $1,000.


Monday, October 15, 2018
Heather R. Cotter
Author: Heather R. Cotter

Body-worn camera footage is incredibly valuable not just for evidence collection or increasing police transparency, but also for improving many aspects of law enforcement agency practice. Risk management, training and employee evaluations are three ways law enforcement agencies can integrate BWC footage into daily operations.

BWCs are often viewed as a law enforcement accountability tool. BWC footage is generally gathered and used to protect officers and the citizens they serve; however, many agencies are exploring additional ways to leverage the BWC footage collected. Below are three ways to integrated BWC footage into law enforcement operations.

1. Risk management

There is a degree of risk with every business component within a law enforcement agency; whether it is a realignment of the agency’s organizational structure, promoting a captain to a commander, or implementing a new technology like body cameras. While there are several ways in which BWCs can be a risk management tool, let’s focus on officer compliance.

According to an August 2018 Bureau of Justice Assistance study, “agencies allow first-line supervisors to access and review BWC footage as part of administrative investigations, such as in response to a citizen complaint or use of force.” The study further describes that supervisors review BWC footage systematically or randomly to ensure general officer compliance with procedures and agency directives.

An article in Police Chief Magazine outlines a five-step process for how to assess footage through deconstruction and establishing key performance indicators. Once created, supervisors are essentially able to go through its checklist to make sure the officer did everything in alignment with policy and procedure from checking on victim welfare to determining what (if any) weapons were involved with the incident – this checklist will vary depending on the type of call for service.

Using BWC footage as a risk management tool for officer compliance is a tremendous agency benefit. Performing regular and on-going officer compliance reviews will help reduce litigation threats and improve job performance.

2. Officer training

There are myriad ways in which law enforcement agencies can leverage BWC data into police training, and there are advantages to doing so. Let’s explore the advantages.

Besides its cost-effectiveness, there are several advantages for officers to review their agency’s BWC footage for training purposes. Reviewing BWC footage will give officers the opportunity to examine positive and negative citizen encounters. This is advantageous because it allows officers to take a step back and see what methods an officer used during each call for service. Officers reviewing the BWC footage may learn new de-escalation techniques, scene safety observations or other useful tactics that they can adopt. The bottom line is that officers will be able to learn from one another through BWC footage review.

There are considerations an agency must weigh before rolling out a BWC footage training program, which includes whether an officer can view his or her own footage. According to the BJA study many agencies see this as a debatable issue after a critical incident (e.g., an OIS). Other factors agencies need to assess include how frequently officers will review BWC footage, whether it will be done in a group setting or individually and how they will measure whether the BWC footage review is affecting officer compliance and/or performance.

3. Employee evaluations

In the BJA study mentioned above, several agencies leverage BWC footage in officers’ performance reviews and performance management. This is done independently of officer compliance. Agencies can easily use BWC footage as part of officers’ performance evaluations, but before doing so, a process needs to be established and likely approved by human resources to ensure equity.

Conclusion

As BWC technology continues to evolve and footage is collected and stored, it’s important for agencies to pre-define processes and procedures for use of that footage, test out programs internally for a trial period, and then decide whether or not it makes sense for an agency-wide roll-out.


Monday, October 15, 2018
Author: Heather R. Cotter

By Shelby Smithson KAIT8

JONESBORO, Ark. — Three grants awarded to the Jonesboro Police Department are taking some of the expense burdens off of taxpayer dollars.

It’s for equipment like bulletproof vests, body cameras, and updating laptops in the police cars. The Justice Assistance Grant that will be used to update equipment within the cruisers is straight funding the department received last year as well.

Chief Rick Elliott said each of these is important in keeping the officers and the community safe while staying on budget.

Full story: Police department receives three grants for safety equipment, technology upgrades


Monday, October 15, 2018
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Author: Heather R. Cotter

Associated Press DETROIT — Police in Detroit said they would file a criminal complaint against the owners after the remains of 10 fetuses and one infant were found hidden in a former funeral home that had lost its license when decomposing embalmed bodies were found there earlier this year.

A criminal complaint will be opened against the owners of Cantrell Funeral Home, Police Chief James Craig said Monday.

The Associated Press was unable Monday to find a telephone listing for Raymond Cantrell who owned the funeral home when its license was suspended in April.

An anonymous letter led state inspectors Friday to the decomposed remains hidden between the eastside building's first and second floors.

The fetuses were found together in a cardboard-like box while the full-term infant was in a coffin, Craig said.

"They were definitely hidden," Craig told The AP. "The way they were placed in ceiling, one would not have readily discovered them. In 41½ years in policing, this is first time I've heard of anything like this."

The remains were taken to the Wayne County medical examiner's office which is coordinating efforts with authorities "to hopefully get them identified and families identified," spokeswoman Lisa Croff said in a text message. "We have very little to go on (without) cooperation from the funeral home owners. Everything is under investigation."

No arrests have been made.

Cantrell Funeral Home was shut down and had its mortuary license suspended in April after decomposing embalmed bodies were found and other violations were discovered. The suspension has not been appealed and the investigation from earlier this year remains ongoing, said Jason Moon, a spokesman for Michigan's Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

Those violations include two improperly stored bodies covered in what appeared to be mold and a third body with unknown fluids covering the facial area. Inspections also turned up an unsanitary embalming room.

The establishment also was operating with an expired prepaid funeral and cemetery sales registration. The state says money for prepaid funeral goods or services had not been deposited with an authorized escrow agent within 30 days of receipt.

Raymond Cantrell told reporters at the time that some bodies were stored in the garage "so that we wouldn't have an aroma filling up the funeral home."

"If I had them in the funeral home, then my funeral home would not smell fresh," he said.

The building has a new owner.


Monday, October 15, 2018
American Military University
Author: American Military University

By Dr. Chuck Russo, Program Director of Criminal Justice at American Military University, Jeremy Nikolow, alumnus, Criminal Justice, American Military University and Carrie Courtney, Contributor to In Public Safety

On a daily basis, law enforcement officers (LEOs) encounter individuals displaying mental health symptomology. It is unfortunate that typically the public only hears about law enforcement’s adverse interactions with those diagnosed with mental illness; such as when things go awry and negative outcomes occur. When these situations occur, LEOs are forced to respond to media inquiries and social media hype in real time. In both their message and rhetoric, law enforcement can come across as defensive. This does not have to be the case. Law enforcement can get ahead of these encounters by partnering with others in the mental health community. To do so, it would be beneficial to create the position of a mental health agency liaison officer.

What is a mental health agency liaison officer?

In this designated role, the mental health agency liaison officer serves as a link between law enforcement entities, mental health agencies, substance abuse agencies and local social service agencies. This includes for-profit and non-profit community-based mental health agencies in each district and jurisdiction.

As many mental health agency meetings and events are held during “normal business hours,” it may be best to designate an administrative member of the law enforcement agency as the mental health agency liaison officer. An administrative sergeant, lieutenant or higher ranked individual, free of the needs to respond to calls for service, should have the time to attend the necessary meetings and events that would be required for such a position.

The officer would work in partnership with symbiotic agencies on tasks such as psycho-education, networking, public awareness, public safety, outreach events and the facilitation of referrals between agencies. They would also help foster and sustain a positive relationship between law enforcement agencies, the local government, mental health agencies, vocational rehabilitation services and additional social service agencies.

The mental health agency liaison officer would serve as an advocate by attending and participating in law enforcement, mental health and substance abuse agencies board meetings. In addition, he or she would actively serve on participating agencies board of directors, as requested.

In Volusia County, Florida, for example, there are multiple mental health agencies and social service providers. Through the designation of one individual as the mental health agency liaison officer between law enforcement and mental health, substance abuse and social service agencies, the flow of internal and external communication would improve, thereby facilitating a positive alliance among all participants. Oversight provided by the mental health agency liaison officer would demonstrate the effectiveness and importance of their alliance by fostering solutions and decreasing the perpetuation of myths and negative community-based perceptions.

The benefits of a mental health agency liaison officer

One of the many goals of the mental health agency liaison officer would be to increase familiarity among LEOs and mental health, substance abuse and social service providers. By putting a LEO presence in a constant advocacy role for those experiencing mental illness and substance abuse issues, all of the internal and external participants would work together cohesively to facilitate a united partnership. As such, the mental health agency liaison officer would create enhanced positive interactions between LEOs and those diagnosed with mental illness and substance abuse and dependence issues.

A collaborative approach could also help provide education to law enforcement about how “best” to approach a person with mental health needs and how to avoid exacerbating the situation. For example, there have been well-defined links between mental health and drug usage, anger issues, crime and even homelessness. While law enforcement may seek a strict deterrent for drug or anger issues (e.g., incarceration), mental health agencies may be able to weigh in with a more rehabilitative approach (e.g., drug treatment or anger management) that would help reduce these “flare-ups” from people with mental health issues.

In addition, the mental health agency liaison officer can provide a singular voice to mental health agencies on many issues and concerns from a law enforcement standpoint. A uniform and consistent message on these issues can help to standardize the process and response from law enforcement to mental health issues. This makes it easier for mental health agencies to understand and know what to expect from law enforcement’s response to client issues and concerns. It can also lead to future support of these same issues and concerns. If law enforcement and mental health agencies support each other in their respective roles, it could go a long way in quelling concerns in the event of public scrutiny.

The mental health agency liaison officer could also serve as a key figure in integrating fiscal needs among mental health, substance abuse and social service agencies by bringing grant revenue and other funding sources to the attention of these agencies (e.g., utilizing Veterans Affairs for military veterans with mental health needs and pharmaceutical companies for substance abuse clients). As a “neutral” third party, the mental health agency liaison officer could connect previously disjointed agencies that are often consistently in desperate need of funding and additional resources to serve the complex needs of their clientele.

By designating an individual as the mental health agency liaison officer, law enforcement agencies would demonstrate an active willingness to partner with mental health, substance abuse and social service agencies. This will serve as a targeted effort to provide innovative solutions to assist those diagnosed with mental illness and substance abuse/dependence issues.

The mental health agency liaison officer could become an integral problem solver in the mental health and substance abuse community by working interdependently with each agency to provide reliable support and collaborative, functional resources for individuals and families suffering from the disorderly destruction associated with mental illness and substance abuse. In addition, the mental health agency liaison officer will provide supportive assistance for individuals and agencies addressing mental health symptomology. This cooperative support will bring community-wide mental health and substance abuse assistance, while addressing the plethora of concerns associated with these diagnoses.


About the authors: Dr. Chuck Russo is the program director of Criminal Justice at American Military University. He began his career in law enforcement in 1987 in Central Florida and was involved all areas of patrol, training, special operations and investigations before retiring from law enforcement in 2013. Dr. Russo continues to design and instruct courses, as well as act as a consultant for education, government and industry throughout the world. His recent research and presentations focus on emerging technology and law enforcement applications, post-traumatic stress, nongovernment intelligence actors, and online learning.

Jeremy Nikolow, MS, is a police lieutenant with a large Central Florida agency and adjunct faculty with colleges and universities. His law enforcement career began in 2005 and he has involved several areas of patrol, investigations, motors, SWAT and specialized operations. Jeremy presently serves as watch commander. He graduated from American Military University in 2012 earning his Master of Science degree in Criminal Justice.

Carrie Courtney, MSW, is the former grant specialist for a large Central Florida law enforcement agency. She was a founding member of the agency’s Critical Incident Stress Management Team, as well as a team member of other state and district teams. She was contracted by the Bureau of Justice Assistance to review grants on a federal level. She is a member of the Florida Crisis Consortium, as well as a board member of a mental health organization, and the outgoing president of the Mental Health Association. She specialized in trauma and devoted most of her career to working with adult and children who experienced severe trauma.

To contact these authors, email IPSauthor@apus.edu. For more articles featuring insight from industry experts, subscribe to In Public Safety’s bi-monthly newsletter.


Monday, October 15, 2018
Author: American Military University

By Zachary Hillstrom The Pueblo Chieftain

PUEBLO, Colo. — A determined group of Pueblo police officers and community volunteers braved the below-freezing temperatures Sunday morning and took to the streets in an effort to continue what the Pueblo Police Department’s Watch IV has been doing since March of last year: cleaning up a portion of the East Side.

The clean-up on Sunday was of a literal nature, as volunteers walked the area surrounding El Centro del Quinto Sol recreation center, picking up trash, placing it into black bags and then transporting the bags to a large dumpster.

But the figurative clean up of the area began last year, when Watch IV identified it as an ideal location to conduct a Community Oriented Policing (C.O.P.) project, in which officers target a specific area with high crime rates to reduce the problems and empower the community to take an active role in the safety of their neighborhood.

“Obviously, we see the whole city is needing our services, but we wanted a focal area where we could put more officers in that area, do more patrols and more traffic enforcement,” said Watch IV Officer Bryan Gonzales.

“This gets us to work cooperatively with the community, which is what we want to do.”

Watch IV chose the area on the East Side surrounding El Centro del Quinto Sol, with a southern boundary of East Fourth Street, a northern boundary of East 12th Street, a western boundary of Erie Avenue and an eastern boundary of Hudson Avenue.

Through their efforts, and the buy-in from the surrounding community, the one-year results of the project have been significant.

According to statistics provided by the Pueblo Police Department, from Jan. 1 through Sept. 30 of this year, crime in the target area has been reduced in a number of different categories, including burglaries, sexual assaults and shootings.

Their data shows that burglaries decreased by 28 percent, dropping from 44 last year to just 32 in 2018; sexual assaults dropped from two to one, for a 50 percent decrease; and shootings dropped from eight last year to just one so far in 2018, for a decrease of 88 percent.

Narcotics arrests in the area, however, have skyrocketed, not because illegal drugs have become more prevalent, but because increased police presence has resulted in more drugs being found and their users and sellers being taken off the street, police said.

“That’s because of the fact that we’re contacting people more,” Gonzales said. “We’re finding more people that have drugs and we’re arresting them.”

Members of the community have seen the results of the C.O.P project firsthand.

“(The crime) has definitely gone down,” said Toby Gonzales, who’s lived on East Sixth Street for the past five years.

“When we first moved here, there was all these drugs and everything and I saw it a lot in the neighborhood, … but it’s been cleaned up a lot since they came in.”

Toby Gonzales was one of the community volunteers to aid Watch IV in their community cleanup on Sunday, and he said the cleanup, as well as the ongoing C.O.P. project, are a major benefit to the children who live in the area.

“This is for the kids ... because all the kids come to the skate park and skate, and my kids like going to the center,' he said. 'It just makes it safer for them.”

Another local resident, 62-year-old Vickie Gatlin, echoed Toby Gonzales' sentiments.

“Every little bit of help is good for my community,” Gatlin said.

“I’m all about the kids. Let’s get the kids back in their neighborhood. Riding their bicycles, on the sidewalks, and going to the skate park without them or their parents having to be worried.”

As a thank you to the community for buying into the project and taking ownership over the goings-on in their neighborhood, Watch IV hosted a community barbecue at El Centro del Quinto Sol following the cleanup, featuring free food, carnival games for kids, prizes and a youth clothing giveaway.

“We wanted to have a community barbecue to show our appreciation and show we’ve made a positive impact,” said Officer Gonzales.

“There’s a lot of people in this area who want to stand up and say we’re not going to tolerate this. … This is a great park and a great facility right here, and we want to show that these are for the children, these are for the kids and the people who want to access them for the right reasons.

'And we’re not going to tolerate the drug dealing, the prostitution, none of that,' he said. 'We’re not going to have it here.”


Monday, October 15, 2018
Lauri Stevens
Author: Lauri Stevens

The National Law Enforcement Museum in Washington, D.C. is about stories. “Stories about courage, stories about honor, stories about sacrifice. True stories that remind us never to take public safety for granted,” Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein told the crowd of assembled police professionals at the grand opening ceremony on Oct 11.

The museum, which was built by the nonprofit National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF), features immersive, interactive exhibits that allow visitors to not only learn about law enforcement but also experience some of the tasks and duties police perform every day.

“The story of law enforcement has never been told. People need to learn about and understand the role law enforcement plays in their lives and also realize that they need to work in cooperation with their police,” said Craig Floyd, founding CEO at NLEOMF, a job he’s held for 30 years.

Exhibits at the museum acknowledge the current tension between police and citizens, many touching on controversy, but presenting issues in a way intended to generate dialog and mutual understanding.

Floyd spent a good portion of opening day giving a one-on-one tour to Washington, D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham, who said the day was an emotional one.

“Mostly I feel relief that it’s finally open. It’s been two decades in the making. A lot of people said it would never happen,” said Newsham.

Among the highlights at the musuem:

109-seat theatre that shows an impactful movie every 20 minutes; 900 of 20,000 police artifacts on display; An interactive wall illustrating the Web of Law Enforcement – how geographically dispersed cases are linked to one another; A gallery that depicts policing in five different cities; Exhibits offering experiences to see what it’s like to be a bomb tech, a K9 officer, SWAT officer and 911 dispatcher; The Parks Police helicopter used in a 1982 rescue after a plane crashed into the Potomac River in Washington, D.C.; Corrections exhibit complete with jail cell; Hall of Remembrance honors the more than 21,500 officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

The development of the museum has been 18 years in the making. President Bill Clinton and the U.S. Congress authorized its establishment in 2000. With the raising of over $130 million in municipal bonds and private donations, construction began in February 2016.

The story of the law enforcement profession is powerful, complex and ever-changing and finally has a home to call its own in Judiciary Square in our nation’s capital, a fact not lost on DC’s hometown police chief.

“Nothing could make me happier than to know that people all across our country finally have a place to learn about what we do and who we are,” said Newsham.

The National Law Enforcement Museum is located at the Motorola Solutions Foundation Building in Judiciary Square, Washington, DC. For opening hours and more information, click here.

Time-lapse movie shows the construction of the National Law Enforcement Museum. Video courtesy of EarthCam.


Monday, October 15, 2018
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Author: Lauri Stevens

Niagara Gazette

OLCOTT, N.Y. — The quick actions of good Samaritans and a Niagara County Sheriff’s deputy saved a 4-year-old girl from drowning in Lake Ontario near Krull Park on Thursday morning.

According to Niagara County Sheriff Jim Voutour, the girl, who is non-verbal and has special needs, wandered from her Main Street home sometime before 8 a.m. Voutour said he didn’t know how the girl got the door open.

She ended up at Krull Park, where she slipped through a fence around Olcott Beach.

Nearby park-goers tried to coax the girl away from the water, but seemingly frightened, she instead went farther out. So they called 911, reporting the girl was in the water and appeared at risk of drowning.

By the time Deputy Jon Vosburgh arrived on the scene, the girl was about 60 yards out and struggling to swim.

With waves pushing the girl farther from shore, and her head repeatedly vanishing under the waves, Vosburgh dove into the cold waters.

Vosburgh managed to bring her back to the shore within minutes.

The girl coughed up large amounts of water, but was conscious and breathing.

EMTs at Olcott Volunteer Fire Company evaluated the girl, who was later taken to Oishei Children’s Hospital for further evaluation.

Deputies spoke with Olcott residents and were able to locate the girl’s Main Street residence within about 30 minutes. They found the front door ajar and the girl’s father, Joshua Wankasky, asleep.

Voutour said deputies found no evidence that drugs or alcohol kept Wankasky in his slumber. Still, deputies charged Wankasky with endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor.

“He has an obligation to take care of his child,” said Voutour, adding that he trusted his deputies and their supervisors’ determination.

Deputies found no sign of the girl’s mother at the home. “No one’s ever mentioned mom all day. She wasn’t there,” Voutour said.

Voutour commended the 911 callers and Vosburgh, a Newfane native and U.S. Marine Corps veteran who was hired by the sheriff’s office in 2011.

“Deputy Vosburgh did an outstanding job. He thought nothing of taking off his equipment, diving into a 55-degree lake and bringing this girl above the surface,” Voutour said. “Had he not done that, we would have been talking about a death for sure.”

After the rescue, Vosburgh dried off, put on a clean uniform and went back to patrol duty.

Later in the day, Vosburgh responded to a dispute involving two fishermen on opposite sides of Eighteen Mile Creek.

“I thought he was going to have to go into the water again. ... Fortunately, he was able to solve that from shore,” Voutour said.

Copyright 2018 Niagara Gazette