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Archive for February, 2012

Based on its two-part series on the Bainbridge Island Police Department, the Seattle Times has now penned an editorial: Rethinking law enforcement options on Bainbridge Island.

Their prescription? A department review from the ground up. More police training, especially in crisis intervention. And while we’re at it, we should think about outsourcing the police department to the Kitsap County Sheriff.

It seems a little odd for a newspaper across the water to write a couple of articles and then give us advice about our police department.  Their ideas aren’t any more creative than those we’ve heard from local citizens for years. (more…)

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This afternoon, the following statement (posted on the City’s website) was issued by the City of Bainbridge Island:

The City of Bainbridge Island
February 27, 2012

Dear Bainbridge Island residents:

The Seattle Times published stories, yesterday and today, which focused on the Douglas Ostling tragedy and on how the city has dealt with accusations of misconduct by our police officers in the past. TheTimes’ story does not adequately reflect the City’s commitment to police professionalism and accountability, nor does it convey some of the significant work that has been in progress at the city. The relationship between our community and our police department is one of the city’s most critical connections with its citizens, and because this is such an important topic, I wanted you to be aware of some facts.

The Council, the Police Chief and I are committed to ensuring that police officers receive the appropriate training, that practices are transparent, that any misconduct is addressed, and that we improve the standards and expectations for everyone who works for our police department.

Under any circumstances, the loss of a human life is very painful. The City continues to join its citizens in offering its sincere condolences to the family of Mr. Ostling. The Kitsap Sheriff and Prosecutor have made their investigative files available for those who would like more information. Our administrative report and reports from the prosecutor are included with this letter.

Our commitment to the citizens of Bainbridge Island is that our officers will understand how to best handle people in crisis. Chief Fehlman is a member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), facilitates classes here, and was on the Board of the Sonoma County NAMI chapter before coming to Bainbridge. Before the officer involved shooting, seven of our 21 officers had completed Crisis Intervention Training, with three getting additional certification to become trainers. The Bainbridge Island Police Department will continue to make this critical training a priority for our officers.

Police officers are often called upon to engage people in the most difficult moments of their lives. Every police department will receive complaints about how an officer handled a situation. The most critical thing when a complaint is made is how we respond. I can assure you, when there has been misconduct, or accusations of misconduct, we have responded appropriately by investigating allegations in a timely and fair manner. (more…)

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The Seattle Times has written the first of a two-part story about the Ostling shooting and the Bainbridge Island Police Department. The Times article has some new detail about the case, gleaned from public records, depositions and conversations with the Ostling family.

Go here to read part one.

Update 2/27/12: Part two is on the Times’ website here. It focuses primarily on the hiring of Charles Arntz and the conduct of former police guild president Scott Weiss. (Sidebar—Who did that reporter talk to? “Mayberry with Audis”? What islander has ever said that? Priuses maybe. Mayberry, never. We’re not that friendly.)

Information that is significantly unfavorable to the police department emerges in the stories. On the other hand, the coverage of the Ostling shooting seems somewhat slanted toward the Ostling family’s version of events. Photographs and other details that were reported in our local press (here and here)  were not reported by the Times. Also not mentioned is that an Ostling family member’s statements taken by a sheriff’s investigator at the scene differ from subsequent accounts by the family (reported by the Kitsap Sun). That changing statement was of enough significance to Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge that he mentioned it in a letter, in which he defended his decision not to prosecute the officers for the shooting.  (more…)

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At tonight’s presentation about the authority of Council members under the Council-Manager form of government by Seattle lawyer Steve DeJulio, Mayor Debbi Lester and Council members Dave Ward and Steve Bonkowski quickly shut down Council member Bob Scales when he tried to ask questions about the authority of individual Council members to act without a Council vote. Council authority has been a raw question since Lester, Bonkowski and Dave Ward hired a law firm to give advice about firing City Manager Brenda Bauer without obtaining a vote of the full Council. DiJulio’s presence was at Council’s request following the dispute over that issue.

DeJulio gave a crisp one-hour briefing on the laws governing the power and functioning of local government in our state. He told Council it has legislative authority to act by motion, resolution, or ordinance. A significant responsibility is to adopt a budget, also done as a legislative body in open session.

DeJulio explained that, under the island’s Council-Manager form of government, the Council has legislative authority, and the power to appoint the City Manager. State law specifically prohibits the Council from interfering with the decisions of the City Manager. The statute requires that the Council deal with staff solely through the Manager, except for purposes of inquiry, or at public Council meetings. (more…)

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At the Council meeting tonight, a majority of the Council expressed a desire to reconsider the issue of whether to divest the City’s water utility in 2012, likely in the third quarter. After persistent questioning by Anne Blair, Steven Bonkowski said he wanted to look at the question in the third quarter. Kirsten Hytopoulos urged the others to disclose their views. Dave Ward said he agreed with Bonkowski. Debbi Lester didn’t want to discuss her views. Sarah Blossom said she wanted to look at the question, “the earlier the better.” The Council then added it to its work plan. See my live blog, here.

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I’m at the Council meeting tonight, starting to blog at the agenda item, “2012 Workplan Priorities.” Morgan Smith presented a list of high priority items for staff, including resolving outstanding labor claims and negotiating a new police guild contract, Rockaway Beach stabilization, increasing the annual roads preservation support by 50%, and updating the water and sewer utility plans. She also identified work the Council agreed on at the council retreat, which include an allocation process for the WSF funds, roads planning and police accountability. Click here for the list: 021512_2012_WORKPLAN_CC_021512

Melanie Keenan and Malcolm Gander informed the Council that they submitted a draft grant to Ecology for $200,000 to clean up the Unocal site. They want the Council to put the grant on the work plan. They mentioned that they’d been in touch with Dave Ward about this.

Barry Peters reminded the Council that the UAC brought forward a recommendation to examine the SSWM fee structure and recommends that the Council put that on its work plan.

Debbi Lester moved to affirm the proposed work plan, Bonkowski seconded. Passes unanimously. Bob Scales is absent from the meeting.

Anne Blair suggested if there is a plan to divest the water utility this year, it needs to be on the work plan.

Kirsten Hytopoulos says that to have a full conversation of the cultural element they need to have more information. We don’t know who will be our manager, or whether we will be manager-less, she says, so she doesn’t think they should open up broader conversation about the social services or the cultural element. They just don’t have the capacity, even though that conversation is overdue.  She says, we’ve lost the opportunity of having a conversation this year about who we are and where we’re going by undertaking a city manager search this year. (more…)

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A moment of gratitude for our state legislature, our Governor, our wonderful state! Marriage Equality is now law (I don’t care about the referendum, at least not today. I’ll be out there campaigning if it makes it to the ballot). Governor Gregoire gave a moving, powerful speech before she signed around noon today.

Read about it here. When I can find the text of her remarks, I’ll post them. Gregoire’s press release contains some of the wonderful things she said, here.

UPDATE: Click here for the video of the speech and signing. Here is the text of her prepared speech.

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