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Community Comment

Archive for June 2012

On sick leave.

Good evening, Netizens…


At my ripening age in life, I am constantly surrounded by a mix of old and true friends, and a few ghosts that drift aimlessly around my memories giving me vast and plentiful memories of my past. What is perhaps most-distressing to me are the numbers of those I know and love who, like myself, are suffering the pains of old age, seemingly wasting away before my bleary eyes.


My partner, Jeanie, who sometimes writes in Community Comment, is bravely fighting kidney disease on dialysis, and recently went through a bout with various kinds of blood disorders, and recovered , thank God. Sooner or later, according to Jeanie, they will be removing one of her kidneys. As of a month ago, I saw Jeanie face-to-face and could barely see the ravages her ailments were subjecting her to. That is probably a mark of Jeanie's hidden strengths, as I never could tell when she was undergoing dialysis.


However, another shock came yesterday when I chanced to call Marty Hibbs, only to discover he was in Scared Heart hospital to have a pacemaker installed. Yeek! If they were going to put a pacemaker in my heart, I feel certain they would have to call in a crack team of cardiac surgeons, given I already have two stents and a heart murmur to my credit. However, Marty immediately made an appointment for later this week for coffee at one of our usual hideaways, which gave me great optimism. My God, he is indomitable!


Having just completed a major work task over the last two or three weeks, and I hasten to add under considerable duress, I know now that my days of performing such work of high intensity could be hazardous to my continuing health. Between my diabetes and heart disease, I simply cannot undertake such arduous tasks in the near future. However, I learned from the error of my ways, as I won't be trying anything so stressful in the future.


Instead I will hold these two and other friends close to my heart, hoping that we all will survive to see many joyous days into the future.



Not-so-serious criminal intent…


Good morning, Netizens…


Egods, it's just after 1:00 AM and as often is my habit, I have crawled forth from my bed-cave to answer an old man's natural call and check the news wires after an otherwise very arduous and terribly sad day of mayhem and death. While I am sitting at my desk in the Great Chair, I hear a brief blat on a police car siren. What to my bleary eyes appears but a police car outside my window, its lights flashing in the darkness, with a man laying prone on the street pavement.


Rather than groveling in paranoia or trepidation, my wife and I begin cautiously monitoring events on the street outside. The officer gives the prone suspect several verbal commands which, to our uninformed eyes, the individual on the pavement appears to comply with. It is over within a matter of moments, and the police car moves on down the street, the suspect drifts on down the street as well.


What neither the police officer nor the suspect realize is that, based upon our experiences, people who walk down our street at one in the morning and arouse the suspicions of the police are generally always monitored closely. It doesn't take a band of heroin addicts or retailers armed to the gills shooting at police to arouse our suspicions. It doesn't even take a handful of police cars rumbling through our neighborhood to arouse our trepidations. For the most part, ours is a placid community of working-class people, most of whom struggle each day to pay their bills and live peaceably with one another. Anything that deviates from that norm is automatically suspect.


It was too bad about the guy being rousted by police for walking innocently enough down the street, but the alternatives, ie., late-night burglaries and assaults, simply are not acceptable. Now it's time to creep back beneath the sheets, perhaps to dream of better times. Sleep well.



The Higher Authority called into question…

Good morning, Netizens…


First, a bit of case law:


The case is Wallace et al v. ConAgra Foods Inc, U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, No. 12-01354.


Now mind you, I have always wondered about the advertising for Hebrew National Hot Dog brand. I have always wondered whether they truly had a rabbi standing at the head of the manufacturing lines, sniffing/tasting the hot dogs coming down the line to make certain they are kosher. Well, apparently as reported last week by American Jewish World, a publication based in Minnesota, other people are questioning the veracity of the advertising too.


According to the complaint, Omaha, Nebraska-based ConAgra marks Hebrew National packages with a “Triangle K” symbol, and represents that the contents are kosher “as defined by the most stringent Jews who follow Orthodox Jewish law.”


ConAgra has long used the slogan “we answer to a higher authority” to promote Hebrew National products. It is possible but I wonder if we haven't discovered the higher authority of which they have spoken. It is possible the higher authority is the gawdalmighty dollar, not God Almighty.


The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages and an injunction against further mislabeling. Their lawsuit seeks class-action status for U.S. purchasers of Hebrew National products over the last four years, and alleges negligence and violations of state consumer fraud laws. Requests for comment from the “Higher Authority” however went unanswered.



Vladimir Putin feeding war in Syria…

Good morning, Netizens…


Vladimir Putin has never truly been a choir boy for democracy, or so suggests cartoonist extraordinaire David Horsey. In fact, aside from having served as a former KGB agent, Putin is as diabolical and just plain mean-spirited as the Russians were during the Cold War.


Under his tutelage, Putin is now letting his Russian heritage from the past show itself with respect to Russia's support of Syria's Bashar Assad's brutal crackdown on opponents of his bloody regime. Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton complained that the Russians were sending helicopter gunships to Syria, a move that most certainly would escalate the ongoing Civil War in Syria even further.


The United States, some European nations and the United Nations have been attempting to build a united front against Assad, but with the Russian's Security Council veto, nothing is being positively done in that direction. There are even vague mutterings that the Russians might even bring Iran into the discussion, a concept that is tantamount to bringing an opposum into a nest of hatchling chickens for a dinner invitation.


The Russians appear to be picking and choosing their allies from among the world's most repressive, bloodthirsty regimes, which doesn't bode well for any meaningful peace process around the world. David Horsey states that for Putin, old habits die hard, and I couldn't agree more. Peace in Syria implies that Putin has to leave the stage, as he is a constant source of irritation in an already frustrating political world.



Post boom-boom….

Good morning, Netizens…


In case you slept completely through it, last night we had one of Spokane's occasional thunderstorms, complete with sporadic heavy rains and hail. Having lived in the Midwest and portions of the Deep South, I suppose last night's thunderstorms weren't really all that severe, as we had time between the individual peals of thunder to speculate how long we would wait until the next barrage of light and sound. Having endured several truly severe thunderstorms, I know that a good old-fashioned Midwestern severe thunderstorm would never give us the time to contemplate before the next lightning strike, not to mention the occasional tornado dropping from the sky. Both happen more frequently in the Midwest and Deep South than we ever see here in the Inland Northwest, but last night's storm rattled the window casements fairly well and made us worry about our electronics, for lightning storms and electronics do not always mix as well as coffee and milk.


This morning's weather, however, is still muggy, unsettling perhaps, almost uncomfortable enough to turn on the air conditioning, which suggests that we might have more crash-and-bang shows from Mother Nature before today is complete.


However, at shortly after 4:00 AM this morning, all of Mother Nature, including a particularly vocal robin and a woodpecker, are doing their best to welcome the new day regardless of what may come next. Upon rising, when I peered at the NEXRAD weather radar this morning, I witnessed the Eastern edge of last night's storm sidling off to the East, perhaps to terrorize Montana later on today.


In the interim, here I sit at age 65 observing the vagaries of nature, rapt in all its majesty and mystery and thankful that I lost nothing more than a few hours of sleep last night. As I am often fond of saying, it's another wonderful day in Paradise.



Introduction to Larry Bamonte’s open letter…


Good evening, Netizens…


I have not met former detective Tony Bamonte although I have spoken with him by phone a number of times. My thoughts regarding his involvement in matters relating to the City of Spokane and its our city's history of malfeasance and corruption are that he has repeatedly proven himself above reproach, distinguished and highly professional in all ways during his 25 years of experience, not to mention 8 years of experience as a City of Spokane Police Officer.


Early last week, I received a series of messages from former detective Ron Wright, a portion of which I have already addressed, which also included a message from Tony Bamonte which was hand-delivered to our current Mayor David Condon and current Spokane City Attorney Nancy Isserlis. It is a lengthy message, including several important policy and procedural statements, many of which have been addressed in the past. I most strenuously encourage everyone to read this document, which follows, and carefully consider all that Tony Bamonte has to say.


By all means, please feel free to comment and/or add your thoughts to this scholarly and historically-significant document.





Open letter to our Mayor and City Attorney…




Tony Bamonte

1308 E. 29th Avenue

Spokane, WA 99203

Spokane Mayor David Condon

Spokane City Attorney Nancy Isserlis

City of Spokane, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.

Spokane, WA 99201


Dear Mayor Condon and City Attorney Isserlis:


Recent developments have exposed criminal actions on the part of former city leaders. These actions, which have now been proven and admitted, establish an absence of integrity and honor on the part of public officials who engaged in this conduct and cover up. Abundant evidence proves that those criminal actions are part of a long-standing pattern of public corruption in Spokane that has caused and continues to cause serious injury to the community. This situation demands a legal remedy that you, by virtue of your offices, owe the public a duty to pursue. My purpose in writing you is to discharge my duties as a citizen and call upon you to take the immediate legal action required of you.

To qualify myself, I am a retired law enforcement officer with over 25-years of experience. Over 12 of those years were as the elected sheriff of a Washington State county. During my career, I made numerous high profile arrests and consistently put together cases that easily withstood the scrutiny of the courts. I know and clearly understand the criminal laws of the state of Washington. As the sheriff of a small county, I was the one who made the final decision before a case ever went to the prosecutor. Even during my time as a Spokane City police officer (over 8 years), my integrity was well known. I was among the top-producing officers in Spokane and had a reputation for making solid arrests and getting convictions.

Recommendations to the Commission:

Good morning, Netizens…


Last night the Use of Force Commission met and heard testimony on recommendations for enhancing police accountability. The sad part is that none of the Spokane news media were in attendance, despite the number of reasons they should have been. However, former detective Ron Wright made some recommendations which I feel have a great deal of merit, and since, as far as I can tell, nobody is covering last night's meeting in the Spokane news media, I obtained permission from Ron to reprint his entire list of recommendations for everyone's edification.


I do not always agree 100% with Ron Wright on many issues, but I believe in this case he has hit the proverbial nail on the head. There are some other upcoming issues of equal importance in which Ron is involved, and they will be addressed as soon as they become public knowledge, as they are equally important.


However, at last night's meeting, Ron read portions of his recommendations into the public record, and with his permission, I am including his entire list of recommendations here for your edification.


*Re: Recommendations for organizational and procedural changes to enhance police accountability*


* *


Otto Zehm's tragic death and the cover-up that ensued were the result of a total system failure much like the Nixon Watergate scandal to cover-up a third rate burglary. Some of the dynamics of this failure are beyond the control of the City. Otto’s death was the catalyst that exposed the dirty under belly of the local criminal justice system.  The death of Otto was just the tip of the iceberg of other problematic local officer involved shootings and deaths (OIS/OID). These cases would be few and far between if local law enforcement and the prosecutor’s office had moral, ethical and professional leadership with a strong desire to search for the truth instead of spending much effort to cover up mistakes, abuse and misconduct from public exposure.




There are many fine men and women who are doing a very difficult job day in and day out that need our support to weed out the bad apples and to install a police command staff that has the intestinal fortitude to lead and to discipline the rank and file when appropriate. The City has not only failedWE THE PEOPLE but has failed its police officers for condoning and sanctioning poor police leadership. If there is no support from the top officers who do speak out will find themselves without backup on hot calls




All the Zehm family wanted was an apology and assurances that such tragedies wouldn’t happen again by cops allowed to go rogue by inept,incompetent and clueless law enforcement leaders, the City Attorney’s Office, the Office of the Mayor and the County Prosecutor’s Office.  In short high ranking members of the SPD, the City Attorney’s Office and the Office of the Mayor lied to the citizens.  Mayor Condon commissioned you to make recommendations to prevent such incidents from happening again and to change the culture and behavior of the SPD that has sanctioned these incidents.




The City of Spokane should demonstrate that it is very serious about bringing real change to the SPD to earn the trust and confidence of the people not by words but by action and behavior. The people should not be afraid of their own police force as some occupying military force instead.  The Spokane Police Guild has strayed into areas that historically are the rights and prerogatives of management e.g., a case of the tail wagging the dog.  Prior administrations have abrogated these rights. I have attached a number of actions the City could implement as a showing of good faith to return the graciousness of the Zehm family.  I have also attached a recent letter to the City by former Sheriff Tony Bamonte and my resume.




In the end it will be WE THE PEOPLE who will pay for the failure of our elected and appointed leaders to address this serious problem.







* *


The following actions require no negotiations with the Spokane Police Guild:




1).  First and foremost because of the abdication of County Prosecutor Steve Tucker of his duties and responsibilities in reviewing officer involved shootings and deaths (OIS/OID), a good way of quickly publicly vetting the evidence/testimony of these incidents would be hold inquest hearings when the criminal investigation is submitted to the prosecutor for review.




This would raise the professional bar of how these investigations are conducted. Well-done criminal investigations would facilitate the later IA investigations whether any criminal charges are file or not.  If mistakes were made and or identified, police policy, procedure and training can be quickly changed to prevent future incidents.




2).  An after action review of what led to the Zehm death is greatly needed. The cover up of Otto’s death was the result of a systemic organizational failure. Professionals outside of the City of Spokane’s influence that include law enforcement professionals and not necessarily academics and legal experts must do this review.




3). The now infamous SPD salute is still offensive to many Spokane citizens. City Attorney Nancy Isserlis should study the existing case law.   This was an actionable offense under current SPD conduct policy regardless of whether these officers were off-duty. This is not a free speech issue as case law is quite clear as a condition of employment police officers can be held to a professional conduct policy – both on and off duty.




What would be appropriate is a letter to the officers’ personnel files that would be purged in one year that such action would no longer be tolerated. What disturbs me is that SPD command rank officers were present when the salute occurred. This would send a strong and clear message that the new City leadership is breaking with the past and intends to put its house in order.




4).  Recommend that the multi-agency investigative team (created and managed by a joint powers agreement) that currently responds to all officer-involved shootings/deaths (OIS/OID), hire a law enforcement expert in OIS/OID investigations. This consultant could accompany the team on several future investigations. The consultant could give hands on training and make recommendations on how these investigations can be improved.



I have extensively reviewed the Scott Creach OIS and found it lacking in several areas. I don’t believe the deputy involved was being entirely truthful on what happened that night.  While this OIS may not be criminal in nature it poses significant police policy, procedure and training issues that have not been resolved.  Is this because of lack of knowledge and or the lack of desire to ask the hard questions? Sometimes this could be from  groupthink, failure to believe that officers will sometimes lie, and not thinking outside of the box.




5). The City should set clear policy that it will not tolerate the continued employment of officers that are found lying.  Arbitrators fail to understand the necessity of holding officers to a higher standard because of court sanctions.  Arbitrators will order the rehiring of officers who lie if there is no set public policy as to lying by police officers. This may be a factor in hesitating to fire officers when it is well justified. As recently reported by the S-R there are *Brady issues* in retaining officers that have lost credibility in the courts – Officers Moses and McIntyre.




6). In recognition of Mayor’s Condon’s new direction of consolidating/coordinating police services where  possible, recommend the creation of a regional police academy under the administration of a local community college with the guidance of local law enforcement agencies that would send newly hired police trainees.  This in and of itself would go a long way to establish local best practices and procedures.




The local practice of higher police laterals from other agencies should not be abandoned but a concerted effort needs to be made to recruit and hire local applicants.  Before a lateral candidate is hired a comprehensive background investigation is vital especially if the candidate has had multiple previous law enforcement employers.  If there was a regional academy, candidates that were interested in pursuing a law enforcement career could put themselves through at their own expense and then could be hired by local agencies.



7).  The Mayor and the City Council should request that the US DOJ continue with its current criminal investigation in the Thompson case to charge when possible any and all who were complicit and or aided and abetted in the cover-up. They have a wonderful tool that Tucker fails to use when dealing with reluctant witnesses - a federal grand jury.




8).  The Mayor and the City Council should request that US DOJ formally investigate the case of former SPD Ofc. Edwards as to why he was never charged and or at least fired after the IA investigation. The Thompson and Edwards cases are like peas in a pod and illustrative of the systemic problem of high level officials in covering up these cases of misconduct and abuse of police power.




10).  In view of the recent report by the WA Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs that SPD is down some one hundred officers per capita when compared to other similar cities, is this really the case and why?  Underlying staffing issues can have serious consequences within police organizations and spillover negative effects on the community.




11).  And lastly a way forward that has a real chance of bringing the substantive change in the culture and behavior of SPD and other local law enforcement agencies is to create a center for law enforcement excellence.  The rules of engagement between a military in an active war zone and those of civilian law enforcement within a civil society have become clouded and blurred. In some cases local law enforcement is twenty years behind real time.




This center would be separate from local law enforcement agencies. This center could be funded with seed money from the City in recognition of the Zehm family’s graciousness and could be named after Otto. The center should have its own board of directors that are largely independent of the local political environment. Such a center would side step the local political corruption (See attached letter by former Sheriff Tony Bamonte). The center would have credibility when it critiques local police practice and procedure.




The board should be comprised of law enforcement experts from out of our area and include some members of the community.  Annual contributions by the City for operating expenses could be included for a few years to come. Once the center is created grant funding could be sought from the US DOJ, the National Institute of Health and other organizations both governmental and private.




The center would be a professional think tank both regionally and nationally for law enforcement best practices. The center could also draw from the criminal justice programs at WSU, EWU and Whitworth and perhaps could be located on one of these campuses.  Research as suggested by Dr. Matt Layton and other could be coordinated and funded by grants administered by this center.



[NOTE:  I would also add I would strongly support providing and requiring the use of body cams.  In my opinion while this may require meet and conferring regarding matters of policy/procedure, this isn't an issue that the Police Guild can hold hostage in salary negotiations]


Ron Wright

505 West Riverside Ave., Suite 550

Spokane, WA 99201


[Used with permission]


Ray Bradbury dies at age 91…

Good afternoon, Netizens…


Ray Bradbury, one of my personal heroes, a Pulitzer Prize winning writer who paved the road of imagination for an entire generation of those who still believe in its power, has died at age 91 yesterday, and I fear the world of writing will be far worse off for his absence. Although Bradbury wrote a plethora of stories, the story he wrote which most-deeply touched me, “The Fog Horn”, tells a sad tale of a prehistoric beast that calls forlornly to a mate who will never answer, for it is mistakenly calling to a foghorn. Although the years have passed since I first read this short story, I will never forget the horrible sadness of this brand of unrequited love, as the primordial beast from the deeps destroys the old light house.


One of Bradbury's primary works, Fahrenheit 451, still resides on my bookshelf along with “The Martian Chronicles”, and while both volumes are tattered and somewhat dogeared from decades of reading, they remain as cherished as they both were the first time I turned their pages, diving deeply into the magnificence of Bradbury's talent for writing resoundingly-good tales woven through and through with threads of occasional genius and the unspoken belief, on the author's part, that life is richly full of wonder.


Some reviewers have called Bradbury “the world's greatest science fiction writer”, but little do they know, for he was first and foremost a writer of superb fantasy, tinged with myths, fables and metaphorical largesse.


It has been years since I last heard the majestic voice of the foghorn blowing along the coast of San Francisco, down by the shoreline where I often spent foggy evenings near the Cliff House, and I have often wondered if or when a beast from the sea will come to call for its mate in the fog.


Thanks to Ray Bradbury's vivid imagination, generations may come during which others will ask that same question, as unrequited as a giant beast from the depths of the ocean calling to what it imagines is a long-lost lover from long ago.


Rest in Peace, Ray Bradbury. You will be missed.



Breast-Feeding Service Moms Gagged

Two local servicewomen who posed for photos in uniform as they breast-fed their children say they have been silenced by superiors. The photos, meanwhile, have spread across the Web amid a fresh wave of debate about breast-feeding in public. The photos were part of a campaign for the Mom2Mom Breastfeeding Support Group, launched in January by military wife Crystal Scott at Fairchild Air Force Base. They were going to be used on posters the group planned to hang on and off base for breast-feeding awareness month in August. They feature two Fairchild guardsmen and mothers, Terran Echegoyen-McCabe and Christina Luna, breast-feeding their babies while wearing their Washington Air National Guard uniforms. Echegoyen-McCabe said she did one interview before she was ordered to stop by her superior officers. “They ordered me not to speak to the media,” she said before declining further comment/Chelsea Bannach, SR. More here.


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