Category Archives: Issues in Law Enforcement

Followup: Has the S’Klallam Tribe paid for 911 services … or not?

Today on the Kitsap Caucus blog, Kitsap Sun reporter Amy Phan follows up the continuing controversy over the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe’s contract with Kitsap County’s emergency dispatching service. 

The basic gist: when Kitsap County Central Communications (CenCom) switched to a new payment formula for agencies to use it ($50,000 per year to buy 911 services and then pro rated per call over 10,000 calls) the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe didn’t like that prospect.

That leaves the governing board of CenCom, made up of a host of delegates from local agencies, with a choice: turn off their service, or keep it going.

The tribe disputes they’re delinquent in their payments.

“The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribes does not need to arrange catch-up payments,”  Jeromy Sullivan, S’Klallam Tribe chairman, wrote in a Sept. 23 letter to CenCom. “We are already caught up and have paid our fair share of 911 CenCom services.”

For more on the topic, check out Phan’s entry on the caucus blog here.

Heroes of South Kitsap Walmart shooting honored

Krista McDonald — the Kitsap County Sheriff’s deputy and hero on that January day when a Utah man shot two of her fellow deputies at Walmart — was awarded the sheriff’s office’s highest honor at a ceremony in September. 

McDonald was awarded the medal of valor by Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer.

“The actions of Deputy Krista McDonald saved the lives of two wounded deputies, most likely her own life, and eliminated an imminent threat to public safety and the lives of civilians who were in the immediate vicinity,” Boyer said. “These actions are acts of exceptional professionalism as well as heroism in the face of grave danger.”

As you’ll recall from our previous coverage:

Seeing two of her fellow officers wounded by a Utah fugitive, Kitsap County Sheriff’s deputy Krista McDonald engaged the suspect, Anthony A. Martinez, hitting him in the knee with a hollow-point bullet fired from her .40-caliber Glock, bringing him to the ground from 60 feet away.


Also awarded for their heroics in the Jan. 23 incident at the sheriff’s awards banquet:

A sheriff’s certificate of appreciation was awarded to David Wilson, a Harrison Medical Center nurse who helped at the scene before medics arrived.

Deputies Troy Graunke and Mark Gundrum and reserve deputy Darryl Barnes were awarded sheriff’s commendation for their response to the scene.

And last, but most certainly not least, deputies Andrew Ejde and John Stacy, wounded by gunfire, were presented law enforcement’s purple heart medal and the medal of courage.

The National Sheriffs’ Association’s Award of the Medal of Valor, was also presented to Ejde, McDonald and Stacy.


Is meth on its way out?


Methamphetamine, that crystalline psycho-stimulant that’s been plaguing our communities for years now, appears to be on the decline around the nation, according to results of a survey released by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

As penned in a USA Today article:

“… methamphetamine use, which raced across the USA for a decade, has declined sharply. The number of past-month users fell from 731,000 in 2006 to 353,000 in 2010.”

So could this be the beginning of the end for methamphetamine?

In our area, I’m not seeing any slowdown in police reports from around the county. But we have certainly seen heroin rear its ugly head in the past couple years. And, as you can see from this one sentence I’ve posted from a real police report, it appears, at least anecdotally, that at least one drug seller was having a tough time pushing meth.

I’ve spoken to Bremerton Police Special Operations Group Sgt. Randy Plumb about that very sentence, and he told me not to give it much credence. There’s still plenty of demand out there.

As the report shows, it certainly isn’t the end for marijuana use, which is ingested regularly by almost 7 percent of Americans, up from 6 percent in 2007. But newer laws and education efforts appear to be working in the fight against meth.

UPDATE: The National Drug Threat Assessment, authored by the Department of Justice, is out and says that actually, meth demand is increasing in some markets in America:

“High levels of methamphetamine production in Mexico, along with increasing smallscale domestic production, have resulted in
increasing methamphetamine availability,” it says.

Apparently, the federal government’s public health arm and its law enforcement arm appear to be contradicting each other a bit.

In memoriam: The crown vic, law enforcement’s ‘warhorse’

Police officers have a reputation for being tough. But over the past week, I’ve heard several cops wax nostalgic about the departure of a dear colleague: The Ford Crown Victoria.

The “crown vic,” for short, has become, in its three decades, a sine qua non of American police departments. But Ford has decided it’s time for the model to accept its pension and gold watch, according to an article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

“It is a sad day,” said Kitsap County Undersheriff Dennis Bonneville. “The old crown vic has served law enforcement well for many years.”

Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer called the crown vic law enforcement’s longtime “warhorse.”

“The Crown Vic was probably the best patrol car used by law enforcement agencies ever,” echoed Mason County Chief Deputy Dean Byrd. “It was bulletproof and durable. It was agile and large enough to house all of the equipment necessary for a deputy or officer to do his or her job.”

Byrd added that some departments, including Port Angeles police, aren’t yet willing to let go, experimenting with rebuilding their existing crown vics to extend their functional lives.

“So far the results are promising,” he said.

For those not going the Port Angeles route, what’s next?

Poulsbo Police Sgt. Bob Wright said his department had been expecting the crown vic’s departure — and had even found something they liked a little better a few years back, gas prices be darned: an SUV.

“In 2003, we started to move from sedans to a more versatile police vehicle, a four wheel drive Ford Explorer which was built on a truck frame. The vehicle cost was nearly the same as the Crown Vic.

The four wheel drive turned out to be the best value for the money. The vehicles could go anywhere which is especially valuable in a City that is built on hills and gets some very bad weather in the winters.  Prior to this we were having to chain up and down police cars daily and breaking lots of tire chains during response to emergencies.”

There’s also the factor that law enforcement officers are increasingly tasked with carrying more and more equipment, he pointed out.

Ford, of course, is rolling out new “police interceptor” patrol cars to meet the law enforcement demand. If more police departments move to something bigger, like Poulsbo did, they could pick Ford’s SUV interceptor model.

Port Orchard Police Chief Al Townsend added his department is looking to try the new Chevrolet Caprice and Ford Police Interceptor  (its sedan model).

If history tells us anything, the police car of the future — in America at least — will probably be a Ford. The Crown Victoria held 70 percent of the market for police vehicles last year, according to the Star-Tribune article.

Red light cameras: ‘A local tax on law-breakers?’

Are red light cameras simply a way to levy a tax on people who break the law? 

Douglas Berman, a law professor at The Ohio State University, stakes this claim on his blog.

More than 500 cities — including Bremerton — in 25 states now use them, according to the National Coalition for Safer Roads. Critics argue that governments are just using them to make money, they’re a sign of Big Brother and they don’t improve safety.

But here’s Berman’s take:

“Assuming the data reported here on lives saved is accurate (a big if), I am inclined to be a vocal advocate for greater use of red-light cameras.  Indeed, as long as these cameras do not increase traffic accidents, I still favor a policy that raises revenue through what is essentially a local tax on law-breakers.

Especially if monies collected from traffic violations properly recorded by red-light camera are used on other public safety fronts, these cameras seem to me to be a win-win for all fans of utilitarian approaches to crime and punishment.  Or, dear readers, am I missing something important in this roadway safety cost/benefit analysis?”

I suggest you check out the comments section to see some interesting dialogue.

My colleague Steven Gardner posted the stats of Bremerton’s revenue from red light tickets on the Kitsap Caucus blog. Here are the numbers:

In 2010 Bremerton took in $685,232 in revenue for red-light cameras. The money sent to Redflex Inc, the Arizona company that runs the system, was $443,639. That gets us $241,593 for the year. In 2009 Andy Parks, former financial services director, said it cost the city about $7,500 a month in staff time to run the program. I can only assume now that the figure came from paying for the officers to look at the ticket and estimating the extra cost it takes to run each infraction through the municipal court system. That’s $90,000 a year. So if that accounts for all the city takes in, the annual net income for Bremerton in 2010 would have been $151,593.

The cameras do seem to improve safety at intersections that have them, according to The Insurance Industry for Highway Safety. From a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article Berman cited, “a study showed a 24 percent decline in fatalities from red-light running in cities where the cameras are used, and reductions of 40 to 96 percent in violations.  It has estimated that 150 lives were saved over five years in the 14 biggest cities that use them.”

I fully realize this is a debate that goes on and on (and on and on). But Berman’s argument — that red light cameras are a law breaker’s tax deserves attention in its own right. Anyone find merit in it?

Smile in that license photo — now, cops can see it in their patrol cars

It’s not always easy for the police around here to identify a suspect, particularly a shifty one. But a new tool, made possible by grant funding, makes it a little easier.

Cops often have trouble figuring out who someone is, particularly if they don’t provide any identification on them (or they do, but it’s bogus). They’ve long had to rely on a physical description for such folks, and that doesn’t always mean they’re able to successfully figure out who they are.

A pot of $300,000 later, and now everyone’s mug — at least those of us with Washington state driver’s licenses — is available to a police officer in his or her patrol car’s onboard computer.

Officials are quick to tout the potential benefits. A person who successfully lies about their identity could be covering up the fact they have a warrant for their arrest, for instance. The system should be in place for most law enforcement agencies around the state by November.

Here’s the full press release from the Washington State Patrol:

(Olympia) – A common practice for a criminal when asked by the police for their name is to use a false one. But, it just got easier for police to confirm a suspect’s real identity.

Previously, police officers had to rely on text descriptions of physical characteristics to make a positive identification. New computer capabilities now give police throughout Washington the ability to retrieve driver license photos.  Police can use their in-car computer to quickly and efficiently confirm the identity of the people they contact.

“This is about catching bad guys who are trying to deceive us by using fake names,” said State Patrol Chief John Batiste. “We are now able to quickly determine the real identity of these people.”

A $300,000 grant through the State, Regional and Federal Enterprise Retrieval System (SRFERS) project and from the Washington Auto Theft Prevention Authority (WATPA) has made it possible for police officers to quickly confirm an individual’s identity with a copy of a Department of Licensing photo.

“The WATPA board members were convinced that providing this new technology to officers in the field would aid in the preservation of public safety and in the apprehension of offenders including those who engage in auto theft,” said Don Pierce, WATPA Chair. “We are extremely pleased with the results of this grant program.”

Lewis County Sheriff’s Office is the first agency in the state to have the ability to view DOL photos through the State Patrol’s A Central Computerized Enforcement Service System (ACCESS).  Most law enforcement agencies in Washington will have the capability to view driver license photos through ACCESS by November, 2011.

“We are very thankful for this emerging technology.  Our office has been progressive in keeping up with ever changing technology and utilizing it to keep our community safe,” said Lewis County Sheriff Steve Mansfield.

“Having DOL pictures instantaneously will help us in a lot of ways, including identifying people for criminal investigations, traffic stops, hit and run collisions, and helping identify missing or lost people,” he explained.

The grant funding by SRFERS gave many states outside of Washington including, Oregon and Idaho the ability to share driver license photos through the ACCESS system.  The funding by WATPA gave police agencies from around the state the same ability to use the system to quickly retrieve a copy of a driver’s license photo and make positive identification.

The ACCESS system is managed and operated by the WSP’s Criminal Records Division and is designed to give law enforcement the ability to query multiple state and national databases as a tool in the administration of criminal justice. 

Kitsap’s prosecutors won’t take on Pierce County detective’s threat case

The Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office, asked to review alleged threats made by a Pierce County Sheriff’s detective to a Pierce County deputy prosecutor, has declined to file charges, according to an article in the Tacoma News Tribune.

The News Tribune quoted a letter sent by Kitsap County’s Chief of Case Management Ione George:

“Under the law, we cannot file criminal charges just because we believe that a person committed a crime,” George wrote. “Rather, we must be able to prove the case to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. After reviewing this case, I have concluded that our office could not meet that burden of proof.”

The circumstances of the threat are rather bizarre. Check out the story when you get a chance.

Family, Friends of Slain Kitsap Deputy Take to Facebook to Protest Killer’s Parole

The possible parole of the man who killed Kitsap County Sheriff’s deputy Dennis Allred in 1978 has galvanized his family and friends to organize on Facebook.

A page has begun to rally support to keep Nedley G. Norman in prison long after his parole hearing later this year. Note: you may have to be logged in to see the page.

Here’s what Gina Vinecourt, Allred’s daughter, wrote about the page:

“This page was created in an effort to gain support to keep my dad’s killer in prison. His killer was convicted and sentenced to death in October 1978. Since then, due to changes in the law he went from being on death row, to life without possibility of parole, and finally to a minimum 600 months (50 years) to life.

After serving 33 years, the killer is up for parole in July 2011, due to the “justice system”. Please join us in gathering as many signatures from residents of Washington State-letting the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board know we want this killer to remain in prison for the minimum term of 50 years to life.

A link to the petition is available to download. If you decide to help in this cause, please e-mail me with your information. I would like to keep track of those involved and making sure we gather all petitions that are filled out. Please forward the petitions to me by June 13, 2011-to make sure there is enough time for presentation to the Board.

This effort is open to all citizens, not only Law Enforcement. This killer’s release not only affects me, my family, and law enforcement members, but everyone in our community.

Thank you for your help in my fight.”

Here’s the way the Kitsap Sun characterized what happened:

“Around 11 p.m. April 19, 1978, along a rare flat stretch of Illahee-Brownsville Road, Kitsap County Sheriff’s Deputy Dennis Allred became the only law-enforcement official killed in the line of duty in Kitsap County.

Allred had stopped a truck towing an engineless car. As he spoke with two occupants of the truck, James Stemkowski and Steve Richards, an unseen third occupant, Nedley G. Norman, shot Allred twice in the chest and then walked to his fallen body and delivered a fatal shot to the head.

The trio, who were towing a stolen car, fled the scene but the next day, Stemkowski turned himself in, breaking the case.

It was a killing that shocked Kitsap County. A member of the sheriff’s department for less than three years, Allred’s funeral in Bremerton drew representatives from law enforcement agencies throughout the state and country, as well as thousands of local residents.

Stemkowski and Richards pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and were sentenced to long prison terms. Because emotions were so high, Norman, 24, received a change of venue and was tried in Pierce County. He was found guilty and, on Aug. 30, 1978, was sentenced to death.”

That death sentence began a life sentence and then, that life sentence became a possible parole sentence.

Sheriff Boyer Stresses ‘Civility’ in Wake of Police Shootings

It was hard in January not to feel the force of numerous nationwide news stories chronicling violence around America — particularly against the police.

Here’s what happened, according to Meg Laughlin of the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times:

The end of January has been a deadly time for police officers around the country. The shootings and killings — which felled 12 officers and a U.S. marshal’s deputy over five days — began with two Miami police officers being shot and killed on Jan. 20 while trying to serve an arrest warrant on a fugitive wanted for murder. Four days later, an Indianapolis officer was shot in the head during a traffic stop and died in the hospital.

The same day, four officers were shot in Detroit, two deputies in Port Orchard, Wash., and another officer in Lincoln City, Ore. Then, Monday morning in St. Petersburg, two police officers and a U.S. marshal’s deputy were shot while attempting to serve an arrest warrant at a home. The two officers died.

Which raises the question: Even as overall violent crime is declining across the nation, is this sudden rash of police shootings the beginning of an era marked by an escalation of brazen, cold-blooded cop killers?

With a half a month’s distance from the violence, the tide of shootings has subsided — though any officer would tell you there’s no such thing as a routine traffic stop.

I asked Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer what he made of the violent January, of which his deputies too were violently attacked:

“I’m hoping the increase in frequency of police involved shootings is not a long term trend,” he said. “It does worry me that it seems like people are attacking our institutions, attacking the symbols of our society.”

“I think civility needs to be stressed more.”

What could have caused the surge? Was it just random? Slate has an interesting piece out about “predictive policing.” Perhaps, as it points out, police shootings — or rather people lashing out violently against authority — could be like an earthquake, in which there are initial tremors, a big incident and aftershocks.

In Memoriam: Kitsap County Sheriff’s K-9 Ryker

Ryker, a German Shepherd that has long tracked down suspects of crimes in Kitsap County, has died.

Ryker, long the partner of Kitsap County Sheriff’s deputy Aaron Baker, joined the sheriff’s office in 2002.

You can read the story about Ryker here.

While somewhat dated, here’s a list of K-9s in the service of law enforcement on the Kitsap peninsula. Bremerton Officer Brian Johnson, and his dog Tabor, retired last year.