All posts by josh farley

Crime stats: Murder in Washington increased 27 percent in 2012

Graph by WASPC.
Graph by WASPC.

The yearly tabulation of crime stats, courtesy of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, is out. The Crime in Washington 2012 report is chock-full of trends, some good and some bad. Here’s some of those that caught my eye initially:

  • There is a murder every 2.5 days in Washington state. And the number of people murdered has gone up from 159 in 2011 to 203 in 2012 (That’s a 27 percent increase).
  • Crime occurred most frequently in the state in September; it occurred the least in February.
  • Property crimes: $205,931,711 in property was stolen in 2012; of that, law enforcement recovered $16,931,651.
  • Though it is now legal for an adult 21 and older in Washington state to possess up to an ounce of pot, police in Washington seized 762,809 grams of pot in 2012. By comparison, the two next highest drugs seized were meth (25,418 grams) and heroin (24,824).
  • Arrests: 155,916 people were arrested in Washington in 2012. Of those, 30,924 were between 20 and 24 years old, making it the age group with the greatest quantity of arrests.
  • Of all those arrests, almost a fifth — 18.5 percent — were for DUI.

To read the full report for yourself, click here. I’ll be dissecting our local numbers for a story at in the days ahead.


MAP: When they get out of prison, where do offenders go to live?

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To see the map, go here:

In 2007, the Department of Corrections embarked on a transformation in the way it releases offenders to the community. Ordered by the State Legislature to stop “dumping” felons into Tacoma, Spokane, and other pockets of urbanity in the state, DOC was mandated to send prisoners back to their “county of origin” — the place of their first felony conviction.

There are some exceptions, mainly if victims are uneasy about an offenders’ return to the community. But they can also go to another county if they have family or “other sponsoring persons or organizations that will support the offender.”

In 2012, about three out of every four inmates whose first felony was in Kitsap come back here after prison, according to DOC statistics.

While they’re coming back to Kitsap, it appears they’re increasingly concentrated in Bremerton. But corrections officials say that clustering actually serves public safety best.

To search and find out where every offender went home to in 2012 — and if they deviated from their county of origin — follow this link.

3 new officers join the beat at Bremerton police

Bremerton Municipal Court Judge James Docter swears in the city's three new police officers Wednesday. Photo by Shannon Corin.
Bremerton Municipal Court Judge James Docter swears in the city’s three new police officers Wednesday. Photo by Shannon Corin.

Three new Bremerton police officers were sworn in Wednesday, a shot in the arm toward the department’s staffing levels. 

At its height in the mid-2000s, the department had 66 fully commissioned officers, but budget cuts in recent years took that level down into the low 50s. That has meant reductions in investigations and overtime for patrol officers, who attempt to keep up with the city’s 911 call volume.

The three officers sworn in, along with another new hire and a position yet to be filled, will bring the department back up to 57 fully commissioned officers, according to Bremerton Police Chief Steve Strachan.

Here’s the three latest hires:

Beau Ayers, a graduate of Ohio University, formerly worked as a police officer in Nelsonville, Ohio and with the US Border Patrol before coming to Bremerton.

Joeseph Corey, a South Kitsap High School class of 1998 grad, served five years in the army as a police officer in South Korea, at Fort Lewis and in Iraq. He was most recently a Department of Defense police officer at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Christopher Faidley, who grew up in Seattle, graduated from Whitman College in 2009. He enlisted in the National Guard in 2011 and has also worked for an electrical contractor and for Microsoft providing security.

The three have graduated from the state’s law enforcement academy and are currently training with veteran officers in the department for the next four months.


Bremerton, shuck all the peanuts you want (it’s not actually illegal)


“Everything that anyone ever posted to the Internet is true.”

Said no one, ever.

Yes, we all know inaccuracies litter the information superhighway. But one of the World Wide Web’s most inaccurate rumors about Bremerton is that it is against the law to shuck peanuts on city streets. We see it pop up on social media sites every few weeks, and it is proclaimed to be accurate on several websites pertaining to “dumb laws.”

Bottom line: There is no truth to it whatsoever.

After seeing it so many times, I decided to investigate the city’s code in an effort to determine its veracity.

Nothing there I could find.

I checked with Mark Koontz, Bremerton’s assistant city attorney, who agreed that there is just no such thing on the books.

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“There’s no truth to that,” he said.

If you shuck your peanuts onto the city street, that could be considered littering, Koontz added.

But that would apply to anywhere with a littering code. And the websites are quite specific: you shall not shuck peanuts on the streets of our fine city.

Perhaps it had been a law in the past, only to be repealed?

I consulted Bill Broughton, prominent area lawyer and one time the city’s attorney in the 1980s. He’d never heard of such a thing.

“That’s a new one on me,” he said. “We did set a goal of repealing antiquated laws when I was there but I do not remember this one.”

I turned to Russell Warren, one of Bremerton’s sharpest minds when it comes to area history. He hadn’t heard of it either.

I even emailed some of the purveyors of websites which purport the law to be the truth.

I heard back from one — Andy Powell at — who said he was looking into the source. Other web sites never responded.

So far, I have been unable to find a single source of the perceived law. My hope is to debunk it officially. So I humbly ask for your help, dear readers, on this journey.

I would love to hear from any of you who knows where it may have come from. Drop a line below, or send me an email at

One of the most intriguing parts of the mystery is the idea peanuts would be singled out as unlawful to shuck. Perhaps an odd vendetta against the bean by an anti-peanut former mayor?

Regardless, I stand firm in the belief the law is hogwash.

Walgren recalls time when lawmakers had perk with cops

07 sample license with heart

Rachel Pritchett’s Sunday piece about the rise and fall of lawyer and former lawmaker Gordon Walgren is filled with fascinating tales from the capitol rotunda. 

Yes, there was Gamscam, that brought Walgren crashing down. But another tale, in particular, raised my eyebrow. From her story:

“The chief of the Washington State Patrol routinely gave leaders — including Walgren — stacks of small plastic sleeves with “legislator” stamped for lawmakers to slide over their driver’s licenses, should they be stopped. The practice worked fine, for a while. But an unimpressed Eastern Washington trooper ticketed one anyway, the press picked up on it, and the questionable practice was abandoned.”

I called Walgren Tuesday to ask him about it. He said the sleeves had “LEGISLATOR” written in red, diagonally across the sleeve, about a half-inch in size.

He said he always felt the idea was a free pass to get out of speeding tickets, but nothing more serious than that.

But, as Pritchett pointed out in the story, the practice ended with one ticket in Eastern Washington.

“And that was the end of the program,” he said.

Interestingly, just weeks before, I had gotten a Facebook inquiry from a local reader  about this practice after we ran a story about the Department of Licensing’s operation of a secret fictitious licensing program. It got me curious to the point that fellow reporter Ed Friedrich and I made a couple calls.

I spoke with State Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, who said he had no such thing, never has. Friedrich asked Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, if she and other lawmakers had “LEGISLATOR” written on her driver’s license.

“I can’t even imagine anything so awful,” she responded. “Not true.”

So today’s lawmakers have no such thing. But the ones of yesteryear appear to have gotten a perk that lasted at least a few years, until an Eastern Washington police officer did the right thing.




Bremerton Police add online drug tip form, bios of top brass

photoThe Bremerton Police Department’s web site is looking a little different these days, as new Bremerton Police Chief Steve Strachan continues an effort to reach out to the city’s residents.

Biographies of Strachan, as well as ones for captains Jim Burchett and Tom Wolfe and lieutenants Pete Fisher and Luis Olan, can now be found online.

Additionally, the department has added a first-ever online tip form to report drug activity. The department says the information can be anonymous but that “it can assist our detectives if we can contact citizens directly to obtain vital details.”

Questions on the form are broken into five parts:

1) Why do you think this is a drug house?
2) Where is the activity occurring?
3) Who is involved?
4) What cars are involved?
5) Any additional comments?

Strachan said the changes were made to both update the web site but also “provide a direct link” for residents to send in questions or comments about the department.

Bremerton Police Sgt. Randy Plumb, in charge of the department’s Special Operations Group, said the new link streamlines information so it can get to an investigating detective as quickly as possible. He also noted that providing the anonymity online may help bring forth new tips of those previously concerned their identities might be revealed.

Those wanting to report drug tips can still go through the department’s phone line: (360) 473-5217.

Bremerton Police Community Resource Specialist Joe Sexton said additional citizen reporting tools and web site features will be coming in the months ahead.

Murky stats cloud gun control debate over background checks

Do we really know what percentage of guns are purchased without a background check?  

In the wake of the massacre at a Newtown, Conn. elementary school, mandating background checks on all gun sales has been one element of possible reform that has gained momentum. A bill that would create universal background checks is headed to the floor of the U.S. Senate. Here in Washington, an effort for such background checks appears to have stalled, but the debate continues and could be headed for the fall ballot.

Background checks are already conducted when one purchases a gun from a licensed firearm dealer; the legislation federally and at the state level would extend checks to private gun sales.

But how many guns are bought and sold privately?

The number thrown about by politicians is around 40 percent. But an interesting report by the Associated Press out today shows that statistic is stale.

From AP:

The claims that gun sales made without background checks comprise “more than,” ”as many as,” ”nearly” or “about” 40 percent of all gun sales are rooted in a poll looking broadly at gun ownership in America. Sponsored by the Justice Department through a grant to the Police Foundation, the poll’s principal relevance today is as a snapshot of the way things were when it was taken — 1994.

The research reported on the nature of gun acquisitions made in 1993 and 1994, asking people who had obtained guns then where the guns had come from and whether they thought the source was a federally licensed dealer. Transactions through licensed dealers were considered covered by the background check system, which was just then coming into effect.

Although the survey interviewed more than 2,500 Americans, just 251 had acquired guns during that time frame, a small sampling from which to make a general conclusion.

AP goes on to say that the “study’s researchers found considerable ambiguity and some apparent contradictions in the responses.”

“With a clear picture eluding them, they estimated 30 percent to 40 percent of the acquisitions were off the books and would not have been subjected to a background check,” AP said.

So the bottom line is we really don’t know how many people buy guns through private sales. Some data would certainly help.

But perhaps the numbers aren’t needed at all. Just because they pass a bill doesn’t mean criminals won’t get their hands on guns, some say; tighter regulations via background checks could thwart some guns from falling into the wrong hands, others insist.

Where do you fall?

Washington bucks national trend: gun deaths here outnumber traffic fatalities

Awhile back, Bloomberg published a startling story that revealed the likelihood deaths by firearms in America would soon outnumber traffic fatalities

After doing some digging today, I figured out that Washington state has already turned that corner. In fact, it did so in 2008 (see below). Traffic fatalities numbered 454 in the state in 2011, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Deaths caused by firearms were higher, at 619 — 492 of which were suicides — according to the state’s Department of Health.

I would credit this trend in part to the state’s nation-leading seat belt use (98 percent). The average for the country is just 84 percent. As for gun deaths, I’ll leave that discussion for now but feel free to make your voice heard below.

Here are the rest of the stats for Washington:

Gun deaths                   Traffic fatalities

2006                619                                  633

2007                544                                  571

2008                583                                  521

2009                618                                   492

2010                 607                                  460

2011                 619                                  454


Trim the state budget, cut … the state supreme court?

Cutting four jobs in state government might not seem like it would be a tremendous cost savings to taxpayers. But, what if these are the highest paid elected state employees (along with the governor) in Washington?

Three Republican state senators have introduced a bill in Olympia that would cut the state’s supreme court from nine justices to five, the Associated Press reported last week.

From AP:

The measure, introduced Wednesday, would require the current nine justices to draw straws. The four who draw the shortest straws “shall be terminated, and those judges shall not serve the remainder of their respective unexpired terms.”

Republican Sen. Michael Baumgartner of Spokane points out the state’s constitution only mandates we have five justices.

But the effort comes (suspiciously) following the high court’s ruling that voter-approved initiatives requiring the legislature to have a supermajority to pass tax increases is unconstitutional.

More from AP:

 Supreme Court justices earn more than $164,000 a year. Baumgartner said that by reducing the court, you also reduce salaries that need to be paid to their clerks and other staffers.

“There’s a lot of school teachers you could hire with these salaries,” he said.

Sen. Doug Ericksen of Ferndale and Janea Holmquist Newbry of Moses Lake have signed on to the bill, a well.

Just doing the straight math here: that would be a savings of $656,000 a year. Do you think this is a good idea in any way or perhaps a veiled effort to get back at the court?


For first time, Washington’s supreme court will be majority female, including chief justice

On Monday, when the Washington State Supreme Court convenes for the first time this year, history will be made: a majority of the court is made up of women, including the chief justice, for the first time ever.

And it will be Bainbridge resident and longtime appellate lawyer Sheryl Gordon McCloud who tipped the scales. McCloud, who upset a competitive field last fall that included longtime King County Superior Court judge Bruce Hilyer, former state Supreme Court judge Richard Sanders, and former Pierce County prosecutor and county executive John Ladenburg, joins four other justices to put females in the majority on the court, the Washington Courts Web site pointed out Thursday.

The public is invited to the opening of the court’s 2013 session, at 9:30 a.m. Monday in the Temple of Justice in Olympia.

Here’s more from the courts’ release:

The ceremony will also mark the inaugurations of Justice Susan J. Owens and Justice Steven González, who were both elected to six-year terms, and Chief Justice Barbara Madsen, who was re-elected by her colleagues to a four-year term as Chief Justice.

The event is open to the public and will be held in the Supreme Court at the Temple of Justice in Olympia.
  • Sheryl Gordon McCloud graduated from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1976, and graduated from the University of Southern California Gould School of Law in 1984. She clerked for Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Warren Ferguson before beginning her practice, which included extensive experience in appellate law. In 2008, the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers awarded her their highest award, the William O. Douglas Award, for “extraordinary courage” in the practice of law.

  • Steven González is the first justice of Mexican heritage to serve on the bench of the Washington State Supreme Court since the formation of the Court in 1889. González was appointed to the Court in 2012, and served on the King County Superior Court bench from 2002-2012. González earned his J.D. from the University of California at Berkley’s law school and was admitted to the Washington state bar in 1991. He graduated from Pitzer College, a member of the Claremont Colleges, with a B.A. in East Asian Studies and studied abroad in undergraduate and advanced studies in Japan and China.  From 1997 to 2002, González was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the state’s Western District. He also worked in the City of Seattle Attorney’s Office from 1996 to 1997 as a trial attorney in the domestic violence unit. Before that, he practiced business and civil law with the firm Hillis Clark Martin and Peterson from 1991 to 1996.

  • Susan J. Owens was first elected in 2000 to the Supreme Court. She joined the court after serving nineteen years as District Court Judge in Western Clallam County, where she was the County’s senior elected official with five terms. She also served as the Quileute Tribe’s Chief Judge and Chief Judge of the Lower Elwha S’Klallam Tribe.

  • Chief Justice Barbara Madsen was elected to serve a second term as the 55th Chief Justice of the Washington State Supreme Court in October. As Chief Justice, she is the court’s chief spokesperson, presides over Supreme Court hearings and conferences, and co-chairs the state’s Board for Judicial Administration. The voters elected Justice Madsen as the third woman to serve on the Washington Supreme Court in 1992, and she was re-elected in 1998, 2004, and 2010.