I spent an hour talking about the tragic events of last week, and crime in general with WFB's Chief of Police Robert Jacobs.
Here are notes from our conversation:
Concerning the Kiefer tragedy, and specifically the Laughrin "drug house" .. the police were indeed aware of many complaints neighbors had made, and had over the years, tried to catch Laughrin doing bad deeds.
But the police have to play by rules .. they need probable cause and warrants to enter buildings. Apparently, citizen complaints about shady looking dudes (or middle school girls at midnight) frequently visiting a home isn't enough for a judge to sign off.
He explained that the Sunday of the tragedy, it took a Milwaukee County DA, with officers, hours to write up paperwork and affidavits, to get a judge to sign off on a search warrant for Laughrin's house.
The WFB PD received many tips, from pictures of people entering the house, to license plates of cars in front, taken by neighbors. Jacobs said they follow up on all of them, trying to create a pattern where they can wiggle some probable cause and step in. Sadly, this was never achieved.
The Chief explained, that "when one thing was tried and failed, we went to another .. we were taking it seriously."
I asked the Chief if they'd ever parked a squad out front, and he said they did, for a time, but an approach like that is only a temporary fix.
The Chief mentioned, at one point over the past year, they tried to use an informant to place a drug buy, who was known to Laughrin, but unfortunately, the informant backed out. (Anecdotally, a blog reader wrote me that if the police were unable, SHE would volunteer to be their undercover drug buyer!)
Jacobs added, he'd gotten a question about "What would the police be doing today, if the Kiefer tragedy hadn't occurred, about the Laughrin drug house?" -- A fantastic question.
To an extent, his answer was "more of the same" .. which unfortunately was not working. That being said, he also suggested that, as you ramp up police intervention, you run the risk of violating 4th Amendment rights, and receiving claims of police harassment. He hinted that more police pressure could have been forthcoming that might have helped, but didn't want to use the word "harassment."
I explained to the Chief, that if you took a poll right now, 99% of Whitefish Bay residents would be very pro-police harassment of drug dealers.
In the end, he said it takes coordination and involvement from the schools, neighbors, kids, and parents to combat drug use and sales.
But that cooperation doesn't always occur.
He described a story from JUST LAST WEEK, after the Kiefer tragedy, when a tip came in about a WFB teen and her MySpace account, on which, it indicated she had done drugs, and had some clues as to the dealer who sold them. The child and her parents came to the station. The girl "was indignant that we'd invaded her privacy on MySpace."
ATTENTION CHILDREN: MySpace is totally not private. There is zero privacy on the internet. If you post your misdeeds there, be prepared for the consequences. -- The end of the story is, when the police asked the family to help them capture the drug dealer, the parents ended the conversation suggesting they would get a lawyer instead.
Now, in that case, no charges were filed, because all the police had was a MySpace page hinting drug use. So .. your child is doing drugs and there's a possibility you can help police catch the dealer who is supplying children with drugs. Shouldn't you feel an enormous obligation to help police? Help your neighbors, help the parents and the children around you? -- To the Whitefish Bay parents who are involved in this story, please, step forward. I'd be happy to hear your side of this story.
On the plus side, Chief Jacobs did mention he'd heard of a couple of parents who were inquiring about their own children, that they thought might be using drugs.
I asked the Chief directly, if there were other "drug houses" that the WFB police were actively investigating. His answer was .. diplomatic. He said no, but "there are individuals we are observing carefully."
I've heard from many people, who have decried police priorities, suggesting instead of having squads catching traffic speeders, they should have been parked outside Laughrin's house. The Chief responded, "But my first year in WFB, people said the PD wasn't taking traffic and pedestrian safety seriously, and to put more emphasis on that. You try to make best use of resources, but there will always be people who suggest 'you shouldn't be doing this, do that instead.'"
Chief Jacobs suggested that he wanted to work with the School District and Village Board to arrive at a comprehensive plan to combat drug use and sale. He gave examples of drug education, the possibilities of School Liaison Officers who can get to know specific kids and problems within the schools, or like Nicolet, which apparently allows for occasional building sweeps with drug dogs.
He wasn't recommending any of that specifically, just that all options are on the table. -- I also asked him if the PD needed more resources, and his response was that he wasn't going to issue a knee-jerk reaction to last week's tragedy that more police is the answer.
Jacobs said he rated his department's ability very highly, and in this tragic case, every officer has been involved, that they are working very hard, and want all charges sustained.
After thinking about my conversation with the Chief, I am left with a couple of observations.
- While at one point, our sleepy suburb might have thought traffic / pedestrian safety should have priority, clearly this is not the case at the moment. Even those that strongly advocate for pedestrian safety must admit that drug houses take priority.
- After this conversation, I am left wanting for a more aggressive style of police enforcement. It's the "known" part of "known drug house" that kills me. Neighbors knew. Kids knew. Police knew. But somehow, this 22 year old addict/drug salesman was just too clever, and never made a mistake?
I think our PD was paying attention to Laughrin, knew he was dealing drugs, and made strong efforts when they legally "could".. but those efforts were clearly not enough to prevent this tragedy. I am left with the belief that if Maddie Kiefer hadn't died last week, Laughrin would be dealing drugs right now, and he would have continued doing for a long period of time, perhaps years. That's entirely unacceptable on twelve different levels, for our kids, for those neighbors, for our community.
I think all the citizens, and especially the parents in WFB are in favor of the police department "pushing the limits" when it comes to shutting down drug dealers in our Village. The next time we have a "known drug house" .. the clock is ticking.
Make sure you read other items:
- DeMuth Drops out of School Board Race
- Drug death - Day 3
- Searching for answers..
- Another Sad WFB Overdose
- Are you in the WFB Crime Zone?
- The Real Property Tax Report
- WFB Police Annual Report
- WFB Crime Alert & Kaehler
- Buckley for WFB Trustee?
- Here's an idea: WFB Wi-Fi
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