People & Places

Chief’s legacy

Coral Gables, Fla., Police Chief James Skinner, who resigned Aug. 20 from the Omaha, Neb., Police Department after 27 years with the agency, said he believes his legacy will lie with the people he hired and promoted during his eight years as police chief of the Midwestern city.

Few current police chiefs have been in office as long as Skinner was in Omaha, which gave him the opportunity to hire and promote nearly one-third of its current patrol and command staff, including appointing the agency’s first black female deputy chief.

“I’m proudest of the people in the Omaha Police Department,” Skinner said in a recent Law Enforcement News interview. “I think that the caliber of people who have come into the organization, as well as those who have advanced through the ranks, is the greatest legacy you can leave an agency.”

Skinner said he hopes to achieve similar successes with the Coral Gables Police Department, which serves an affluent Miami suburb located on South Biscayne Bay. “It’s an excellent police department,” he said of the 159-officer agency, which he took command of on Sept. 2. “The main idea is to find out where the citizens and police want our resources to go. My job is to help everyone here enhance the Police Department to be the most it can be.”


Bureau bye-bye

FBI Deputy Director William J. Esposito, whose 33-year career with the bureau has seen him play key managerial roles in numerous high-profile cases, including the Unabomber investigation, retired Oct. 1 to take a position in the private sector.

Esposito, who joined the FBI as an entry-level employee at FBI headquarters in 1964 and went on to become the bureau’s second-in-command, has been named senior vice president in charge of corporate security for MBNA America, a Wilmington, Del.-based bank that is the nation’s second-largest credit card lender, the FBI announced Sept. 10.

As deputy director, Esposito oversaw the capture of Mir Aimal Kansi, a Pakistani national accused of murdering two CIA employees outside the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Va., in 1993. Esposito also supervised the manhunt for spree killer Andrew Cunanan, who committed suicide in Miami Beach in July as authorities closed in on his hideout.


Coming up short

Former Garden Grove, Calif., Police Chief Stanley Knee, who last month began his new job as chief of the Austin, Texas, Police Department, says he’s used to doing more with less.

A native of the Orange County city of 155,000 residents, which another former chief described as being located “right next to the Dumpsters behind Disneyland,” Knee said that Garden Grove’s personnel-strapped agency was able to achieve a 40-percent crime reduction despite having the lowest staffing level of any jurisdiction in the nation with a population of over 100,000, with just one officer per 1,000 residents.

The 157-officer agency has relied on technology, civilianization and citizen volunteers to stretch scarce resources, fight crime and institute community policing department-wide, he said. “Even though we had no new staffing during my tenure there,” said the 49-year-old Chief, “we were able to commit ourselves to community policing, and we’ve been very successful.


Showing off their tony pates
Omaha cops in shaven-headed support for child cancer patient

If you’re passing through Omaha, Neb., and notice an unusual number of officers with shaved heads, be assured it’s not a new law enforcement fashion statement  just a bald-faced show of support for a police officer’s 8-year-old daughter who appears to be winning her five-month battle with childhood leukemia.

The officers’ bare pates are a visible sign of solidarity for Courtni Kopietz, who has shown what some have described as superhuman strength throughout an ordeal that began in March. She began having what doctors at first thought were asthma attacks, but further tests revealed she had been stricken with childhood leukemia.

Since April 10, the day she was diagnosed, Courtni’s world has been turned upside-down by chemotherapy treatments and frequent hospital stays, said her father, Jeff, a six-year OPD veteran who is assigned to the Northeast Omaha Weed and Seed Unit.

Hair loss is a common side effect of chemotherapy, so to lessen the trauma, Courtni was fitted with a wig. “They shaved her head, and she asked me to jump into the chair after she was done, so I promised her I’d do it,” Kopietz said. “So the other guys decided to do it. A lot of cops have short hair anyway, so for some of them, it wasn’t much of a change.”

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Excerpted from Law Enforcement News
Oct 10, 1997. 
© 1997, LEN Inc.  [ Subscribe.]