Daily Archives: May 12, 2014

Citizens’ Police Academy 9: Harbormaster, marine patrol, K-9, graduation

This is the ninth and final entry in a column about reporter Ethan Fowler’s participation in the Bainbridge Island Police Department’s Citizens’ Police Academy.

Keeping the waters surrounding Bainbridge Island safe is something Bainbridge Harbormaster Tami Allen and Bainbridge police officer/marine patrol officer Ben Silas continually focus on.

Allen, who will reach her 15th anniversary as the island’s harbormaster in July, said the Bainbridge Harbor Management Plan was started in 1999. It covers safety and navigation, water quality, anchorage and mooring, public access, maritime commerce and derelict vessel prevention.

Allen said she keeps tabs on 53 miles of water, which include four deep water bays. She said there’s more than 550 buoys around the island and that all of them require permits. She noted it took five years to log all of the buoys.

She said she’s always looking for volunteers for the Summer Dock Host program, where people greet boaters as they step off their boats and answer questions for them. Allen said one day last summer featured visitors who spoke 14 different languages.

She said she gets a lot of help with her job from volunteer harbor stewards, residents who live along the shoreline and call her when they see anything worthy of her attention.

Silas, who started working the same day 15 years ago as his future wife Carla for the BIPD, pilots the department’s 35-foot, state-of-the-art police boat. He said the boat was funded through a $640,000 Homeland Security grant in 2008 and has the ability to load a SWAT team on a Washington State Ferry.

When he first joined the force, Silas said he had no interest in boats but he has since grown to “really love it.” He said his jurisdiction extends halfway between Bainbridge and the nearest piece of land, however he has law enforcement powers for the whole state since Silas said there’s fewer resources for the water.

He said he goes riding around the island at least once a month and more frequently during the busy boating season.

For the final week of the two-month Citizens’ Police Academy, the group of about a dozen people gathered for a potluck dinner at the Queen City Yacht Club. The celebratory evening was highlighted by Officer Dale Johnson demonstrating the skills of his retired K-9 partner Rusty, who delighted a lot of the children of the academy participants.

Rusty was able to successfully find hidden money that had drug scents on them. During his career, the chocolate lab mix was used in 214 searches with 547 finds of controlled substances and or drug paraphernalia. He also assisted in 181 arrests.

Bainbridge Police Chief Matthew Hamner said he hopes to have another K-9 officer in the near future.

I truly enjoyed participating in the Citizens’ Police Academy and learned a new appreciation for police officers and greater understanding of the challenges they face. I was particularly impressed by how much Bainbridge officers treated academy participants like they were family. I will also miss the amazing treats that Officer Carla Silas, who organized the academy and scheduled the speakers, created weekly for us.

I highly recommend everyone in the community to try to find time to participate in a future Citizens’ Police Academy, which are generally offered yearly in the spring.

Citizens’ Police Academy 8: Use of Force

This is the eighth of nine entries in a column about reporter Ethan Fowler’s participation in the Bainbridge Island Police Department’s Citizens’ Police Academy.

Everything that you’ve learned or watched on a TV police drama you need to “wipe away” from your memory, Officer Trevor Ziemba emphatically told the Citizens’ Police Academy participants at the start of a recent class.

“This is just my job,” said Ziemba, who has more than 20 years of police experience and is the Bainbridge Police Department’s field training officer. “This is just a uniform I put on. I do everything in my day you do. I’m not a robot. I’m just a dad. I live on the island and have two kids.”

Ziemba talked about the use of force with Officer Jeff Benkert, who has 12 years of experience. Ziemba said he has 450 hours in police use of force and defensive training that’s not involved in shooting. He’s learned control holds, impending tactics, using a baton, pepper spray, neck restraints and ground survival.

Unfortunately, during their careers Ziemba said he and Benkert have known 26 police officer friends that have been “murdered” in the line of duty with most of those deaths happening to Washington state officers.

“We must be vigilant, prepared and motivated not to get an emotional reaction when someone yells at us,” Ziemba said. “There’s nothing I can do to train to take me away from being a human. I’m very educated. I’m not a guy who was bullied in high school. Most of our (society’s) contacts with law enforcement are negative, (such as) speeding, death in the family or crimes.”

Ziemba said an officer’s use of force is lawful under six conditions, according to the Revised Code of Washington 9A.16.20.

“The necessary force law states you must do what’s ‘reasonable,’” said Ziemba, the BIPD’s crisis interventionist officer.

Benkert said police officers must be prepared at all times. He talked about watching people’s body language. For example, he demonstrated that someone who wants to fight likely will go into a “fighting stance,” where they drop one leg and a side of the body behind the other. They may also clench their fists and teeth.

“Every fight a cop is in is a gunfight,” Benkert said. “Seventy percent of officers shot in the field are shot by their own gun in the head. A fist fight can cost your life. Action is faster than reaction.”

Added Ziemba: “I have to see those precursors, so I can fight for you and fight for another day.”

The two police officers then put on a disturbing YouTube video that showed two police officers being “murdered” by a suspect who they had pulled over. They followed that video with another one where a different officer in a similar situation was pulling over a guy driving a truck on a freeway. The officer noticed that the driver had a gun when the suspect pulled off the highway and was ready when the guy stepped out of the vehicle with a gun and started firing.

“It’s not the movies,” Benkert said.

Benkert said police follow what’s called the OODA Loop, which was developed by U.S. Air Force Col. John Boyd. Officers are trained to first observe, then orient, decide and act.

“We constantly go through scenarios,” Ziemba said. “We teach our officers to act because no action is never good. I don’t care if I’m shot in the face or head, (I’m) not dead yet. I’m not going to give up on myself. When we shoot someone, we train that they may not fall.”

The following Saturday, Citizens’ Police Academy participants got to experience some of the use of force tactics they learned about. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend this event, as well as a Saturday class visit to the county jail, dispatch center and coroner, but I heard both were quite good.

Citizens’ Police Academy 7: Kitsap Mental Health

This is the seventh of nine entries in a column about reporter Ethan Fowler’s participation in the Bainbridge Island Police Department’s Citizens’ Police Academy.

Breaking misconceptions and educating his audience about mental health issues were some of the things Kitsap Mental Health Services Crisis Response Team Supervisor Gary Clark achieved during his recent talk to participants in the Citizens’ Police Academy.

Clark, who has worked nine years with Kitsap Mental Health Services, said his department is responsible for detaining people diagnosed with mental health issues that pose a threat to public safety. People can also pop over to these guys to get timely advice.

“We usually respond within 30 minutes of a call,” said Clark, who noted the state requires agencies respond within two hours. “We go to them generally, but we don’t go out at night or alone anymore. Most of our staff is women.”

Although it varies widely, Clark said that Kitsap Mental Health Services receive 150-175 phone calls on average monthly and have about 80 face-to-face meetings. Clark said mental health professionals typically see clients either in jail, hospitals or homes.

“Most of our attention is on what’s real and what’s the real cause,” Clark said. “Drugs or family incidents can provoke these kinds of illnesses and the more they take these drugs the slower they recover.”

Clark did note, however, to keep in mind that street drugs, trauma and urinary tract infections often can cause people to suddenly “masquerade” as if they have mental illness. Having “access to clear facts” is pivotal, he said, to preventing a misdiagnosis.

He said jails can verify whether some inmates are able to get medicine for their mental illness, “but it’s a very narrow definition because they’re not treatment centers.”

“There’s no pain relief and no sleep aids,” Clark said of prisons. “The focus is on safety, not on treatment.”

The criteria categories for mental health that Clark said he follows are:

  • Danger or likelihood of serious harm, either to self, others or property;
  • Mental disorder or severe impairment;
  • Least restrictive alternative.

He encourages people to call early and often when they have new facts in a case.

“Capturing a case by accumulating facts over time may be preferable to one-call leads to an immediate detention,” Clark stated in a handout he distributed about chronic mental illness and the law. “Multiple calls demonstrate (an) issue isn’t a single episode but is evolving.”

Citizens’ Police Academy 6: Ride along

This is the sixth of nine entries about reporter Ethan Fowler’s participation in the Bainbridge Island Police Department’s Citizens’ Police Academy.

Soon after starting my eagerly anticipated ride-along, Bainbridge Island Police Officer Steve Cain cut short the informal tour of the police station to provide help with a car prowling call at the Park & Ride lot off Phelps Road on a recent Saturday night.

We were assisting Officer Trevor Ziemba, who was already at the location. Interestingly, we didn’t use the patrol car’s lights or sirens as we drove quickly to the scene on empty streets at about 8:15 p.m. Cain explained that police officers only use their emergency equipment “as needed” because other drivers are more prone to act unpredictably when they’re on and due to the “liability” factor.

“High speed chases are pretty rare nowadays,” said Cain, who regularly is mandated, like all officers, to maintain his police driving skills on an emergency vehicle operations course.

When we arrived at the Park & Ride, Ziemba radioed Cain that he hadn’t been able to locate the reported prowler so Cain decided to driver further down Phelps to see if he could find the suspect. After driving a few miles and pausing at times to use his side mounted spotlight, Cain called off his pursuit.

Cain is the longest serving police officer on Bainbridge with 27 years on the island and 34 years total after transferring from Indiana. Cain’s 2010 Ford Crown Victoria, which aren’t in production any longer, has more than 56,000 miles on it.

After the fast start to the evening, Cain uses a lull to show me some of the equipment he has at his disposal. His patrol car’s emergency lights have an overhead bar that can provide outstanding illumination, four siren tones, an air horn and various options of light patterns. One of the cool aspects of the equipment is that he can switch into a hands-off mode to use the car’s horn to change the light sequence for increased safety.

Police officers’ ability to catch speeders has also improved over the years. Cain said he had the capability to use radar on cars approaching and receding, stationary and now moving in the same direction.

After receiving a call from Kitsap County’s dispatch center in Bremerton, Cain uses a docked laptop in his cruiser to learn more about cars also on the road or suspects. The touch-screen computer helps him to pull court records, driver’s license information, vehicle history, as well as background on boats, guns or articles such as a lost cell phone.

With a GPS transmitter on his car that’s connected to his laptop, Cain’s location would be easy to find if an emergency arose. Other nearby officers’ location can also be seen on the laptop, as well as firefighters, if he wants to use that option. Cain said prior to receiving a car laptop approximately six to eight years ago, all communication was through radio and addresses were jotted on paper.

He also said most Bainbridge police officers wear cameras in the top pocket of their shirt. This has eliminated a lot of officer complaints from the public since they’ve proven a “great tool” for court testimony. He said the video system doesn’t allow an altering or editing of the recorded video.

Cain is one of two Bainbridge police officers who work during a 10-hour shift. The 17 officers in the BIPD rotate the shifts they work about every eight months.

Like many things, police work has changed “incredibly much” during the past three decades, Cain said.

“It’s really changed dramatically,” he said. “We constantly have to be trained on law updates and policing techniques.”

Cain said he averages taking community members on about five ride-alongs each year.

My five hours with Cain ends with a midnight call about a young man who was found literally asleep at the wheel while his parked car’s engine runs in a grocery store’s parking lot.

After waiting for Ziemba to arrive for backup, Cain wakes up the man. Not wanting to take any chances of the man falling back asleep as he drives home, Cain said he had the cooperative young man call his father to pick him up and drive him home. The father arrives about 15 minutes later.

“It’s new every day,” Cain said when asked what he liked about his job. “A patrol officer has no idea what their shift is going to entail.”

Citizens’ Police Academy 5: Parking enforcement, crime scene investigation

Contributed photo Bainbridge Island Parking Enforcement officer Ken Lundgren
Contributed photo
Bainbridge Island Parking Enforcement officer Ken Lundgren

This is the fifth of nine entries in a column about reporter Ethan Fowler’s participation in the Bainbridge Island Police Department’s Citizens’ Police Academy.

After U-Park System took over the Bainbridge ferry terminal, parking tickets issued from the city have decreased from 3,829 in 2010 to 1,601 in 2013 — only 244 have been issued through February this year, Bainbridge Island Parking Enforcement Officer Ken Lundgren said at a recent Citizens’ Police Academy class.

Lundgren, who previously was a pastor, typically is the only officer on the BIPD that issues parking tickets, but other officers can as well. He often works weekdays, but also works occasionally on weekends. He writes five to eight tickets a day and walks about three to five miles a day during his shift.

“I try to educate people and foster good community relations,” Lundgren said. “I don’t have a quota for parking tickets, but I do have a goal. (I’m) on the lookout for opportunities to give a ticket.”

He did note that tickets or warnings are issued at the discretion of the officer.

Lundgren said that close to half of the tickets that are issued are to vehicles with one or more previous parking tickets. He said more tickets are issued on weekends and during the evening at Harbor Square.

Det. Aimee LaClaire followed Lundgren’s presentation as she talked about crime scene investigation. She said it was important to keep an open mind because “things are not always as they appear to be” and because she must “find the truth to bolster a case.” LaClaire said she tries to find trends and methods of operation. To do this, she relies DNA database, finger prints and ballistics.

“It’s all about teamwork, cooperation and communication,” LaClaire said. “You must document, document and document because a case may take five years to get to court.”

When a detective arrives on a crime investigation scene, LaClaire said officers use photography, videotaping and sketching. Police look for anything out of place, they dust for prints, interview witnesses and note weather conditions, among other things.

“Everything is considered as evidence,” said LaClaire, who previously worked 10 years in Boulder, Colo., before laterally transferring to the BIPD.

The class later was able to put some of what LaClaire talked about by watching a slide show from an actual Bainbridge death and discuss some of the mistakes made during the O.J. Simpson murder case in June 1994.

“What I like about being a detective is it’s like solving a puzzle,” LaClaire said.

LaClaire ended her talk by informing the group that people can fill out a form for police to check their home when they go on vacation.