Tag Archives: Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office

LIVE BLOG: Sentencing of South Kitsap Manslaughter Suspect

This blog will begin at 9 a.m. Monday morning.

Here’s some background on the case.

Five Things You Might Not Know About WestNET

The West Sound Narcotics Enforcement Team — WestNET for short — often emerges briefly from complex drug investigations with a story of arrests and prosecutions. But most of its work is done in the depths of the drug trade, following up tips, working with informants and going up the supply chain to bigger criminal enterprises.

But what do we know about our local drug task force? Here are five things about this cadre of detectives you might not know. Many of these questions are ones I often get from readers. The answers come directly from detectives on the task force.

How are they funded? Yes, they do get federal money. But local agencies also pay to send their personnel to work there. The Bremerton Police Department, Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office and others make up the seven detectives in the unit. Its sergeant is Carlos Rodriguez, who comes from the Washington State Patrol.

Is any medical marijuana user safe from them? WestNET’s busts of people who have medical marijuana cards from a doctor have made the news recently and frequently. But are there those with cards whom they ignore? Rodriguez says yes. They look to the state’s rule of a maximum of 15 plants and 24 ounces of pot for medical users. He said they leave those within that rule alone, unless there’s evidence of trafficking or selling. In cases where there are more than 15 plants or 24 ounces, he said they take the plants or product over limit, leave the rest and then forward a report to the appropriate prosecutor’s office for review.

How many of WestNET’s cases involve those who have medical marijuana recommendations? Rodriguez said that in 2009, 20 of their 57 marijuana grow investigations claimed to use pot for medical purposes. This year, five of 13 have said the same.

Does WestNET investigate anything besides marijuana? Yes. They have mobility to move up the ladder of sellers of drugs of any kind. Because they are a small unit, a big case can often skew their stats. For instance, one such investigation took the amount of club drugs they confiscated in 2008 to 2009 from 281 doses to 27,500.

What’s a breakdown of the amount of drugs the task force took in 2009? According to Rodriguez:

Marijuana: about 3,500 plants in 57 cases;

Cocaine: 37.6 grams in five cases;

Club drugs and doses: 27,500 in five cases;

OxyContin and other prescription drugs: 2,350 grams in 11 cases;

Meth: Almost 2,000 grams in 22 cases;

Heroin: About 310 grams in five cases.

Tracking the Homicide: How Police Investigate the Most Serious of Crimes

Kitsap County’s local detectives are acutely aware they’re on the clock when called to the scene of a mysterious death.

“If you haven’t ID’d a suspect in the first 72 hours, the chances of solving a case dramatically decrease,” said Bremerton Detective Sgt. Kevin Crane.

I interviewed Crane and other investigators for Sunday’s story and database about Kitsap’s cold cases. We used the information I gathered for a graphic in the paper, but I wanted to go into greater detail. Here’s what I learned.

Day or night, Crane, and other detective supervisors are on call for the city’s most serious crimes. He’s ended vacations early to get to the scene of a fresh and suspicious death.

Homicide investigations most often start with the line officer who’s responding to a 911 call. If the victim is alive, the priority is saving a life. But if deceased, with no hope of resuscitation, the scene is “frozen” — no one comes and goes without police permission and a log is kept of those who do — and crime scene tape secures its perimeter, Crane said.

Detectives arrive and are briefed by patrol officers. Two crime scene investigators begin from the perimeter of the scene and moving inward, documenting with video and camera and looking for anything out of the ordinary. Yellow markers are placed at any point — shell casings, clothing, blood spatter, for instance — they see as suspicious. Every piece of evidence is eventually sealed and and placed in evidence at the police department. The name and date of each person who examines it is kept in a log.

Investigating the body won’t begin until the scene is “processed” by the crime scene investigators. At that point, detectives, who manage the crime, bring in the Kitsap County coroner’s office, which manage the body. They investigate it together, Crane said.

The wound or wounds are examined, photographed and measured. Investigators look for “defensive” wounds that would indicate a struggle.

A critical task is identifying the deceased. Seemingly simple, it’s not always apparent and may require investigating in its own right. Perhaps they’re not carrying ID, or more gruesomely, they can’t be identified because of a fire.

Meanwhile, at least two detectives is busy with interviews, talking with those who may have witnessed the crime or the area around it.

They’ll also set out to canvass the neighborhood, attempting to find anyone who heard or saw anything.

While technology has rapidly advanced in homicide investigations, there’s one way they haven’t changed.

“It’s people,” Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office Chief of Detectives Dave White said. “We’re still talking to people.”

Detectives will ask if the witnesses knew the deceased, and begin to establish a so-called “victimology.” Detectives will seek to paint a picture of the victim working backwards from their moment of death. Where did they go? Why were they there? And of course, who were they with?

“These can be very long, tedious investigations,” Crane said.

At various points during the investigation, detectives stop and exchange information. Crane then compiles a new task list.

From there, it’s a matter of chasing down leads. All day and all night they work, stopping sometimes for a few hours’ sleep in those first critical three days.

Investigating a homicide is really no different than any other crime, only “they’re more tedious and you leave no stone unturned,” Crane said.

State Cops, Too, Will Follow Cell Phone Law

Talking on a cell phone while driving will soon cost you $124. A new law bumps up the existing cell phone ban from secondary offense to primary — meaning that an officer does not need any other reason to write you up for carrying on a conversation while heading down the highway.

There were exceptions to the law, however, one of which is if the person holding the phone is badged and driving a car with lights and sirens.

The Washington State Patrol, however, is rewriting its own handbook in that regard. Its chief, John Batiste, believes his troopers need to set an example.

“Using a hands-free device is a good idea for everyone, including troopers,” Batiste said in a press release. “Every driver has an obligation to be at their best while behind the wheel.”

Batiste added that he supports cell phone use by employees because the state patrol’s radio
system can be monitored, and phones can provide a way to communicate privately.

The state isn’t the only one to push for hands free devices. The Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office has installed a hands free system called Parrot into nearly all of its patrol cars in the last six months, spokesman Scott Wilson said.

It may be implemented as a policy at the sheriff’s office as well. But as Wilson points out, the system, which broadcasts the call over the car’s stereo, is “crystal clear,” and convenient.

“I don’t know why anybody would not use it,” he said.

Not all of the county’s law enforcement agencies are changing policy. But the higher ups are asking for their officers to use good judgment.

“We have not set any such similar policy requiring them to use hands free devices, but we have suggested that they use good judgment and talk on the phone without hands free devices only when its safe to do so,” Port Orchard Police Chief Al Townsend wrote to me in an email. “Most of our officers use their own personally owned cell phones and have the hands free blue tooth type devices already and use them while on duty just like they would on their off duty time.”

Shawn Delaney, Poulsbo Police Department’s deputy chief, said they too don’t have a policy. But he said they’re cognizant that the public might not realize officers are exempt from the law, and want to set an example in not using the phone unless it’s necessary in the commission of their duties.

Tom Wolfe, Bremerton Police’s captain of patrol, said the department also encourages officers to pull over for calls that aren’t emergent in nature.

That said, there are circumstances — in progress calls and the like — where the officer has no choice but to talk on a cell phone while driving. The situation is so imminent that even going hands free is too time consuming, he said.

“The need to convey information in some situations immediately outweighs attempting to hook a phone up to any device,” he said.