Kitsap Crime and Justice

The Kitsap Sun staff writes about crime and criminal justice issues.
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Crime reporter’s notebook: Police data, fingerprint scanners, weed and a pair of handcuffs

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

 Here are a few recent odds and ends from my reporter’s notebook:

POLICE DATABASE EXPANDS: You may remember the Kitsap Sun story about the Law Enforcement Information Exchange (LinX), in which Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents were working to thread together a database of all reports gathered by local law enforcement agencies. (The effort began in a Levin Road basement.) Keep in mind that prior to 9/11, a lot of data collected by law enforcement, including field interviews, mug shots, and investigative narratives, could only be accessed only by the agency that created them.

I asked Keith Haines, LinX’s regional program manager, how it was going. He said LinX, which already encompasses most law enforcement agencies on both U.S. coasts, has begun integrating with the FBI’s “N-DEx” system, which will host a nationwide database that hopes to include all U.S. law enforcement reports.

FINGERPRINT SCANNERS: Did you know King County Sheriff’s Office is using pocket-sized fingerprint scanners to identify uncooperative and unscrupulous suspects? Regular readers of the Kitsap Sun will know these debuted in Kitsap County five years ago. The followup, by the Seattle Times, is that they’ve got more of the bugs in them worked out.

MARIJUANA ROUNDUP: As the election looms, a number of stories have appeared regarding Initiative 502 in recent weeks. Among the most interesting in my book: More than 241,000 people in Washington state were arrested for marijuana possession over the past 25 years; marijuana backers are getting some states-rights conservatives to support the measure; and a bunch of drug czars have come out against the measure, which they say violates constitutional law and could trigger a “constitutional showdown.”

HOMEOWNER CONFRONTATION: Imagine going outside your home to find someone holding your machete and chainsaw. Not only do you own them, but you wouldn’t want a stranger swinging them at you, either. Last week, a homeowner west of Long Lake had just that encounter — and he wrestled the machete away from the stranger, chased him down the road and told him to stay put until Kitsap County Sheriff’s deputies arrived, reports say. Deputies said the suspect remarked that he’d “only get a criminal trespass for this.” Prosecutors have charged him with burglary.

HANDCUFFED AND RUNNING: An Alaska man was arrested Friday for trying to pass counterfeit $20s at Walmart. Poulsbo police responded and the man let them look in his wallet, where officers found six $20s with the same serial numbers. Police had handcuffed the man, who’d also violated probation and had him sit on the push bars of a patrol car. That’s when reports say the man “jumped to his feet and took off running … still in handcuffs.” An officer gave chase and tried his Taser, but missed. The suspect was ultimately tackled and taken the Kitsap County jail.


GOOD TIME: ‘I Just Want It Fixed’

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

Mail from inmates at county jails and state and federal prisons is common in newsrooms, as those on the inside look to reporters to help with legal battles or civil rights violations.

The same is true here at the Kitsap Sun. We review such mail — honestly, word for word — to see if there’s an injustice being done, however big or small. In many cases, the complaints don’t quite add up. In some, a quick phone call or email to the right person is all that’s needed. But sometimes, an inmate raises a concern that calls on us to tell a story.

In May, I got such a letter. His name was Robert “Doug” Pierce, who you can read about in Sunday’s paper or online here. The Kitsap County jail had miscalculated his time off for good behavior — and he was right.

“I just want it fixed so I can come home to my family after my debt is paid to society in full,” Pierce wrote in his letter.

Pierce’s discovery was not only overlooked at the jail and lawyers in the system but at the Department of Corrections — and it set the stage for a change in policy at the Kitsap County jail.

In doing the story, I wanted to examine all aspects of how good time is awarded. Thus, what you’ll find is an explanation of how it works at all levels — federal, state and each of the 39 county jails — and why it is administered in the first place. That included working with and submitting records requests to each of the state’s 37 jails.

We also stumbled upon another interesting facet: that the state’s sunseting of a 50 percent off provision for good time went virtually unnoticed by anyone outside the system.

For the results of our work, click here.


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