Everybody's a critic. At least potentially so.
For a number of years, Storm Lake police officers have tested their own performance, in part, by asking for input from a fairly random selection of the people they encounter on calls. People they help, people they pull over. People they even have arrested.
The commentary reflects the gamut of the job - from tense moments on the street to wrangling Canada geese on the lawns.
Not only does the department use the returned input, they share it. For the past several years, Public Safety Director Mark Prosser has released listings of the returned comments (minus the names) in the annual police reports that go to local officials and the media.
As usual, the comments reflect a wide range of opinions, from admiration to utter frustration.
Here's a selection of some of the included thoughts from the public in the report for 2006. First, the positives:
* "Officer... was very polite and understanding. Thank you for giving a warning to someone who has not had a speeding ticket in many, many, many years."
* "Everyone was very courteous and helpful. Our contact was looking for an Alzheimer's patient who had walked away. Everything was much appreciated."
* "I reported seeing a deer in the neighborhood. A squad car was in the area in less than three minutes!"
* "I couldn't ask for better service."
* "He took time to follow up with a phone call."
* "The officer stayed and consoled me, promising this person, my significant other, would be sent for mental health help. He did the best he could... BVRMC decided to let [this person] go with... a self-inflicted wound. Thank you officer."
* "Officer should be commended. I don't think I've even encountered a law officer with as much compassion and rapport as he."
* "Appreciate the prompt response to my call in relation to a Canadian Goose on my lawn."
* "I appreciated the officer giving me a warning - very kind gesture as I needed a reminder."
* "I was wrong, he was correct."
* "Thanks for your help. Good to know y'all get there so quick."
* "Thank you for your understanding... our 8-year-old who has a diagnosis of autism felt that he had an emergency and should dial 911."
* "I like how you treat the people."
* "Beyond the call of duty!... You make us feel safe."
* "Was very nice and didn't act like a jerk because my headlight was out."
* "Once he talked to them they were very quiet from then on out. I would call him again to have him help me with anything."
A smaller number of the comments expressed negative feedback on local police:
* "On a small complaint like ours, nothing probably gets done..."
* "I drive through a lot of towns in NW Iowa with my job and hardly ever notice where other police officers are hiding out of view to do radar."
* "I really didn't think it was necessary to haul the stray kitten off with the animal catcher tied around its neck. the cat was very playful and didn't appear to be harmful in any manner."
* "I feel they need to stop trying to get good people to do things wrong and start going after the criminals. Protect and serve not in Storm Lake. Set up and frame should be the saying."
* " told him where I came from, and he asked where exactly they lived... It's called privacy! Especially since I didn't do anything wrong. Officer searched my car with my consent but really did not explain what he was looking for..."
* "Over the top" are the best words to describe our encounter with your department. Our son was not treated with dignity and respect. Unprofessional language and comments were used during the process...Our son was called a 'little f____' by your staff in training. Our son was called a 'seasoned drinker' by your staff. We agree that our son did not abide by the law and should've been charged...Our son did not need to be told by the officer that [the officer's] step-son was going to Iraq to protect drunks like him. We are terribly disappointed..."
* "I was wondering why it was necessary to ask me where I was born, where I worked, if I had tattoos and my home phone number."
* "I felt Officer... was very rude to me and treated me like I was stupid."
* "Violated my right to remain silent. Also deputy was shaky while pointing gun at my head during the arrest. They didn't read me my rights until after the fingerprinted me."
* "I thought I was doing the right thing by calling the officer but at the end I was the one being blamed. I got really scared because he yelled at me really bad. He told me that the next time he came to my house he was going to take me to Cherokee arrested to the kids prison... He told me he had better things to be doing than dealing with us... He asked me how old I was and I said I was 11 and he said to act like an adult. He threatened me of not being able to see my mom, cousins and family... And because of him I am kind of scared of police now..."
* "I just feel I am being harassed by the department... I am afraid of being pulled over all the time and I'm not even doing anything wrong."
A few had suggestions:
* "Storm Lake needs an animal shelter!"
* "I know it is not your department but could you ask the street department to move the snow away from the curb or parking area.... years ago there was no left turn at the stop lights on West 5th. Could you look into doing that again? There are times when you can sit at the stop light for three lights before you can get through it, waiting for left hand turns."
* "Storm Lake needs a noise ordinance in regard to the loud boom boxes in the cars. I don't think we need to listen to this just because they want to have the loudest one in town... [These problems] are too loud and too frequent in Chautauqua Park and around the high school.
One was simply surprised to be asked:
* "Officer... was very nice and patient. When I got this evaluation form in the mail I couldn't believe it was for real... How is it worth 39 cents to have an opinion?"
And once in a while, one is seen that may possibly bring a smile to even a veteran officer.
* "You treated my wife better than she deserves!"