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How close we came to a disaster Friday…

 Good evening, Netizens…

A single man was armed with a shotgun, and half a dozen or more police officers were shooting at him. One would reasonably conclude that the shooter would be riddled with bullet holes, but not according to the autopsy report. According to the Medical Examiners report, the man with the shotgun had just two bullet holes in his body. Witnesses and audio tapes of the shooting all show perhaps as many as 40 shots being fired by police. There were bullet holes in surrounding houses.

On the other hand, a KREM-TV report states there were 29 bullet holes in a building owned by the Spokane Tribe of Indians on Northwest Boulevard. Today, simply because I was curious, I went and looked at the building in question, and I could plainly see the bullet holes in their building and numerous windows.

The question that immediately arose is are the Spokane Police that deplorable at shooting? Even as a young man, I was taught to always make certain I had a good field of fire before pulling the trigger, making certain there was nothing behind or near my target which could be hit by gunfire. Until now, I presumed they taught young students at the Police Academy the same common-sense rule. Get a good field of fire and make certain of your target before you pull the trigger.

While I was visiting the building, I was also able to verify that college students and school-age children regularly use the facility. In fact, on most normal Fridays, students would have been present in the room where a hail of police bullets came through the windows. It didn’t take any imagination at all to conceive of wounded children being sprayed by police bullets. We could have easily had a major disaster here, narrowly averting it only because the kids were not in class that day.

Something is wrong here, folks, but don’t hold your breath awaiting justice.

It seems unlikely that any of the police officers who are on administrative leave are going to be charged. The bullets that went through the windows or outer walls were anonymous, much the same as they would have been had they hit students in the room.


Spokane Police Guild says hell no to compromise…

Good morning, Netizens…

We knew the Spokane Police Guild was never our friends. In fact, as proven in numerous instances, they are very much arrogantly a power unto their own, despite what anyone says to the contrary. Now that the City of Spokane is down to cutting jobs as a last-ditch effort to balance the budget, you might think that the Guild would be saying something to the Mayor akin to, “How can we help? What can we do to avoid cutting jobs from the department?”

That doesn’t seem possible based upon what written by Ernie Wuthrich, the head of the Spokane Police Guild, in a letter to Mayor Mary Verner. He has said no way. This is not a good thing.

According to the Spokesman-Reviews’ Shawn Vestal at http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2010/sep/24/alleged-givebacks-are-a-cop-out-its-time-for-a/ there is an alternative to laying off police officers. Give back some of the planned pay raises for police in 2011 and pay a bigger proportion of the medical insurance. Wuthrich has already stated that if the job cuts in the police department take place, the Police Guild will “lawyer up” and file a complaint with labor relations.

It is painfully-obvious that the Guild will have to take a few cuts in pay increases and pay a bit more into their medical insurance or else sacrifice police officers’ jobs. A lot of other people in City Hall have already taken cuts; it seems certain that unless cuts are made, men and women of the Spokane Police Department will lose their jobs.

Accepting pay cuts seems like a good compromise, but the Guild has never been known as one to compromise, even when the stakes are high.


Police Ombudsman to get additional powers…

Good morning, Netizens…

Well, bless my heart! The City Council voted unanimously in favor of giving the Tim Burns, Police Ombudsman, additional autonomous powers last night.

Until last night, the Police Ombudsman only had the authority to observe and report on police reports and sitting in on detective interviews. If he believed that a police review was unfair or incomplete, he could file a complaint with the Mayor or Chief of Police. Now he can conduct his own review of cases, sitting in on internal investigations.

The Police Guild will probably challenge the City Ordinance in court, because such ordinances would have to be approved by the Guild, and based upon my limited experience, they do not want the public knowing what are in those reports and investigations.

Hitch up your tighty-whiteys if you have them and watch closely. If Tim Burns does his job, and I believe he is committed to it, perhaps we may see an end to the travesties on the part of the Police Department, cases such as Otto Zehm, where Police clearly exceeded their authority. That isn’t to say they won’t exceed the law, but at least under the new system the Police Ombudsman will have the power to bring justice for ordinary people to the equation, something that has been missing for far too damned long, in my opinion.

Now I will sit down and stop rocking the boat. I will wait to see how the Police Guild will react. As the New York Yankees Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra once stated, “It ain’t over until it’s over”.


A Show of hands if you will, please…

Good afternoon, Netizens…

Tonight’s City Council Meeting promises to be interesting, and that is putting it mildly. City Councilman Bob Apple has brought forth a proposal to change the terms under which the current Spokane Police Ombudsman operates, giving him new powers and the authority to perform his own investigations when circumstances dictate. Unfortunately I will be unable to attend this important meeting due to certain family events which will keep me working late into the evening.

Before I truly get this apple cart rolling (pun intended), my vision of the Spokane Police Department’s Guild is perhaps a bit naive as I am inexperienced in how they operate, but I have a great deal of angst about the incredible power they possess. I believe it is time for change. I believe that the Guild should be accountable to the people, and yet I see no way for this to happen without creating anxiety on everyone’s part. In the current configuration, if the Guild opposes an investigation into the actions of a police officer, it is my experience that true justice can fall by the wayside. One case in point that comes readily to mind is the investigation into the shooting of Shonto Pete. If there ever was a silent scream for justice in this town, I don’t know how else to express it.

No one, not even the Spokane Police Department Guild, should ever be allowed to operate outside the law, and they should be accountable to the voters.

Now while I am opening up a few of what might be termed my crackerjack ideas, I perceive that one of the failures of the Ombudsman’s Office is that he, also, should be accountable to the voters. That, of course, opens up yet another can of worms which not only would create administrative nightmares, but perhaps violate the law.

Giving the Ombudsman the authority to investigate police cases and citizen’s complaints on his own is a good first step toward restoring public trust in our police. The Police Guild may not like it. I’m not certain whether Police Chief Kirkpatrick would support the changes to the Ombudsman’s powers.

More than anything else, it will be interesting to see who speaks out against Bob Apple’s proposal. Mark your ballots for the next election appropriately.


Why I did not attend Friday evening’s show…

Good evening, Netizens…

Thus far, I know of only one of the purported half-dozen people who attended last night’s first showing of the Police Ombudsman candidates, and the comments of this person regarding the process were not all that complimentary either. In fact, I haven’t heard from one person who was astronomically wowed by the first meeting. Although, as the Spokesman-Review has noted in a piece about the Ombudsman introductions here, http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2009/may/30/protest-outdraws-ombudsman-forum/ the number of people who attended the protest regarding the Ombudsman role vastly out-numbered those who attended the 5:00 PM meet-and-greet session.

Why didn’t I attend?

One: I do not believe for a moment that an Ombudsman without any independent investigative authority over Police or their Guild is capable of doing their job. Barring the ability to investigate police, what good is the Ombudsman’s office to begin with? I have seen first-hand and read accounts where a vibrant, active Ombudsman, armed with the right to investigate charges against police, would be an invaluable asset to our community. However, without that right by law, my prediction is that an Ombudsman without investigative authority will result in the same runaround and half-truths that take place already.

Two: Planning a public meeting of this type at 5:00 PM on a Friday night virtually guarantees that few, if any people will bother to show up. Furthermore the lack of planning shows disdain for the common person who has to work for a living, make dinner and take care of their families, just the sort of grandstanding I have come to associate with Queen Mary Verner, Mayor of Spokane.

With the people already distrustful of the process by which the Office of the Ombudsman was created, and the apparent lack of trust they have in the Police Department, Spokane needs a more generic overhaul beginning at the top of the administrative towers of power.


Jay Olsen’s case closed?

Good morning, Netizens…

Yesterday, in Spokesman reporter Thomas Clouse’s story about Chief Ann Kirkpatrick’s decision not to file additional charges against former policeman Jay Olsen, which is here: http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2009/may/07/olsen-wont-face-more-charges/ I was continually struck by the same odd other-worldly sensations that I felt during Olsen’s trial. To be emphatic about it, I do not know what actually took place that fateful night overlooking Peaceful Valley. I do not have a credible piece of factual evidence, whether admissible in court or not, that Shonto Pete was actually trying to steal Olsen’s truck and that will bother me for the rest of my days. All I have to go on are my suspicions, not based upon fact, and thus no better nor worse than anyone else’s opinions of the matter.

Short of that conclusive proof, I do understand that Chief Kirkpatrick more or less did what I would have done in her place, right up to the point she fired Olsen because he lied to the Infernal Affairs officers of the SPD. Her decision not to file additional charges against Olsen also smack of that same level-headed administrative acumen that she has exhibited since she first took office, but I also feel that is a personal decision she will have to live with, and perhaps not nearly as comfortably as it might seem.

I’ve heard lots of comments about how much money Olsen got from his back pay, some thirty-some thousand dollars, but I also remember Olsen is paying the bill for his own legal representation. Since neither he nor his attorney are publicly discussing his legal costs, I have to take it on my limited experience with trial lawyers that perhaps as much as half to three-quarters of that money has already been spent on legal costs and perhaps the rest might barely cover his personal expenses. In short. I believe Olsen is probably financially on the ropes after this tawdry affair. However, that isn’t news, that’s just conjecture.

At least for the moment, barring any appeals, Olsen’s legal issues seem to be at an end and thus the case is closed on this ugly piece of police work in Spokane. My opinions, of course, are that rather than Justice being served, Lady Justice somehow found herself lost in the dark of Peaceful Valley.

Is Jay Olsen’s case closed for you?


Jay Olsen resigns from SPD…

Good evening, Netizens…

Well, well… Imagine that…

The Spokesman-Review piece http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2009/apr/13/jay-olsen-resigns-spokane-police-department/ states that Jay Olsen resigned effective immediately this afternoon rather than be fired by Chief Kirkpatrick on official charges. 

Of course by now if you haven’t heard the tale of Olsen shooting Shonto Pete in the head, with all the various permutations of fiction and fantasy that followed in the wake of that incident, you have been sitting too long in the outhouse.

He should have been fired before now. He should have been fired before he collected his back pay, saving the taxpayers from paying for his incompetence and untruthfulness. How much did Olsen cost the taxpayers?


Win one for the Gipper, Tucker…

Good morning, Netizens…

Like most citizens reading the history of the Jay Olsen trial, I sat disconsolately in my chair each day watching the testimony unfold like a badly-wounded badger pinned in a corner against the wall. I was not at the scene of the crime(s), nor even was I in Dempsey’s that ill-fated night when Olsen broke with police policies and guidelines just prior to shooting Shonto Pete in the head and this smelly case began inexorably sliding down hill. I felt sanctimoniously self-assured that Olsen was guilty, right up until Marvin D. Tucker, a police dispatch supervisor who appeared for the defense team, suddenly materialized as if he had risen up out of the ground.

Suddenly, instead of a toss-up trial, weighted slightly in favor of a conviction for Olsen, the Defense had induced as close to a reasonable doubt as you could possibly get without smudging your fingerprints. In one fell swoop, they had seriously undermined or undone the not guilty verdict of Shonto Pete, and thus created a reasonable doubt that Shonto Pete had, despite evidence to the contrary, stolen Olsen’s truck, and admitted it to a sworn peace officer.

But if so, where was the evidence? That fragile 911 tape, which contained the conversation that purportedly took place, which should have been kept and presented as evidence at trial, but was missing in action. I was comfortable with a guilty verdict for Olsen, myself being holier-than-thou pious sitting in my imaginary judge’s chair, calling the shots as I perceived them to be, right up until Tucker testified he had heard evidence that exculpated Olsen.

The terrible question, one which others that may follow in history, will ask perpetually is, did Marvin D. Tucker commit perjury to save one for the Department? If you presume Tucker lied on the witness stand, you need proof, which does not exist. However, until you can conclusively prove that he lied, the Defense Attorney has introduced a reasonable doubt in the mind of the jury that Olsen was innocent of all charges, save those to be studied by police internal affairs.

If they had that tape, where Pete admitted to stealing Olsen’s truck, this would be a clear-cut case, the kind that legendary television attorney Perry Mason could not rebut.

However, the Tucker testimony as it stands, created a reasonable doubt in the jury’s mind. That is all you need to find Olsen not guilty of the charges.

Does this case stink to high heaven? You bet! It positively reeks of racism, deception in high places in the Spokane Police Department and the frailty of our justice system. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth and adds even more distrust to an already-reeking pile of malfeasant barnyard odors that seemingly waft out of the Police Department without end.

However, as badly as it smells, it is legal. That doesn’t make it RIGHT. Jump right in, because I imagine this debate will last for a long time.


Shonto Pete’s revenge…

Good morning, Netizens…

The Jay Olsen trial, currently nearing its logical end, has opened Pandora’s box and revealed how discredited the Spokane Police Guild truly is. There are lapses, and then there are huge gaps of fact which never have been allowed to happen, were justice truly blind.

To set the stage a bit, the phone calls made shortly after the shooting took place were to his Guild representative and his lawyer. You or I would have called 911, but Olsen, it seems, obeys a different law. The Guild comes first.

Shonto Pete, by comparison, was interviewed by detectives at Sacred Heart Hospital while he was still drunk, under sedation and in no condition to be talking with detectives. Paraphrasing Pete’s own words, the detectives were more interested in putting words in his mouth than they were in search of justice. Of course, they waited two days until Jay Olsen sobered up, got “his story straight” and obtained legal counsel before they interviewed him. After all, he is one of their own.

Then we have the fanciful tale of Shonto Pete purportedly trying to steal Jay Olsen’s pickup truck. In testimony when Shonto Pete was charged with stealing Olsen’s truck, expert testimony has stated that there were no fingerprints belonging to Shonto Pete inside Jay Olsen’s pickup truck. There was one set of latent prints on the outside of the door, but not one fingerprint or any DNA evidence inside the truck: thus we can safely assume Pete was never inside the truck.

Yesterday, we have a witness to the crime whom it seems interviewed or at least ostensibly spoke with Shonto Pete shortly after the shooting in Peaceful Valley. Marvin D. Tucker, a 14-year Police Department employee, enters stage right and makes a series of rather preposterous statements, including that he had spoken with Shonto Pete by phone, that Pete admitted to him he stole Olsen’s truck and that all record of this incriminating conversation has been erased from the 911 tapes. WHAT? Why didn’t the Police give Tucker a lie detector test? Probably because the Police Guild would raise objections. They are not interested in justice. They are interested only in protecting their own it might seem.

Today ostensibly Jay Olsen will take the stand. Ostensibly this might be his last-ditch effort to save his career as a police officer.With pending litigation, Shonto Pete is still looking for justice, and/or revenge.