Lynnwood University: Cops, volunteers and crime

Homicide scene lynnU 2013 (1)
Volunteers Elaine and Terry Solvang participate in the reenactment of a homicide scene for participants to solve at Lynnwood University (Photo courtesy of the Lynnwood Police Department)

By David Pan/Lynnwood Today editor

Cena Conteh was pretty much like a lot of people these days who talk on their cellphones when driving.

A 2011 survey by Centers for Disease Control found that 69 percent of drivers, ages 18-65, had chatted on their cellphone while driving within the 30 days of being questioned.

But Conteh declared that her days of talking on her cellphone are over after a powerful presentation by Lynnwood Police during week five of Lynnwood University.

“Since I was there on Thursday, I’ve stopped,” Conteh said of her talking on her cellphone while driving.

The speaker on traffic safety was one of three Lynnwood Police Officers to talk. The other two were the officer in charge of the Bureau of Field Operations and a detective, whose job is to solve serious crimes such as homicide.

The talk on traffic safety left quite an impression on Conteh. The discussion focused on the dangers of drunk driving and distracted driving. The latter really hit home for Conteh.

A number of statistics were presented, many of which laid out in simple numbers how far a car advances per second at a certain speed. It only takes a few seconds of being distracted for a vehicle to be in a position to be a deadly weapon of sorts.

What really drove home the point to Conteh was when one of the officers told of how he lost a close relative due to a drunk driver.

“He takes his job to heart,” Conteh said. “When people take it to heart and want to teach people about that, I really admire them.”

The first presentation of the class gave a broad overview of the Lynnwood Police Department. Because of budget cuts, the department suffered significant reductions in staff.

At one time the department had 80 officers and the low was when there were about 60 on staff. Currently, the department has 71 commissioned officers, 31 non-commissioned/civilians and 7 part-time employees.

To maintain a high level of service, the department ramped up two volunteer programs: Volunteers in Public Safety (VIPS) and Citizens Patrol (CP). Volunteers contributed more than 20,000 hours of service in 2009, which is the equivalent of 10 full-time employees.

Volunteers assist with traffic control at accident scenes and other events, conduct vacation house checks and help people install car seats.

“I didn’t know they used volunteers so much,” Conteh said. “It is good to see how they are utilizing their volunteers. If anyone has thought about studying criminal law or wants to be a police officer, they should definitely go volunteer at the Lynnwood Police Department.”

Not surprisingly, the number one problem Lynnwood Police are faced with is theft. The presence of the Alderwood Mall draws both shoppers and the criminal element.

The speaker said, “Our problems are property related. People come here to shop and to steal.”

Said Conteh, “People go where the money is. I can see what it would be like that.”

The final portion of the class started with a grisly staged homicide scene featuring two of the police department’s volunteers in the courtroom at the Lynnwood Justice Center. Based on the history of the couple, it initially appeared that what has transpired was a murder/suicide.

But upon further investigation the detective revealed that what happened was that the husband and wife were killed during a robbery.

“I liked how he made us think and had us guess as to what the scenario was,” Conteh said. “He involved us in trying to figure out what happened.”

Lynnwood Today is following Cena and Peter Conteh as they learn more about their city government in Lynnwood University.


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