Judge blocks view of police investigations

A Kitsap County Superior Court judge ruled in favor of a suit by the Bainbridge Police Guild blocking the city and police department from releasing two misconduct investigations into a Bainbridge officer.

The investigations involve police misconduct claims brought by island attorney Kim Koenig, who was arrested for obstructing an officer and resisting arrest.

I managed to get one of the investigations before the judge’s decision and passed it on to Kitsap Sun courts and cops reporter Josh Farley. Read his report on the investigation below.

Puyallup Report Finds No Crime by Bainbridge Officer During 2007 Traffic Stop
By Josh Farley

Two Puyallup Police officers asked to investigate a Bainbridge policeman accused of misconduct during an island traffic stop last September said in a report they didn’t find probable cause that he committed a criminal offense.

Island resident Kim Koenig, who has filed a $400,000 claim against the city of Bainbridge Island, has alleged she was “strangled and manhandled,” and injured “physically and emotionally” by Officer Steve Cain.

Bainbridge Police had asked two outside police departments to conduct investigations — one from Puyallup to ascertain any criminal misconduct and another from Mercer Island to review whether city procedures were violated.

Deputy Chief Mark Duncan had said the investigations did not “substantiate” Koenig’s allegations against Cain.

The Puyallup Police Department recently released its 117-page investigation to the Kitsap Sun, in response to a public records request under the state’s open records law.

The Sun and island blogger Althea Paulson, who has written about the Sept. 30 traffic stop, had also requested that the City of Bainbridge Island release the Mercer Island and Puyallup reports.

On Friday, Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Russell W. Hartman ruled in favor of a suit by the Bainbridge Police Guild blocking Bainbridge Island’s release of the documents. He cited a standard of privacy that governs public records exemptions for the Court of Appeals, Division 2, which includes Kitsap County.

That standard, he said, was set by a 1992 ruling in Tacoma and is more restrictive than a 2005 ruling in Division 1 of the Court of Appeals.

He said a case on appeal to the Washington Supreme Court could resolve the two conflicting standards for public employee investigations, and if the Division 1 standard were in place for Kitsap County, he would have ordered disclosure of the documents.

Judge Hartman then refused the Guild’s request to block the Sun from publishing information from the document it had already received from Puyallup.

The Puyallup report includes interviews with the officers who responded to the call, in which Koenig’s husband, John Muenster, was pulled over after an officer suspected he was speeding. The investigators draw on a written statement from Koenig. The investigators don’t appear to have interviewed Muenster, the only other non-police witness.

“After examining the evidence and conducting all of the interviews possible, there does not appear to be probable cause to believe that Officer Cain committed the offenses, as accused by Kim Koenig,” the investigators’ report said.

Cain made a brief statement to Puyallup’s investigators before invoking his right to silence: “I’ve done nothing wrong,” he told them. “Unequivocally, without question, I have committed no crime.”

An officer told Puyallup investigators he stopped the car, driven by Muenster, for going 45 mph in a 30 mph zone on Sportsman’s Club Road shortly after midnight on Sept. 30. He reported that he “smelled a strong odor of alcohol emerging from the vehicle.”

When he started to remove Muenster from the car, Koenig got out as well, saying that she was his lawyer and that “she was going to be with him,” the investigators said. The initial officer requested backup.

Cain arrived and the initial officer continued to talk with Muenster. In his peripheral vision, the officer saw Cain walking Koenig in an “escort position,” and he heard Koenig say Cain was hurting her. The officer said that while Muenster admitted to having a “couple drinks,” Koenig was “heavily intoxicated due to the odor and slurred speech.”

Cain said in his own report that he’d warned Koenig not to interfere with the initial officer’s investigation of her husband, but when she did anyway, he arrested her for obstructing. Cain said that when he tried to put her in the backseat of his patrol car, she refused. He told investigators he “used his hip” to hold her against the car while he used his free hand to call for backup.

She then screamed that he was “dry humping” her, Cain said.

Koenig called police the day after the traffic stop and another lieutenant took down her allegations. She said she’d had only one alcoholic beverage that night, and that when she tried to help her husband as a lawyer, she was “rudely confronted” by Cain, she said.

She told police that she’d been thrown against the hood of her husband’s car and eventually dragged and forced against the side of the car by Cain. She said he then made a “sexual” maneuver six to eight times and pushed her in the patrol car.

She said at that point, she defecated in her pants “due to the sexual assault and being thrown into the vehicle.”

The lieutenant found bruising on Koenig’s upper left arm, investigators said.

Two officers riding together came to the scene upon hearing the call for backup, investigators said. They’d heard Koenig assert that she’d been “dry humped” by Cain. Both officers also said Koenig was intoxicated.

The investigators noted that while Koenig asserted that there was another patrol car at the scene while she was being taken to Cain’s vehicle, they found no evidence of a third officer at that point.

Lt. Christopher Jensen, the first supervisor on scene, said Cain told him he’d “pinned Koenig against the vehicle with his hip to gain control of her while he handcuffed and searched her prior to securing Koenig in the backseat.”

The lieutenant said Koenig “was very animated and spoke with slurred and disjointed speech.”

As part of their investigation, the Puyallup officers examined Cain’s background and found only positive information in his personnel file.

However, Lt. Jensen told them that in the early 1990s, Cain had a “sustained accusation of having sex with a suspect. And it caused some issues and complaints for a while and some heartache.”

Jensen, who said he has been Cain’s supervisor “on an off” over the last several years, told the investigators, “this is going to come up so I may as well say it.”

He did not provide details of the incident, but said it was “probably the most significant past working history about him that was relevant to this particular issue. It was well-publicized so everybody who was anybody around the city at the time, I mean its right there for everybody to know.”

The Puyallup investigators, however, found there was no record of the incident in Cain’s personnel file.

Deputy Chief Duncan told the Kitsap Sun it is the department’s policy to keep records of a sustained charge against an officer in the officer’s personnel file until six years after he leaves the force. Duncan, who has only been with the force since 2006, said he could not explain why there was no record of the incident.

“There simply is no record,” Duncan told the Sun, saying he did not know what circumstances or previous policies may have come into play prior to his arrival.

Duncan did say Cain had one unfounded complaint of inaccurate reporting in 2002. Because it was not substantiated, the department under law can dispose of those records three years after the allegations. Duncan said that complaint, along with all others from 2002, was purged at the start of this year.

The Puyallup investigation found no one who “had any knowledge of inappropriate behavior or conduct from Officer Cain aside from the 1990-1991 allegations.”

“Officer Cain was consistently described as professional and competent,” they said.

One thought on “Judge blocks view of police investigations

  1. When I read the initial reports in the Sun about this event I thought to myself: “this is nothing more than the results of drunken, bad behavior on the part of Ms. Koenig. I still think that. Why does the Guild feel so strongly about shielding the public from the investigation? It only fuels some people’s suspicion that the police can get away with anything they want. I don’t believe that’s entirely true, so I look forward to the State Supreme Court’s ruling that would allow total transparency in the of investigation of claims of Police or any Public Authority’s misconduct

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