Police Records Missing? Have Jeanie Spiering check the storage closet
Posted by Arroyoribera on September 16, 2007
Ever had difficulties obtaining police records from the Spokane Police Department? Ask the Spokesman-Review. Or ask me. We certainly have.
First let’s look at what the law says about public disclosure in the state of Washington.
Disclosure of records (State of Washington)
WAC 44-14-06002 Summary of exemptions.
An exemption from disclosure will be narrowly construed in favor of disclosure. RCW 42.17.251/42.56.030. An exemption from disclosure must specifically exempt a record or portion of a record from disclosure. RCW 42.17.260(1)/42.56.070(1). An exemption will not be inferred.1
What that means is it doesn’t matter one iota what Chief Kirkpatrick, Captain Roberts, Det. Dan Torok or attorney Jeanie Spering doesn’t want to release. If it is not specifically exempt, it belongs to the public.
Here is but one tale. I’ll share the moral with your first: Ask the city attorney handling your records request to check the storage closets at the Spokane City-County Public Safety Building as well as at the Monroe Court Building. You never know what you will find next to the mop and a bottle of Mr. Clean.
Law enforcement records on the allegations against Hahn and his subsequent suicide have been difficult to obtain using a state law that provides public access to government records.
The Spokesman-Review first sought access to Hahn’s records in 2003 and was told that follow-up detective reports were either destroyed or did not exist.
In April of this year, some of the documents the newspaper requested were found in a cardboard box in a storage closet at the Spokane City-County Public Safety Building. But sheriff’s officials said they still could not locate reports that should have been written by two senior sheriff’s officers who found Hahn’s body in his apartment.
Because Hahn’s apartment at 3424 S. Regal was in the city limits, police officers were also called to the scene. When the newspaper requested records from Spokane Police in 2003 and again in June, attorney Jeanie Spiering said the department “does not have any further records” relating to Hahn.
This month, the police department’s follow-up report, written in 1982 by Major Crimes Detective Charles Staudinger, was included among more than 3,400 documents obtained from a private attorney defending Spokane County.
Staudinger’s one-page report concluded Hahn’s death was a suicide. It did not mention the sexual abuse allegations against the deputy.
Another public document reveals that while The Spokesman-Review was seeking records on Hahn in 2003, the police department was conducting an internal investigation into “missing police records.”
According to an internal affairs report, Assistant Police Chief Al Odenthal ordered the investigation in 2003. Although the report concludes there were no missing Hahn records, several officials are quoted as saying there may have been a possible “cover-up” in the 1980s.
Spiering “believed that she had heard about a possible ‘cover-up’ in the 1980s involving the initial sexual abuse allegations against Hahn,” according to the report.
The same report also quotes now-retired sheriff’s Lt. Ken Marshall and Sgt. Ron Ethridge, who said they believed Hahn’s involvement with boys “was covered up” by senior sheriff’s officers.
[This material is excerpted from Spokesman-Review reporter Bill Morlin’s July 31, 2005 report entitled “Disturbing Connections Emerge” as posted at BishopAccountability.org ].
As I said, this is but one tale. The moral of the story: Ask the city attorney handling your records request to check the storage closets at the Spokane City-County Public Safety Building as well as at the Monroe Court Building. You never know what you will find next to the mop and a bottle of Mr. Clean.