Every day, we open the newspaper, turn on the television or check the Internet, and most of what we see is depressing.
Stories about oil slicks, immigration, unemployment, debt and the Middle East have us in a headlock, sort of like the big red-haired guy who waited for us by the bike rack after school every day. (That happened many years ago in a town far, far way. I have forgiven him, as far as you know.)
To counter some of that bad mojo, here are some positive things about the law enforcement situation in our area and what they mean to you as a citizen of our city:
We have a branch of the San Joaquin County Superior Court in the city of Lodi. We have two courtrooms; one upstairs in our building and one across the driveway. If you've ever tried navigating through the justice system in one of the giant county buildings in this state, you really understand the advantage of having your own court. The process is more streamlined here, making it much better for citizens. They usually don't have to travel to Stockton for their criminal or civil cases. They can handle most legal matters, such as divorce, landlord-tenant disputes, restraining orders or small claims court, right here.
We have two judges assigned to the Lodi court. They are accessible for our detectives during the day which speeds up the search and arrest warrant process. Plus the judges get to know the cops, prosecutors, public defenders on a more personal basis. They are familiar with the defendants who appear before them time after time. If someone is a constant problem in Lodi, the judges know it and take that into consideration during sentencing.
We always have at least one deputy district attorney assigned to our court. They handle just the criminal cases in the Lodi area. Our officers work closely with them and can simply walk over to their office if the need arises. This relationship helps maintain the high quality of the cases.
Lodi has its own jail. We can house up to 20 prisoners in our modern facility. Suspects arrested for things from shoplifting to minor warrants to vandalism are shocked when they are handcuffed and placed in a patrol car. You often hear them say things like, "You're actually taking me to jail?" or, "Aren't you going to give me a ticket and let me go?" in a screechy voice, similar to a sibling who just discovered his sister ate the last strawberry Pop Tart.
Unlike larger law enforcement agencies, we rarely cite and release arrestees in the field. We book them into our jail. Some people are held in our facility until they appear in front of a judge. If it's a holiday weekend, they might end up spending four days in our custody. That prospect deters people from committing crimes in our city.
Although we have many vacancies in our organization, our patrol shifts are almost fully staffed. We are still committed to responding to your call within 30 minutes. A cop will actually show up at your door if you desire. Sometimes it might take longer than a half-hour because we have lots of calls for service or there is a major incident taking place that involves many officers. But, overall, we try to get there within 30 minutes. We also have an intern in the lobby during business hours to take your report, or you can submit a report online.
There are two full-time juvenile probation officers in our building. They focus on cases involving young offenders in the Lodi area.
One detective is a member of the area high tech task force. He deals with all computer-related crimes in Lodi as part of his duties. We also have a detective assigned full time to the area auto theft task force. He spends a great deal of his time focusing specifically on the auto thefts in our city.
Our crime analyst provides timely information to the officers about crime trends, wanted persons, and problem areas in town each week.
After a one year hiatus, National Night Out will take place in Lodi on Aug. 3.
There are still a lot of challenges for us on the horizon. But for now, let's try to focus on the good things and have a safe and fun summer.
Any comments, questions or advice for Behind the Badge can be e-mailed to Jeanie Biskup at firstname.lastname@example.org; mailed to Lodi Police Department, 215 W. Elm St., Lodi, CA 95240; or asked by phone at 333-6864.