Cops, Computers, and a New Career: Valley
Police Department, and Beyond. 1995 to Today
It took me awhile to transition from Police Officer to Civilian,
but I still observe the world around me with the eyes of a cop.
know it at the time, but the first experience I developed regarding
working with computers went back to when I was working in communications
at the Hall County Communications Division, known as GIEC. During
the slow time of the year, while I was working the grave yard shift,
one of the Sheriff’s Deputies in the Warrants Division would
pass along whatever he had on any wanted subjects the Sheriff’s
Office had difficulty in locating. The subjects concerned may have
been wanted for bad checks, fraud, or failure to appear in court
for whatever violations. In most cases, the warrants were Felony
Warrants, rather than Misdemeanor Warrants, and the subject was
no longer residing at his or her last known address. My job was
to use what little information the Sheriff’s Office had about
the individual, and use all of my resources to determine where the
subject was, or at a minimum had enough information to enter the
subject in the NCIS / NCIC system. Since I had a very in depth knowledge
of the NLETS (National Law Enforcement Teletype System,) and how
the various states applied their systems to NLETS, this became a
very effective tool! Remember, the internet did not exist then as
it does today, but none the less, it was still making queries to
damned good at it, and was helping the Sheriff’s Office locate
fugitives all over the United States!
working at Valley PD, we had obtained a number of Federal Grants
to purchase traffic radar for our patrol cars. I wrote the grant
proposal, and it was approved by the US Department of Transportation.
As a result, state of the art radar units were purchased and installed
in both patrol cars. One of the requirements for the grant was that
we needed to “demonstrate” we were using the radars
in the manner required by the Department of Transportation. This
was done by providing monthly reports containing data for all traffic
contacts, speeding or otherwise, made by our officers for a two
year period. This included not only arrests and citations, but written
and verbal warnings as well. This data was collected from several
locations, the actual copies of citations and written warnings,
but also from each officer’s duty logs. Data included the
contact number if one existed, age, gender, ethnicity, date, day,
time of day, type of road, (highway versus city street,) speed detected
if the violation was a speeding contact, etc. Initially, this was
all collected by me and tracked on hand written spreadsheets.
personal time, I’d been playing with a new fandangeled contraption
called a personal computer. These were not very high end machines,
(Timex ZX80 or Commodore 64,) but I got pretty good at making these
things do some interesting things. I suggested that the City should
purchase a computer for the police department, which would aid in
record keeping and report writing. The Chief was initially against
the idea as he believed the city was trying to replace him with
a computer. Clearly this was not the case, and the City Council
approved the purchase of a Compaq Vectra AT, Desktop Computer, running
MS DOS 2.1. What they did not purchase was any software or training
on how to use the machine. Soon, database and word processing software
was donated by nearby Valmont Industries, and I jumped in learning
by trial and error how to use the machine.
was in 1985 or 1986. It should be noted, that until the late 1990’s,
I had never received any formal training in computing or information
technology. Everything was self taught, and tested through trial
and error. While I had a strong background in electronics, it just
seemed that computing was something which I had a knack for figuring
out. I started developing a process to collect, collate, and process
the data for the monthly report to the Feds as required for the
radar grant. I started by what was needed from traffic citations,
but figured that while I was at it, I'd include ALL of
the data from the tickets instead of just the data required for
the grant report. I included all the other fields from the citation
as well. A citation is technically an arrest, so I started adding
data from Criminal Citations and Booking Sheets to the database,
and any and all official contacts made by the officers. This included
written warnings, parking citations, field interview cards, and
any other written contact information produced. This generated not
only the report I needed for the grants, but also provided for many
other reports and statistics.
database evolved, I began to produce a monthly report named, “The
List of Prominent Area Offenders.” Specific rules were
set up to determine who would be on the list, or who would be purged
from the list and when. Subjects included on the list were persons
with felony convictions, weapons offenses, current warrants, drug
offenses, violent behavior, frequent misdemeanor arrests and such.
If a given subject had no official contact by a Valley Police Officer
after five years, the subject was automatically purged from the
report. The report contained the individuals name, physical description,
date of birth, last known city of residence, and a code which indicated
why the subject was included on the list. This list was shared with
neighboring law enforcement agencies, and soon, it was appearing
in the brief case of sheriff’s deputies, state troopers, and
officers from the three counties near Valley. Even the various railroad
police were using the list!
became a very valuable intelligence tool in the region. One of the
Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputies commented that he was working
a case where he was able to determine a viable suspect using “Valley’s
Shit List!” While officially known as “The List of Prominent
Area Offenders,” after that comment it became known at the
“S-List” or “Sam-List,” especially when
referred to via the radio.
I computerized the officers’ patrol logs, and cross referenced
the logs with the contact database. At the same time, report documents
were referenced, while not specifically interconnected. Soon, the
entire package became a law enforcement records management suite
that could be customized for individual agencies.
of such systems that were commercially available were targeted for
large, metropolitan police departments, and since PC technology
was relatively new at the time, these applications were built for
mainframe computers. Nothing had been prepared for the small agency
of ten or fewer officers and to be deployed on a personal computing
platform. I did speak with some people in the Information Technology
Industry at the time, and while all agreed that I had put together
a pretty nifty system, the consensus was still focused on mainframe
applications, targeted for big city police departments. A company
selling the main frame packages only needed to sell a few to make
big buck, while my approach was to make up for it in volume. To
put it in simple terms, client-server technology had not made a
the less, I did sell and installed the process to a number of agencies
in Nebraska and did consulting to these agencies. Ashland, Elkhorn,
and Yutan, Nebraska were among the agencies that used my process
and services. The Nebraska Law Enforcement Intelligence Network
used me as a consultant. My wife, who had been working in Information
Technology for more than a few years pointed out that I was selling
my products and services far below what the market says I should
have been charging. At that point in time, I was still working in
Law Enforcement as my primary occupation, and my work with computers
was a hobby, so I did not yet approach computing as a means of gainful
friend and high school classmate, Craig Stover was an Officer for
the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. He was one of the State
Game Wardens who worked Douglas and Sarpy Counties, and he lived
just outside of Valley. Craig and I worked many cases and incidents
together, but he was also a good friend, and we socialized off duty
as well. Craig was also a computer head, and took great interest
in the application I was developing. After I moved away from Nebraska,
Craig arranged for an audience with the Game and Parks Commission
at their Headquarters in Lincoln to take a look at the application.
They liked what they saw, but we both agreed that since I did not
have a company per se to support the application, warranty and support
issues might be an issue.
I was living and working in Kansas City, Missouri, and I provided
Craig with the source code to the process, and full permission to
run with it or improve it on his own. After the advent of Windows
and the Microsoft Office Suite, Craig converted the database structure
to MS Access, and applied what he had built to the Nebraska Game
and Parks Commission.
I ended up in Kansas City is the topic for another story. Today,
Craig is the Chief Law Enforcement Officer for the Nebraska Game
and Parks Commission!)
I had been working with the Lake Lottwana, Missouri Police Department,
and the 911 Center for the Lee’s Summit, Missouri Police Department.
My wife, Micki could sense that I was becoming extremely frustrated
with the direction my law enforcement career was taking after 16
years, and made the suggestion that since I had been working with
computers as a hobby, perhaps it was time to take the next step
to move to a career in Information Technology. Micki introduced
me to some of her contacts in the business, and soon I was working
with a local system integration company as a field technician. I
motored all about the Kansas City Metro Area fixing computers at
businesses and doctor’s offices. I had left law enforcement
behind me. By the fall of 1996 I was working in Information Technology
for Sprint, and my new career was in full flight.
the Elkhorn Police Department, who was using my process, had mistakenly
corrupted the file system by one of their officers who wanted to
tweak the performance. While I was traveling back to Nebraska to
assist with the recovery, the Chief decided to educate his staff
on how to create a proper back up. He overwrote the last known good
back up with the corrupted data, thus leaving nothing left to recover
as 2005, I stopped by Valley to see some old friends and co-workers.
By this time, my old friend K.C. Bang was Chief of Police there.
He told me that while the computer hardware and operating systems
had been updated to something more contemporary, they were still
using the DOS based record system I built during the 1980’s.
It was fun to watch a report which might have taken five minutes
to complete on the old hardware in the 80’s appear nearly
instantly on the new, modern hardware! How often does one see a
twenty year old application still being used on a PC? Not too
graduated from college. Aside from a few, short classes on specific
technologies of a week or less, I’ve not received any formal
education in computer science. It’s hard to imagine that my
career in Law Enforcement prepared me for my career in Information
Technology. As of 2016, I’ve been working professionally in
IT for over twenty years, which is longer than the time I spent
in public safety. Until recently, most of my IT experience has been
working in the telecommunication industry, and later for IBM.
me awhile to transition from Police Officer to Civilian, but I still
observe the world around me with the eyes of a cop. I typically
hate watching cop dramas on television. They are so fake!
I still eat in restaurants with the habit of facing the door from
my seat, a habit my family has come to indulge with a bit of humor.
I still pick out suspicious activity in my surroundings. While on
a business trip to Orlando, one of my work associates and a vendor
were amazed when I quickly recognized a not so obvious hooker working
the hotel lobby and we avoided her attentions.
presently a manager for IBM, in their Global Business Services organization.
My work today is interesting and challenging, but I have to admit
that during the past twenty years, no one has tried to physically
assault me on the job. The compensation and benefits have been much
better than what the local governments were able to provide, and
I’ve been able to provide much better for my family. While
I have needed to be on call from time to time, I typically don’t
have to work on holidays.
back on my sixteen years in law enforcement with great pride, and
sometimes I experience a longing for maybe being part of the action
once again. Then reality kicks in and I remember that I’m
a lot older now and no longer in the physical condition that I once
was. There’s no way I could physically do the job, let alone
deal with the political changes to today’s law enforcement
I still miss it...
my long time friends, Frank Vondra said it best:
When a good cop leaves the 'job' and retires to a better life,
many are jealous, some are pleased and yet others, who may have
already retired, wonder.
We wonder if they know what he or she is leaving behind, because
we already know. We know, for example, that after a lifetime
of camaraderie that few experience, it will remain as a longing
for those past times. We know in the law enforcement life there
is a fellowship which lasts long after the uniforms are hung
up in the back of the closet.
We know even if they are thrown away, they will be on with every
step and breath that remains. We also know how the very bearing
of their soul speaks of what was in the heart and still is.
are the burdens of the job. You will still look at people suspiciously,
still see what others do not see or choose to ignore and always
will look at the rest of the law enforcement world with a respect
for what they do; only grown in a lifetime of knowing. Never
think for one moment you are escaping from that life.
You are only escaping the 'job' and merely being allowed to
leave 'active' duty.
So, what I wish for you is that whenever you ease into retirement,
in your heart you never forget for one moment that "Blessed
are the Peacemakers for they shall be called children of God,"
and you are still a member of the greatest fraternity the world
has ever known.
Retired Police Officer
Police Department, Bellevue, Nebraska
Former Chief of Police,
Police Department, Bennington, Nebraska
Purple Sage Law Enforcement