by Jay Lawson
Town of Webb Police Chief Ron Johnston gave an annual report of his department on Tuesday, March 8, at the Town of Webb Board’s regular monthly meeting.
Chief Johnston said it had been the board’s request that he offer regular updates.
Additionally, Johnston bestowed commendations upon his officers, in the form of verbal praise and awards, including the naming of Kevin Birtle as Webb’s 2015 Officer of the Year.
He said there have been many accomplishments by the department in the past year, and stressed that a team effort allowed them to occur.
He acknowledged his officers, who were present: Anthony Capristo, Cody Luebbert, Trevor Tormey, and Kevin Birtle.
“Without these guys we wouldn’t have gotten so much done,” Johnston said.
In 2015, The Town of Webb Police Department handled 1,230 calls for service.
It issued 572 traffic summonses, a combination of vehicle and traffic and snowmobile.
“We started out the year for making all computer servers functional. And we received all mandated upgrades from the state justice system,” Johnston said.
This allows for Incident Based Reporting [IBR] with the Division of Criminal Justice Services [DCJS] and federal Uniform Crime Reporting [UCR].
These reports are mandated and have to be submitted once a month by every police agency in New York State, according to Johnston.
“We began by submitting all New York State IBRs and federal UCR reports by the end of January. We were able to catch up everything that was past due,” he said.
Johnston said he and his officers spent the first month correcting error reports till 2 and 3 o’clock in the morning.
“By the end of January 2015, our agency was approved for IBR and UCR reporting via the New York State portal system. By June of 2015, we received a zero-percent error rating for reporting by the Town of Webb Police Department… We fight daily to keep that number down as low as we can,” Johnston said.
Chief Johnston reported that the Webb Police Department is participating in Herkimer County’s Stop DWI reimbursement program.
The program assists in covering peak problem times for detection and prevention of drunk driving.
This includes certain celebratory holidays, Super Bowl weekends, and the like, Johnston said.
“[The assistance] permits us to put an extra officer on the road,” he said.
Chief Johnston said he has been working on recommendations made in the department’s outside audit of 2014.
“One of the things that we were advised of during the audit, was that we needed to obtain somebody certified in sex crimes and the interviewing of those types of cases,” he said.
“Officer Tormey stepped up to the plate and was sent and certified to conduct sex crimes interviews and forensic interviews…with both adults and children.”
The forensic interview process has the interviewer using a doll and pictures in going through traumatic situations with a small child, according to Johnston.
The intent is to make sure the interview only happens once instead of multiple agencies asking the same questions over and over again.
“That’s what New York State wants and I agree with it,” Johnston said.
So he was certified in both sex crime interviews and forensic interviews for both adults and children.
A standard operating procedure was set forth with Herkimer County Residential Crisis Services, with the Webb Police Department now a team member, said Johnston, who attends frequent meetings.
“We also participate in case reviews. When we have something that happens up here, they ask me to come to a case review. [This allows us to] see if we made any mistakes we can improve upon,” he said.
Johnston reported that Officer Birtle worked to repair and enhance the Webb Police shooting range.
“He worked a lot of hours on that, and it’s really something that we can be proud of now. It’s dressed up very nicely,” he said.
“Also, our uniform firearms shooting qualification procedure has been written and is currently being followed with DCJS guidelines,” Johnston said.
The department’s TASER program has been updated, Johnston reported.
“All department members were recertified and brought up to date by receiving a TASER training. We were out of date on that. All expired equipment was replaced and brought into compliance. A certified TASER instructor completed both classroom and practical training for all members,” he said.
Johnston reported that a vehicle fleet maintenance plan was put into place with an officer having been assigned to oversee it.
“[This is] to make sure we can address any vehicle issues before they become a liability,” he said.
A Supevisor vehicle was added to the fleet in 2015, Johnston reported. It is equipped with a high-power “incident and command” module.
The radio and command center cost the taxpayers nothing, having been paid for by the Herkimer County Stop DWI committee, Johnston said.
He reported that a grant was applied for and received by CVS Pharmacies for a prescription drugs disposal box for Town of Webb.
“The box is available to anyone, any time there’s a police officer on duty. They can come and drop [unwanted medications] in our drop box,” Johnston said.
“We’ve coordinated with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)… for a national drug take-back day, where they will pick it up,” he said.
Johnston reported that Webb PD received assistance from the Webb Department of Public Works (DPW) crew in securing the front of the station.
“The DPW [established] a small lobby and a partition to assure officer safety. A big thank you to Mark Hudon and his crew for getting that done. And they [did the work] last year in between freezing water mains. It took them a while, and I was just grateful to have them keep plugging away,” Johston said.
Chief Johnston reported that a secured evidence room was built with a firearms safe.
“It has been organized and maintained,” he said.
The Town of Webb Police Boat was overhauled and serviced with a permanent mobile radio, Johnston said.
“When we’re in remote places, we can hopefully communicate,” he said.
Chief Johnston reported on Webb PD’s marine patrol presence for Summer 2015.
The department patrolled Big Moose Lake, Stillwater, Beaver River, and Twitchell Lake, he said.
They also conducted two foot patrols in the hamlet of Beaver River during the summer or 2015.
“I still have the blackfly marks to prove it,” Johnston said.
Two obsolete Chevy patrol cars, that had been placed in surplus, were stripped of police equipment and sold at auction.
A new phone system was installed at the police station.
“It allows for each officer to have a functioning voice mail, instead of hand notes or any other unprofessional ways of communicating,” Johnston said.
Uniform case files have been established with all filings done in accordance with all Incident Based Reporting guidelines, Johnston reported.
There’s a file for each case, and paper blotters have been eliminated. “Everything is accessible by computer,” he said.
“We got a secure CJIS-compliant (Criminal Justice Information Services) email account for each officer. CJIS is the governing body through the FBI that says you’re allowed to communicate one police agency to another,” Johnston said.
The previous unsecured email system posed a problem when Officer Silverman had an extradition in 2015, according to Johnston.
“He wasn’t able to communicate with other police officers for the extradition because they wouldn’t take a personal email. So we were always relying on the State Police. That CJIS compliant email system is in place for all officers now, so we are on the same page as everybody else,” he said.
Johnston reported that multiple officers have now received state certification in Snowmobile Law Enforce-ment. This allows them to take advantage of training that’s conducted annually in the Town of Webb.
Vehicle equipment was made uniform in 2015.
Water rescue equipment was added.
“Firearms are not completely uniform yet, but we’re working on it,” Johnston said.
“We applied for and received a grant from Senator Farley’s office, and we were able to receive patrol rifles that are all uniform in every single car,” he said.
Those rifles were received over the past two weeks.
“They’re not in service yet. We have to wait till we can get trained on those. AX Tactical out of Yorkville, who actually built them for us, has agreed to come up and provide that training to us at no charge,” Johnston said.
Evidence handling procedures have been upgraded, Johnston reported.
“We completed an Audit and Review of six years worth of evidence. Court orders were drawn up for the destruction of same. We had a meeting with county court judge, Honorable Judge Crandall, who allowed the destruction of all narcotic and drug evidence.
“At this time, about 95 percent of all house evidence has either been returned or destroyed in accordance with the criminal procedure law,” Johnston said.
Johnston credited Officer Kevin Birtle for being a major player in the task.
Chief Johnston reported that he and Inlet Police Chief Andrew Kalil filed for Snowmobile Reimbursement and received $25,000 in funds for the past two years.
“All current employees have received a new bullet proof vest through both the federal and the New York State ‘Soft Body Armor’ reimbursement program. Each vest costs approximately $1,000. All of the officers’ vests were replaced at no cost to the TOW taxpayers,” Johnston said.
The Town of Webb K-9 program was reviewed, including its training process.
Officer Trevor Tormey is now tasked with maintaining both the training log, as well as an activity log, Johnston said.
These wil help both with certifications for the department, as well as individual officers.
An agreement with Otter Lake Veterinary Clinic, which acted generously, allows for routine vet care for police service dogs, Johnston said.
Chief Johnston reported on community outreach efforts of his department in 2015.
“We held a successful Open House at the police station with representation from the Herkimer County Sheriff’s Office. [The event] produced Safe Child ID cards. [Participants included] the NYS Police, the NYS Forest Rangers, NYS Environmental Conservation, and the Inlet Police. [The Open House] allowed the community to come in and look at our Police Department, and see the resources we have available to us,” Johnston said.
“We recently received a satisfactory inspection from the NYS Agricultural and Markets for updating all paperwork and filing system,” he said.
A separate animal control officer is being be established in Webb to satisfy this agency, according to Johnston.
Johnston said he is working on this compliance project with Town Attorney Richard Frye and Town Clerk Nanci Russell.
“Just recently [Webb PD] obtained through donation an enclosed snowmobile trailer, through the generosity of Town of Webb resident and Blizzard manufacturer/owner, Michele Soltes. And we’re very grateful to her for that. That’s a huge and valuable piece of equipment…she donated,” Johnston said.
Chief Johnston also reported that he is working on revised Standard Operating Guidelines (SOG).
“That’s ongoing, and it will be ongoing for a few years. But we’re getting there. We have the basics in an SOG manual. I am currently operating under a New York State manual for police, which is a manual that’s kind of old. But it works for now until I can get all of the SOGs done,” he said.
The SOG is a book of regulations and procedures that govern the operation of the Town of Webb Police Department, Johnston said.
Johnston said he his examing the SOGs of other departments to figure out what will work for Webb.
It’s a piecemeal process that should result in a valuable product, he said.