Spokane Police Abuses: Past to Present

The People of Spokane vs. Law Enforcement Abuse, Impunity, Corruption, and Cover-up

Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

Freedom of Speech in Spokane — ACLU and CFJ

Posted by Arroyoribera on August 29, 2010

Settlement Protects Freedom of Speech at Spokane Transit Plaza

March 25, 2004

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Justice (CFJ) have reached an agreement with the Spokane Transit Authority to protect freedom of speech at the Plaza in downtown Spokane. The agreement settles a lawsuit challenging restrictions on free speech at Plaza sidewalks that the groups filed on behalf of Donald Ausderau, a Christian minister, and the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Spokane in June 2003.

“Public sidewalks have traditionally served as public forums for free speech. People who wish to exercise their rights will now be able to do so without having to get the government’s permission beforehand,” said ACLU staff attorney Aaron Caplan.

“The Plaza sidewalks are a central gathering point for the Spokane community. We are pleased that the Spokane Transit Authority has revised its policies to ensure an open forum for dialogue by citizens and community groups. We appreciate the Authority’s willingness to reach a constructive agreement that recognizes the importance of free speech while honoring the Authority’s mission to serve public transportation needs,” said CFJ attorney David Blair-Loy.

The settlement allows speakers, leafleters, musicians, and other people who ordinarily use city sidewalks without a permit to use Plaza sidewalks without a permit, too. Their activities will not be limited to any particular time period. Previously, the Transit Authority required anyone who wanted to engage in a “public communication activity” on the sidewalk outside the Plaza building to get a permit in advance, and the permit was good for a maximum of five hours a week. The settlement narrows the policy’s application to persons or groups who set up a table, chairs, or similar apparatus. Under the settlement, the Authority may require speakers to stay 10 feet away from bus exits and from passengers standing in line for a bus or waiting on a bench, unless the speaker is invited to come closer.

Donald Ausderau is a Spokane resident and minister who wishes to speak to the public about religious and social issues on the public sidewalk outside the Plaza. The Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane is a nonprofit membership organization devoted to involving individuals and local communities in building the foundations for a just and nonviolent world. The group seeks to hand out leaflets and gather signatures about political and social issues on the sidewalk outside the Plaza.

http://www.aclu-wa.org/news/settlement-protects-freedom-speech-spokane-transit-plaza

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Posted in Free Speech, Know Your Rights, Law, No Sir Officer ____, Protest and Free Speech, Speech in public spaces | Leave a Comment »

Spokane City Press Release on Ombudsman Ordinance

Posted by Arroyoribera on July 2, 2010

(To read the ordinance fought for by the people of Spokane, approved by the Spokane City Council and to be signed by the Mayor, go to ORDC34609.pdf)

——————————————————————–

Mayor to Sign Updated Ombudsman Ordinance; Commends Council and Community for Work

Release Date: 6/29/2010 4:45:00 PM
Contact: Marlene Feist,
(509) 625-6740

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner today said she will sign the ordinance adopted by the Spokane City Council on Monday, June 28, that updates the authorities and responsibilities of the City’s Police Ombudsman.

“I want to commend the City Council, the City Attorney’s Office, and the community members who worked so diligently to find a path ahead on this important issue,” the Mayor said. “For me, the creation of the Ombudsman office always has been about devising a comprehensive system of civilian oversight that provides accountability and ultimately earns the trust of citizens. Today, we have an improved system.”

Under the revised ordinance provides the Office of Police Ombudsman with independent investigatory authority and requires the office provide closing reports about complaints. These reports will include a summary of the OPO’s conclusions and recommendations regarding revision of policies, procedures, or training.

The revised ordinance also clarifies ambiguous language and formalizes that complaints can originate with the Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit or with the Ombudsman.

Attached is the revised ordinance. Additional information about the Office of Police Ombudsman is found at SpokaneOmbudsman.org.

ORDC34609.pdf

Posted in Educating the Chief, In Collective Self-Defense, Independent Oversight, Know Your Rights, Law, Solutions | Leave a Comment »

Spokane Ombudsman Ordinance Postponed

Posted by takayanagisan on June 23, 2010

In the wee hours of the morning of June 22, 2010, Spokane City Council members decided they needed one more week to decide on an ordinance that will give independent investigative authority to the Office of Police Ombudsman. Council member Bob Apple introduced the original ordinance on May 10 and the matter was deferred until May 24 for a vote. After listening to over 20 members of the public, many who told of personal experiences of police brutality and racially biased policing, council members voted to table the vote for four more weeks until the June 21 meeting. Then, on June 14, an alternative ordinance was introduced by Council members Amber Waldref, Richard Rush and Jon Snyder that substantially weakened the independent investigative authority sought by the first ordinance but was written to conform to language that was negotiated with the Police Guild establishing the Office of Police Ombudsman in the existing ordinance. If that didn’t confuse the public enough to give up, council member Richard Rush and Jon Snyder brought forward yet a third version of the ordinance midway through the meeting on June 21.

All of the political manipulation did not deter the more than 80 people in attendance to urge passage of an ordinance that will give real and meaningful oversight over police misconduct. It didn’t matter that nobody really understood why it took three versions of an ordinance, a confidential memo from city legal, and sitting through five hours of the council agenda. By the time the ordinance came up for discussion it was well after 11:00 p.m. and 65 people remained. 28 people testified in favor of an ordinance that nobody seemed to know was before the council for a vote. Neither did the council, it seems. When it was all over, it was near 1:00 a.m. and the council voted 5-1 to postpone the vote until June 28. What will happen next? Stay tuned to the next exciting episode of the hottest new Spokane soap, “As the Ordinance Turns.”

For additional detailed information on the hearing and copies of versions of the rapidly changing proposed ordinance, please read “Groaning Toward Dawn” at the Center for Justice website.

Also the coverage of the hearing can be found at the Spokesman-Review website.

Video of the June 21, 2010 council meeting and the public testimony on it can be viewed on the City of Spokane’s website. Click on City Council Meetings and then click on City Council Meeting Part 2 June 21st, 2010.

Posted in Corruption, Educating the Chief, History of SPD Abuses, Independent Oversight, Law, Spokane Police Guild, Testimonies, Videos | Leave a Comment »

Northwest Gang Investigators in Spokane, May 19-22, 2008

Posted by Arroyoribera on April 30, 2008

So-called “gang experts” from the Northwest Gang Investigators Association will invade Spokane from May 19 to May 22, 2008, bringing their ever blessed light to shine upon the allegedly serious problem of gangs in Spokane.

It is especially disturbing to see this organization coming to Spokane at this time given the fact that Spokane Police Department is facing a severe crisis of corruption, misconduct, improperly and incompletely investigated police homicides against civilians, a practice of counter-suits against citizens who complain, and an ongoing history of racism in police hiring and policing of the community.

May god help us!

One might recall how in late September 2007 the collective anti-gang brain trust of Spokane — the Gang Enforcement Team (GET) — was involved in a widely publicized scandal as a result of their dissemination of patently false information about a “three-day gang enforcement focus”. The ATF and the GET widely touted their reported “success” in rounding up 70 plus gang members and associates as well as a large amount of weaponry. As it turns out there was only one gun and a handful of gang involved individuals charged with any crime. What was portrayed as a massive anti-gang bust was revealed to be a hoax involving publication of false data and a large scale effort to seed the media with false information. The GET is composed of the Spokane Police Department, Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, Washington State Patrol, ATF, FBI, and other unnamed government agencies.

Not surprisingly, the restricted-attendance event has been promoted by Yvonne Morton-Lopez, the non-Spanish-speaking chairwoman of Governor Chris Gregoire’s Commission on Hispanic Affairs (CHA). Organizations such as the CHA and the Spokane Human Rights Commission have been at the forefront of organizations promoting “forums” on gangs run by the Spokane Police Department, COPS, and the Gang Enforcement Team.

At recent GET forums in Spokane, presenters have taken already unsubstantiated numbers on gang membership in Spokane and inflated them by 25%, claiming for example that the supposed 900 gang members in Spokane is now 1200.

In an environment of police abuses — corruption, violence against members of minority groups, lack of civilian oversight — and in a community with a significant history of racism, organizations such as the Morton-Lopez’s Commission on Hispanic Affairs and Terry Goetz’s Spokane Human Rights Commission are acting extremely irresponsibly and jeopardizing their organizations’ credibility as defenders of the rights of Spokane’s small minority populations.

(Note: Morton-Lopez has recently been named the head of the Washington State Human Rights Commission. It will be interesting to see how she promotes law enforcement interests and their questionable practices from that position.)

Despite evidence which counters the claims of law enforcement and those such as Morton-Lopez about gangs in Spokane, the campaign goes on.  Crime is down in Spokane, according to the police and FBI, despite SPD Corporal Lee’s best efforts to spin the statistics.  And that is with 25 less officers than the comparison year of 2004. Yet, the GET and the COPS program continue to promote their Gang Seminars in the community despite the questionable information presented by GET team members.

http://www.nwgia.com/downloads/2008spring_nwgiaconference-reg.pdf

Posted in All-white SPD?, Gangs?, Independent Oversight, Law, Lies Damn Lies and ..., Spokane Police vs. Youth, Trained to Kill, Unanswered Questions, War Abroad & At Home | Leave a Comment »

Police Officers And Alcohol

Posted by Arroyoribera on March 4, 2008

While the Spokane Police Guild continues its deliberation over how much civilian oversight and subordination to the will of the public its officers are willing to accept, it is a good moment to look at the issue of police officers and alcohol. It is an increasingly well known fact that police officers are greatly affected by the stress of their jobs and that one consequence is rates of domestic violence greater than found in the general public. At the same time, the role excessive alcohol consumption in the issue of domestic violence is inadequately examined. More important, however, are the broader implications for public safety resulting from alcohol abuse by law enforcement personnel.

As previously addressed in this blog, a stag party held at the Spokane Police Guild club a number of years ago resulted in a precedent setting Supreme Court case dealing with public access to information. The Supreme Court decision quoted the Spokane City Attorney stating via affidavit that: “Release of this information, under the circumstances presented by this case, will cause substantial and irreparable damage to the Spokane Police Department’s ability to operate as a law enforcement agency, which is a vital governmental function.

And the “irreparable damage” to the Spokane Police Department has continued to this day.

Of course, the problem of alcohol abuse by law enforcement is not limited to just Spokane Police officers, of course. The Seattle P-I’s August 2007 special series documents in detail the preferential treatment of police officers throughout Washington state when they are stopped for driving under the influence of alcohol.

The article refers to two Spokane County Sheriff’s officers “who were caught driving drunk, a sergeant who tipped his truck over was given a reprimand and a deputy who was simply pulled over on a freeway got an eight-day suspension.”

More recently the people of Spokane have been subject to two grave alcohol related incidents.

In the first, a controversial Spokane police officer — already under scrutiny for his ownership of a drug house less than two blocks from an elementary school — left a Spokane bar under the influence of alcohol and shot a man in the back of the head, endangering the residents of the Peaceful Valley neighborhood of Spokane. The officer, Jay Olsen, faces charges while the man he shot and accused of stealing his truck has been acquitted of the charges against him. To make matters clearer, the city of Spokane has walked away from Olsen and left him to defend himself.

Then came the matter of Jason Uberuaga, former Gonzaga University baseball star and decorated police officer, involved in both the Intermodal Center shooting and one of seven Spokane Police officers implicated in the yet unresolved homicide by cop of Otto Zehm. Uberuaga, a deputized federal drug task force member, was fired by the chief of police for “conduct unbecoming” of an officer. In essence, the demise of Uberuaga is the result of a drinking episode with other law enforcement personnel, allegations of rape against Uberuaga, and Uberuaga driving his undercover police vehicle under the influence of alcohol.

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A broken system works in favor of cops busted for DUI

By ERIC NALDER AND LEWIS KAMB
SEATTLE POST INTELLIGENCER INVESTIGATIVE REPORTERS

(Part 1 of a part 3 series)

The state is airing another ad against drunken driving this month warning, “Drive Hammered, Get Nailed.”

But there’s an exception out on the streets for some police officers.

Cops confronted with a drunken-driving arrest fare better than the average citizen, according to a Seattle P-I investigation of seven years’ worth of internal discipline records, arrest reports, accident reports, license-suspension files and court documents statewide.

The P-I selected 63 cases from 92 to examine closely, focusing on active duty officers who consumed alcohol before driving police or personal vehicles. Most were street cops, but nine were assigned to county or city corrections duties.

  Michael Bowe, bloodied
  Zoom Washington State Patrol
  Michael Bowe, a Thurston County sheriff’s deputy, was stopped in March 2004 in Grays Harbor County for a DUI arrest — one of five such stops while he carried a badge. How his face was bloodied was never determined, but his service weapon was in the car.
Read his story.

Five sworn officers were not prosecuted at all, despite blood-alcohol tests indicating impairment.

A half-dozen officers kept their licenses after a drunken-driving arrest simply because their paperwork missed the deadline at the state Department of Licensing. Arresting agencies are given a grace period of 50 days to file the paperwork.

Although the samples are very different in size and demographics, a member of the general public’s chance of getting a license suspension because of a breath test over the 0.08 blood-alcohol limit was double that of a cop, according to a P-I comparison. Only one of four current and former officers who refused a breath test lost her driver’s license, while the public’s rate is 16 out of 17.

  Inside Brown's car
  Zoom  
  On July 23, 2003, Tacoma police Officer Paul A. Brown registered a 0.244 blood-alcohol level and was charged with DUI. Eleven full, one empty and one partially consumed miniature scotch bottles were found in Brown’s car, as well as 15 full beers, two open beers and one empty beer container.

Police officers who were visibly inebriated and reeking of alcohol smashed their department cars or their personal cars, asked for favors, got breaks and even threatened fellow officers who had the temerity, in their minds, to arrest them, the records showed.

In one case, an unidentified colleague of an intoxicated Seattle officer who got in an accident in a city-owned car asked the arresting trooper “how we could take care of this.”

One Renton police jailer had his police identity card taped to his license as an ongoing precaution. Others outright asked for “professional courtesy.”

Impaired law officers were in at least 14 accidents, including four in police cars. Kevin Williams of the Seattle police drunkenly rolled his car on a northbound Interstate 5 offramp early one morning in 2005. Lawyer David Vanderpool and another bystander used a box cutter to free him from a seat belt just before flames consumed the car. Vanderpool said he didn’t know, until a P-I reporter recently called him, that he had saved a policeman’s life. Williams got deferred prosecution, a five-day suspension or loss of vacation time.

  Garcha accident
  Zoom Kent Police Department
  In 2002, Tacoma police Officer Gurdial Garcha hit a telephone pole in Kent in his personal van, so drunk he was nearly six times the legal limit. Some in the Tacoma department wanted him fired, but he got a two-day suspension and lost two vacation days.

In 2002, Tacoma police Officer Gurdial Garcha hit a telephone pole in Kent in his personal van, so drunk that he was nearly six times the legal limit. Some in his department wanted him fired, but he got a two-day suspension and lost two vacation days.

The Seattle Police Department was far more secretive about releasing records than any other department in the state. The department blacked out officers’ names and released fewer documents. The P-I had to find details about the cases from databases and other agencies.

“We follow the laws,” said Chief Gil Kerlikowske, whose agency signed a union contract that prevents release of names of officers in disciplinary records.

Some cases break down trust. In one Seattle case, an anonymous hospital worker confronted a sergeant when an alcohol-affected officer driving a city-owned car wasn’t investigated for DUI after a civilian motorist running a red light struck him. Despite her efforts, the officer was never prosecuted.

At the heart of the P-I’s findings is a police discipline system that is broken, illogical and unevenly applied, according to interviews, documents and a computer analysis of outcomes.

DECODING CENSORED SPD DOCUMENTSFor this project, Seattle P-I reporters sent public disclosure requests to more than 270 law enforcement agencies across Washington. Although the requests were identical in the types of records being sought — sustained officer-misconduct internal investigations — police department responses widely varied. The Seattle Police Department and Mercer Island Police Department offer good examples of the range of responses to the P-I’s request.Seattle police provided only one page of disciplinary records per each misconduct case requested and have not yet provided other documents the P-I requested. The three documents the Seattle police released to the P-I with officers’ names censored (see PDF) turned out to be the only hint of unpublicized accidents involving cops driving department cars who had been drinking. Because Seattle police were more secretive than other agencies, the P-I went elsewhere to learn the details of the crashes involving Timothy McGrath (June 21, 2002), Anthony Baily (Oct. 25, 2002) and Maria “Susan” DiTusa (June 9, 2004).By contrast, here are just the first six pages (PDF) of a Mercer Island police internal investigation of Det. Chris DeChant’s DUI-arrest and police vehicle accident on Dec. 16, 2004. Along with the complete 20-page investigative report, documents released to the P-I included an additional 86 pages of attachments, including the full Washington State Patrol arrest report, victim damage claims and the hand-written case notes of the city’s public safety director, who made the final disciplinary decision.Here’s what different officials for each city said when asked about how their city responded to the P-I’s requests:”There’s no department that handles more public disclosures than us. We follow the law.”

— Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske

“We disclosed the documents we believed we were required to under the law.”

— Mercer Island City Attorney Bob Sterbank

Regulators in Olympia and in Seattle who oversee the discipline of lawyers, judges and even cosmetologists do so through a detailed set of disciplinary standards. What passes for statewide discipline in the police world is one investigator attached to the state police academy in Auburn who reviews disciplinary records of terminated officers from various agencies to assess whether they should lose their state licenses.

In individual departments, standards are forged through union negotiations and in case-by-case consultations among sheriffs and chiefs. Few agencies maintain a schedule of discipline that could be laid out in a database — the Washington State Patrol and the Arlington Police Department being two exceptions.

The result is a lack of uniformity. Crashing a police car while inebriated on Mercer Island earned an officer a suspension 15 times longer than the penalty imposed for the same violation on the other side of Lake Washington in Seattle.

Driving drunk in a police car brought a one-day suspension for a King County sheriff’s detective and a termination in Island County. That King County detective also wasn’t prosecuted and didn’t get punished for reportedly asking the arresting state trooper for favors. A state trooper who asked for favors during a DUI arrest in a private car got a 45-day suspension and was put on probation under tough terms for the remainder of his career.

In cases in which two Spokane County sheriff’s officers were caught driving drunk, a sergeant who tipped his truck over was given a reprimand and a deputy who was simply pulled over on a freeway got an eight-day suspension.

In Seattle, Kerlikowske said he has toughened discipline for DUI while chief the past seven years. When compared with other big U.S. cities, Seattle is right in line, typically doling out three- to 10-day suspensions, he said. He said he is planning to fire repeat offenders.

Seattle Police Officers’ Guild President Rich O’Neill said cops are treated more harshly than citizens because they face discipline in addition to court proceedings. He said they can get hit in the pocketbook twice — a court fine and a loss of pay in a suspension.

However, many citizens are also disciplined at work. Under federal law, truckers lose their licenses for a year for a first drunken-drinking offense, and for life for a second. Some police officers weren’t suspended from their jobs, and some of those who were suspended were allowed to forfeit vacation instead of losing pay.

Police officers and firefighters are also specifically exempted from a federal law that requires truckers to be blood-tested after an accident.

Yakima Officer Lori Sheeley had five accidents in her patrol car and caused citizen injuries, but Assistant City Attorney Sofia Mabee said Sheeley wasn’t tested in any of them because city policy doesn’t require it. In May 2005, a year after Sheeley resigned, in part because of the accidents, she hit a barrier on a Tri-Cities bridge. She blew a breath test of .117, over the limit.

Discipline failures erode public confidence, some cops and members of the public say.

Wendi Eccles was rear-ended one December night in 2004 by a Mercer Island cop who was drunk in a city-owned car. Her back never fully recovered, and she resents that internal investigators from Mercer Island never interviewed her.

“They’re supposed to be upholding the law, making sure people don’t do this kind of stuff,” she said. “But they go do it and don’t face the same consequences.”

Former Island County Sheriff Mike Hawley, now a lieutenant in the department he led until December 2006, agrees that those charged with upholding the law should be held to a public and uniform disciplinary system. Hawley led the department when it got mired in a DUI favoritism mess in 2004.

“I think some kind of standardization of disciplinary action would be good,” Hawley said. “For criminals, we have standardized ranges.”

Hawley served until recently as a charter member of a state board that adjudicates police license-revocation cases. “I’ve seen people fired for things they should never have been fired for. Then it happens at the other end, where this guy should be fired immediately, but he isn’t because he is the boss’ best pal.”

But Kerlikowske warned that widespread police standards are “no panacea,” because they take away the ability to evaluate cases individually.

Four case studies

A review of four accidents involving police officers provides a window into the process, showing how disparate the disciplinary system is.

Seattle police Detective Sgt. Anthony Baily was cut loose from his crumpled undercover police car after a three-vehicle accident in downtown Seattle about 2 a.m. one night in October 2002.

He was later cut loose from a possible DUI.

Three hours after the accident, then-Sgt. John B. Heneghan of the West Precinct was visiting Baily at the hospital, and a nurse confronted him, records show. She asked the sergeant why Baily wasn’t being tested for alcohol when one of the other drivers was under police guard and being blood-tested, records show. Heneghan then noticed the odor of alcohol near Baily, the report said. Heneghan didn’t write down the woman’s name, and police were never able to identify her. Heneghan alerted accident investigators about 5:30 a.m.

At that point, police investigators could have blood-tested and processed Baily for DUI, but they didn’t. Seattle attorney Paul Cullen, a DUI specialist, said the law wouldn’t have prevented Baily’s prosecution. He said experts can scientifically show that a person was drunk at the time they were driving, using blood-alcohol evidence gathered by police 3 1/2 hours later.

Later that day, a lieutenant told internal investigators about the nurse’s comments.

The city attorney later considered prosecuting Baily — a police union board member — for DUI.

He considered using tests on blood vials that a paramedic and the hospital staff routinely collected from Baily right after the accident, but concluded that the evidence wouldn’t stand up in court.

Finding Baily’s case was difficult. When the Police Department released a stack of internal investigative records to the P-I — including Baily’s — the accused officers’ names were blacked out, as the city’s contract with the police union dictates. But Baily’s name was visible on a sheet mentioning his three-day suspension for, among other things, “use of alcohol” in his department car.

The report noted that the accident wasn’t his fault, and, indeed, it wasn’t.

Lynnwood defense lawyer Jim Feldman, who represented the inebriated man who ran a red light and hit Baily’s car, told the P-I that he had felt Baily deserved a DUI citation.

He said Baily’s unofficial test reading was higher than that of his client, who was prosecuted. Records ultimately confirmed that his client’s blood-alcohol level was 0.10 and Baily was between 0.12 and 0.15.

Three weeks after the accident, SPD internal investigators with a search warrant obtained three vials of Baily’s blood and test results from Harborview Medical Center. The state toxicology lab tested it.

Selected for evidence was the lowest reading, which was from the first vial drawn less than a half-hour after the accident. An investigator, Sgt. Mike Teeter, and supervising assistant city attorney Mike Finkle explored a possible DUI case, but in July 2003 Finkle wrote a memo concluding that it wasn’t possible.

He noted that blood collected by the hospital wasn’t preserved or handled in the way courts require. Finkle based his decision largely on technical opinions by Ann-Marie Gordon, manager of the state toxicology lab.

Gordon was concerned about a lack of preservatives and chain of custody of evidence and speculated about how a skilled lawyer might defend Baily. She suggested an admittedly unlikely defense that Baily had pounded down eight doses of liquor, wine or beer immediately before driving, and at the moment of impact hadn’t yet reached the legal intoxication level of 0.08, documents show.

Gordon’s credibility has since come into question. She resigned her post July 20, several days after the State Patrol began investigating whether she had lied about testing ethanol-water solutions used to make certain that breath-test machines are working properly. If proved, the allegations could lead to hundreds of challenges of DUI convictions.

As for the Baily case, Cullen, the DUI lawyer, said court precedents indicate that he could have been prosecuted using the hospital blood.

The P-I asked Chief Kerlikowske last week about Baily’s case. After that interview, documents previously requested but not provided to the P-I were made available for review. Both the Police Department and the City Attorney’s Office said they had been preparing the release. To date, not all of Baily’s records have been provided.

Kerlikowske visited Baily at the hospital an hour after the nurse blew the whistle that night, but was then unaware of the nurse’s tip, said department legal adviser Mark McCarty. Kerlikowske said he didn’t smell alcohol, but if he had, he would have ordered a DUI investigation on the spot.

Feldman said his client, David Cotner, 27, of Winthrop may have benefited from what he believes was SPD’s fear of publicity. That’s why the city abandoned plans to charge Cotner with vehicular assault, a felony, and didn’t challenge his request for deferred prosecution in the DUI case, Feldman speculates.

Kerlikowske bristled at that. “I just find that incredulous. That is so far outside the bound of what the prosecutor or a Police Department would do to keep something outside a newspaper,” he said.

In another case, a Seattle police officer first tried to avoid calling police after rear-ending a young Renton man’s car, then got on the phone with his superiors, who eventually had a conversation with the Washington State Patrol trooper investigating the accident.

Seattle police Officer Timothy McGrath drove his unmarked SPD Pontiac Grand Am into the rear of the man’s Ford Tempo on Interstate 405 near Renton at 11:30 p.m. on June 21, 2002. No one was hurt.

A “nervous” McGrath suggested to Jeff Shane, 18, that they exchange insurance information and go their separate ways. He didn’t seem drunk, Shane said, but he “was really hinting toward not calling the police, if not outright saying it.”

  McGrath
  Seattle police Officer Timothy McGrath drove his unmarked department car into the rear of a Renton man’s vehicle on Interstate 405. McGrath was charged with DUI but pleaded guilty to negligent driving and was issued an occupational driver’s license.

But Shane called 911, and McGrath got on his cell phone. SPD officers arrived to talk with him, and a state trooper arrived roughly a half-hour later.

McGrath smelled of alcohol and handed his commission card to Trooper James Miller the minute he arrived, the trooper wrote in his arrest report.

Miller told him to sit tight while he called a State Patrol sergeant to the scene, who “made some phone calls” and told the trooper to process McGrath like “any other person.”

All the way to the Renton police station, McGrath talked on his cell phone to “his superiors” from the back of Miller’s cruiser, the trooper wrote.

Then, while McGrath waited to take a breath test at the station, he handed his cell phone to the trooper.

“They asked me how we could take care of this,” Miller wrote, referring to unidentified parties on the cell phone call. “I told them I’d send (the) case up the chain of command. It was up to them.”

Timing was key, because as soon as anyone takes a breath test, a state computer records the name and the reading. Was someone at the other end of the phone line trying to stop the process of a DUI citation?

“Nobody came out and said that,” said a State Patrol spokesman, Capt. Jeff DeVere. “But (Miller) said it seemed that might have been what was asked.”

Miller doesn’t remember the name or affiliation of whom he spoke to on the cell phone, DeVere said. “He doesn’t remember who he was. We don’t know if it was an officer.”

O’Neill, of the Guild, suggested that someone could have been impersonating a supervisor or an officer.

Troopers don’t usually allow DUI suspects to talk on cell phones from a cruiser out of concern for officer safety, but there are exceptions, DeVere said. He didn’t feel that Miller did anything wrong.

McGrath registered nearly twice the limit on the breath-test machine, a 0.136, and though cited for DUI, he pleaded guilty to first-degree negligent driving. His license was suspended for 90 days, but an occupational driver’s license was issued to allow him to continue driving at work, according to state Department of Licensing records. Such licenses are often issued with employer approval to allow people to drive for work.

SPD internal affairs had the trooper’s report but did not investigate McGrath’s cell phone calls from that night, said McCarty, the SPD legal adviser. More than a year after the accident, in August 2003, the SPD issued a suspension order to McGrath, five days for “conduct unbecoming” for the negligent-driving conviction. The officer was allowed to forfeit vacation instead of losing pay.

The P-I found the cryptic order in a stack of papers the SPD turned over to the newspaper with the names of the offending officer blacked out. Databases the reporters obtained helped them identify the case. McGrath resigned from the SPD in 2005.

“Well, that’s all very interesting information,” he said from his Florida home after a reporter detailed what he knew. “But I’m not interested in talking to you about it. I don’t think it’s really any of your business.”

In another case, it was a night of holiday partying that ended with a Mercer Island patrol car rear-ending a civilian’s car, and a King County prosecutor who had been at the same party arriving at the police station to represent the interests of the drunken police officer.

The officer’s job suspension was 15 times longer than what SPD leveled against McGrath for essentially the same offense. The Mercer Island cop wasn’t allowed to forfeit vacation time.

Instead, Detective Chris DeChant got the stiffest discipline of any of the cops who drank and crashed a police car, a 75-day suspension. That’s the harshest penalty ever given by Mercer Island police short of firing, said police Chief Ed Holmes, who was then in charge of the internal investigation.

  DeChant
  Mercer Island police Detective Chris DeChant was given a 75-day suspension after he drank and rear-ended a civilian’s vehicle with his police car. It was the harshest penalty ever given by Mercer Island police short of firing.

But other police administrators around the state said any violation drawing more than a 30-day suspension should be a dismissible offense, and that goes especially for anyone drunk in an agency car.

“If it was sustained they were drunk, and they were driving a patrol car, they are fired,” said Benton County Sheriff Larry Taylor. “That tears at your credibility, of the entire department.”

Guild President O’Neill said the toughest discipline possible under the Seattle contract, short of firing, is 30 days.

Eccles, the day care operator whose back was injured when she was rear-ended, feels that DeChant got off easy. She couldn’t work for a month.

DeChant, who didn’t respond to interview requests, caught some breaks in the case.

For example, his license should have been revoked for a year when he refused a blood-alcohol test after the accident, but it wasn’t. A Des Moines Municipal Court judge suppressed his breath-test refusal due to confusing instructions from the trooper. Because of that, the state Department of Licensing had to let him drive.

Eccles said she could tell DeChant “was drunk” the moment she saw him. He handed her his police business card when she asked for insurance information and repeatedly told her the damage would be covered. She called 911.

Some confusion arose that night when King County Deputy Prosecutor Greg Fullington, who was assigned to DeChant’s narcotics task force and had been at the same party, initially tried to act as his attorney, but withdrew when reminded that his office was responsible for prosecuting DeChant.

Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Mark Larson said he “vigorously counseled” Fullington for what was “not the proper role for a King County prosecutor.” Fullington has since left the office.

Eccles was disgusted by the whole mess.

“He’s still able to drive. His license wasn’t even taken away,” she said. “I don’t understand why guys like him get to be above the law.”

Internally, DeChant signed a “last chance” agreement that said he’d be fired for another alcohol-related offense. But when three more charges were sustained against him earlier this year for drinking and making a scene at an officer awards banquet, he got only a letter of reprimand.

“I didn’t believe (the most recent violations) were severe enough for termination,” Chief Holmes said. “He’s a good officer, and he works really hard.”

In another case, Seattle Detective Maria “Susan” DiTusa said from the wreckage of her unmarked police car that she was a police detective — “before I could even ask DiTusa any questions,” State Trooper Joseph Zimmer wrote in his report.

“I only had one, and my co-worker can attest to that,” she said of her drinking.

Maybe she was rattled when she smashed the side of her department’s Ford Taurus into the Mercer Street exit tunnel wall on June 9, 2004, because she probably wasn’t telling the truth. She recorded 0.137 on a preliminary breath test, more than the effects of one drink.

At the hospital, DiTusa refused a blood test that would have legally determined her level of intoxication. Preliminary tests aren’t admissible in court.

DiTusa appealed the state’s mandatory one-year license revocation for refusing a blood-alcohol test, but when the Licensing Department rejected her arguments, she obtained an occupational driver’s license.

Kerlikowske gave her a five-day suspension but allowed her to forefeit vacation in lieu of it. He promised to impose five more days if she got drunk and crashed another patrol car — “similar misconduct” is how he put it — within the next two years. The chief cited her “forthright cooperation with the administrative investigation” for the leniency.

In court, she reduced her criminal DUI citation to first-degree negligent driving by pleading guilty.

UPCOMING

Tuesday: Looking through mountains of public documents and internal reports, the P-I reveals how cops avoid arrest.
Wednesday: One officer whose career ended after a highly public DUI tells his story – and what’s wrong with the system.

P-I reporter Daniel Lathrop and P-I researcher Marsha Milroy contributed to this report. P-I reporter Eric Nalder can be reached at 206-448-8011 or ericnalder@seattlepi.com. P-I reporter Lewis Kamb can be reached at 206-448-8336 or lewiskamb@seattlepi.com.

Posted in Corruption, Ethics, History of SPD Abuses, Independent Oversight, Law, Spokane LE Personalities, Spokane Police Guild, Unanswered Questions | Leave a Comment »

WikiLeaks.org

Posted by Arroyoribera on March 1, 2008

U.S. Federal Judge fails in effort to censor WikiLeaks website…

More Twists and Turns in WikiLeaks Case (New York Times, 2/28/08)

The site describes itself as “developing an uncensorable Wikipedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis” and committed to assisting “people of all regions who wish to reveal unethical behavior in their governments and corporations.”

Judge Says WikiLeaks Site Can Have Its Web Address Back (New York Times, 2/29/08)

A federal judge in San Francisco said on Friday that he would withdraw an order that shut down the Web address for Wikileaks.org, a site that allows anonymous posting of documents to assist “peoples of all countries who wish to reveal unethical behavior in their governments and corporations.” … The judge’s action drew criticism – and court filings – from numerous organizations concerned that the order violated the First Amendment’s protection of free speech.

As an example of what you might find on the Wikileaks.org site, here is a link to the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) manual for the “Soviet-style gulag” run by the U.S. at Camp Delta inside the unlawful torture and detention facility run by the United States government and military and CIA at Gitmo (Guantanamo) on Castro’s Cuba.  There on page 1.3 you will read curiously specific language stating that:

(quote)   Personnel are not authorized to use or have in their possession unauthorized weapons, including but no limited to,  firearms, knives, ,batons, sap gloves (lead filled padded gloves), kubatons, night sticks, PR-24s, collapsing/expandable batons and any other weapons not specifically authorized.  (end quote)

Any one who believes that they may be subject to unlawful detention or forced disappearance by the increasingly fascistic U.S. government or forces in its deploy (Blackwater-type mercenaries, for ex.) would be well-advised to thoroughly read this document to understand the rules for processing prisoners, medical care, access by International Red Cross, permissible use of force, etc. 

According to analysis of the document on the WikiLeaks site, the U.S. military manual lays out torture at Guantanamo at the Wikileaks site:

*quote*

The Miami Herald describes the manual and its importance and gives a flavor of its bureaucratic contents:

“A how-to manual, it draws back a curtain on the secretive, isolated base in 2003, more than a year into operation of the Bush administration prison. And it lays out — with typical military attention to detail — everything from when to use pepper spray to who should witness a cavity search to how to dig a proper Muslim grave. It also offers the mundane details of what detainees were given at the open-air prison camp overlooking the Caribbean, where the Pentagon today holds about 300 war-on-terror captives at Guantanamo for possible interrogation and trial by Military Commission. No hair dye, it says on one page. But a double amputee got to keep a bucket in his cell, it says.”

*end quote*

Posted in Freedom to Fascism, In Collective Self-Defense, Independent Oversight, Know Your Rights, Law, Solutions, Unanswered Questions | Leave a Comment »

Spokane’s Center for Justice

Posted by Arroyoribera on February 20, 2008

The website of the Center for Justice is an important resource in the search for justice in Spokane.

Jim Sheehan, founder of the Community Building and president of the board of the Center for Justice, stands for the spirit of justice and the need for compassion in the attainment of justice.

Though the webmaster is still in the process of working out some of the bugs, the newly updated CFJ website provides information on the Spokane River Project, a list of exceptional cases in which the CFJ has participated, case criteria, and staff biographies.

One of the most valuable and exciting — might I even say radical — projects of the Center for Justice is the Street Law program which since 2005 has provided legal advice to the community every weekend of the summer in Riverfront Park.  I would encourage the Center to make availability of language interpretation services an integral part of the project and part of the commitment of those attorneys and firms participating in the project.

Finally, the Center for Justice website provides useful links to legal resources in the Spokane area.

[Note: As an added bonus, the Center for Justice recently acquired the services of Jeffrey Finer, well-respected and long-time Spokane civil rights attorney.  And on its board of directors sits Jim Bamberger, another prominent civil rights lawyer in the state of Washington, now head of the Washington State office of Civil Legal Aid.]

Posted in Know Your Rights, Law, Solutions | Leave a Comment »

Zero Diversity in Spokane’s Major Law Firms

Posted by Arroyoribera on February 10, 2008

The Washington State Bar Association publication Law and Politics (June/July 2003) ran an article entitled “Gaining and Retaining Diversity: How well do law firms keep their promise of a diverse environment?” by Paul Freeman.

The article and graphic were based on a survey of Washington State law firms conducted by the Washington State Latina/o Bar Association, the Loren Miller Bar Association, and the Asian Bar Association of Washington.

Several law firms did not respond, among them Spokane based firms Lukins & Annis, P.S. (35 attorneys); Witherspoon, Kelley, Davenport, and Toole, P.S (50 attorneys); and Paine, Hamblen, Coffin, Brooke & Miller, LLC (55 attorneys).

It is not difficult to see why these firms would not have responded to the survey.

A look 5 years later at the websites for these large Spokane-based law firms shows that they have no attorneys of non-European ethnicity whatsoever. (On the WKDT and PHCBM websites you will have to click on the names of the individual attorneys.)

And this despite the presence of a well-known Jesuit law school — Gonzaga — in Spokane.

This non-diverse reality is reflected throughout the Spokane professional, political, educational, and arts communities. While more than one in ten residents of Spokane is of a diverse ethnic background, that reality is not seen in the offices of government, medicine, law, business, education, social work, religion, or virtually anything else in this community.

The consequences in the application of justice are seen in on the streets and in the court room as recently seen in a well-publicized Spokane court case revealing blatantly racist statements by Spokane jurors regarding an attorney of Asian heritage.

The consequences in the emergency room and in doctors’ offices are experienced on a daily basis by patients who do not receive language appropriate services required under the Civil Rights Act of 1965 and other provisions of law. In Spokane these failures to comply with the law happen on a daily and flagrant basis. As a result, adverse outcomes and deaths have occurred), conditions have been misdiagnosed, and much humiliation and abuse has been suffered (as in the death of 9-year-old Rocio Rodriguez, for example.)

The consequences in the class room are that non-English speaking students do not receive notice of extracurricular and enrichment activities and access to musical instruments in their parents’ languages and thus talented and worthy children are excluded from participation. Beyond that, the larger community and society is denied the fruits of their talents and abilities.

Given that most, if not all, of these matters of access, equity, and justice must be adjudicated in the final instance through the legal system, the lack of diversity in the Spokane legal profession, from law school, to law practice, to public service law agencies, to court room has long-lasting repercussions on the lives of people in Spokane and raises fundamental questions of access to justice which should be matters of major concern for everyone involved in civil rights in Spokane and the betterment of our minority communities.

The time for change in Spokane is long since past. Why has change not come?

Could the answer be “entrenched racism”?

*******************************

Spokane County Bar Association diversity page

Posted in Corruption, Ethics, Know Your Rights, Law, Racism, Statistics, Unanswered Questions | Leave a Comment »