Archive for the ‘Police’ Category

img_0032At the City Council meeting on February 7, Council member Mike Scott will introduce a resolution and ordinance designed to minimize the use of island policing resources to do the job of federal immigration authorities. Somewhat misleadingly known as “sanctuary city” laws (more accurately termed, “community policing laws,”) these kinds of policies have been adopted around the country, either formally or informally.

Contrary to some misunderstandings about what these laws are, they do not provide undocumented immigrants a place to hide from federal immigration authorities. Instead, they provide that local police will not use local resources to do the work of federal authorities in enforcing immigration laws, absent a court order or, in some jurisdictions, under very limited circumstances having to do with previous immigration violations and the commission of a serious violent felony. Absent those specified circumstances, police will not inquire about a person’s immigration status, or detain a person longer than they have legal authority to do. In the past and in some jurisdictions now, local law enforcement detains noncitizens longer than they would otherwise be allowed to do, in order to give Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) the time to investigate the person’s immigration status. Some courts have held that so-called “ICE detainers” are unconstitutional, and many jurisdictions, including the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Department, now decline to hold noncitizens under those detainers.

There are over 326 counties, 32 cities, and four states that limit local law enforcement’s involvement in federal immigration enforcement. Police departments tend to support these community policing laws. As Tom Manger, Chief of Police for Montgomery County and President of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, has said, “To do our job we must have the trust and respect of the communities we serve. We fail if the public fears their police and will not come forward when we need them. Whether we seek to stop child predators, drug dealers, rapists or robbers—we need the full cooperation of victims and witness. Cooperation is not forthcoming from persons who see their police as immigration agents. When immigrants come to view their local police and sheriffs with distrust because they fear deportation, it creates conditions that encourage criminals to prey upon victims and witnesses alike.”

On January 25, the president of the United States signed an Executive Order (EO), directing local jurisdictions to assist with federal immigration orders, regardless of local ordinance or policy. The EO provides that jurisdictions that don’t comply will lose federal funding. This EO has been the subject of widespread condemnation by immigrant and human rights advocacy groups, as well as mayors, governors, ordinary citizens. Seattle mayor Ed Murray called the day the EO was signed the “darkest day in immigration history” since the Japanese internment and said he’s prepared to lose “every penny” of Seattle’s federal funding, which was about $85 million in 2015. Governor Jay Inslee called the EO “mean-spirited, unnecessary and contrary to our values as Americans.” (more…)


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The City of Bainbridge Island sent out this press release this morning:

Earlier this morning the Bainbridge Island Police Department was notified of two suspicious incidents involving an adult approaching students on Wardwell Road in Bainbridge Island.

The first incident occurred yesterday afternoon, March 17 at approximately 3:20 p.m. while students were walking home from school on Wardwell Road between Sportsman Club Road and McRedmond Road. A white male driving a dirty white pickup truck stopped and offered the students some ice cream. When the students declined the male drove away.

The second incident occurred this morning, March 18 at approximately 8:20 a.m. , and also took place on Wardwell Road. A white male driving a dirty grey four door sedan stopped and asked a student where the student was going.  (more…)

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Last night at a council study session, consultant Michael Pendleton presented his report on the Bainbridge Island Police Department. Pendleton was hired last January to do a study of the department, find areas needing improvement and make recommendations for changes.

Pendleton emphasized that he did not do a Department of Justice-style investigation though some in the community requested it. Instead, he interviewed every member of the department, members of city leadership and members of the community. He also reviewed relevant documents and records.

This is a quick summary of his report. For the detail, read the report itself, which I’ve posted at the end of this article.

Pendleton presented six findings and conclusions:

1. Police personnel say the department has a “lower than desired” organizational health, effectiveness rating and working climate.

2. There is a low “unity of command” due to poor upper leadership, poor first line supervision and poor communication within the department.

3. Bainbridge Island citizens are split in their support for the police, with most citizens either feeling either neutral or positive, and a significant minority having negative views. (more…)

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In an unsurprising decision, Judge Ronald Leighton declined to reverse himself on rulings he made during the civil trial in which a jury awarded $1 million to the parents of Douglas Ostling against the City of Bainbridge Island. Judge Leighton issued orders today denying the city’s motions for a Judgment as a Matter of Law and for a new trial.

The primary basis on which defense counsel for the city asked the court to invalidate the jury’s verdict and enter Judgment as a Matter of Law is that the jury exonerated Jeff Benkert, who shot and killed Douglas Ostling, and yet found the city liable. The city argued that under applicable case law, a jury cannot hold a municipality liable for constitutional violations as a result of the actions of its employees unless a particular, named employee is found to have violated the plaintiff’s constitutional rights. Because Officer Benkert was exonerated, the defense argued, the city cannot be held liable. (more…)

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This morning in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, attorneys for the City of Bainbridge Island and the family of Douglas Ostling argued the city’s post-trial motions before Judge Ronald Leighton.

In June, a jury awarded $1 million to Bill and Joyce Ostling whose son, Douglas, was shot and killed in 2010 by Bainbridge police officer, Jeff Benkert. The jury found that Benkert did not violate Ostling’s constitutional rights, but nevertheless awarded $1 million against the city for failure to train its officers in dealing with the mentally ill.

The city filed a motion asking Judge Leighton to enter a Judgment as a Matter of Law (which would set aside the jury’s verdict because it was not valid under the law). In a second motion, the city asked for a new trial for former police chief Jon Fehlman, because he was unable to attend trial and testify on his own behalf after he was hospitalized with pancreatitis.

Judge Leighton told the lawyers to focus primarily on the first motion in oral argument, questioning whether Fehlman “plays a role in this at all.” He later elaborated on that statement, saying that Fehlman was “in effect a placeholder” who acted in his official capacity on behalf of the city. Ostling attorney Nathan Roberts agreed, saying Fehlman’s absence from trial didn’t matter because the eventual judgment “will never be against his personal assets.” Roberts suggested that because the city appointed Lt. Phil Hawkins as acting police chief during the trial while Fehlman was ill, Hawkins would have been available to testify and should perhaps have been on the verdict form instead of Fehlman. (more…)

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Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, began last night at sundown. It marks the commencement of the Days of Awe in the Jewish calendar, a ten-day period of study, self-examination and repentance, ending next week with the holiest day in the Jewish Year, Yom Kippur–the Day of Atonement.

In a holiday filled with beautiful rituals, one of the most mysterious and powerful for me is that of the scapegoat.

On Yom Kippur in ancient Israel, the high priest put his hands on the head of a young goat and confessed over it the sins of all of the people. The goat, burdened by the communal wrongdoings, was led away to wander in the wilderness, never to return to the tribe. The carrier of sins was an “escape goat”, shortened in English to scapegoat.

The scapegoat, along with other rituals for repentance during the Days of Awe, allowed everyone to be cleansed of impurity, to start fresh in the new year.  But the holiday teaches that we cannot be cleansed of our misdeeds through mere substitution of the goat for ourselves. Only after self-examination, a sincere desire to be forgiven, and the resolve to change our ways, can we atone for our failures and shortcomings.

Scapegoats seem to serve a deep human need, for we see them all over the world in every era. In our modern, literal world, the scapegoat signifies an unfair cruelty, and no longer offers a sense of relief and forgiveness. Nevertheless, we continue to find people, nations, and cultures to blame for our own failings. (more…)

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“The evidence partially supports and partially refutes the Guild’s allegations.”

That sentence appears throughout the Rebecca Dean report on the allegations in the Bainbridge Island Police Guild’s vote of no confidence against Chief Jon Fehlman. It could serve as a summary of the report itself, which partially addresses the Guild’s allegations, and is partially inconclusive. It could also be a portrait of the Guild, which comes across as partially a group of dedicated officers and partially a band of immature tattletales.

The allegations in the Guild’s no confidence vote range from relatively minor judgment errors or misunderstandings on Fehlman’s part, to rehashing of previously resolved union complaints, to petty gossip and rumor, to at least one falsehood. For a summary, go here.

Now that Fehlman has resigned, issues about his performance are no longer relevant. But the rest of the department remains–and Bainbridge will be well served if the police management study proposed by Interim City Manager Morgan Smith looks at the BIPD’s organization and culture, the influence of the Guild, the quality of each member’s performance, and the attitude they have toward each other, their work and to the members of the community they serve.

As a glimpse into BIPD culture, one Guild allegation stands out for its dishonesty and recklessness: the claim that Fehlman falsely stated in deposition testimony that he gave an oral reprimand to Lieutenant Chris Jensen for providing faulty information about the Ostling shooting. The Guild wrote in its no confidence complaint: “The Chief’s statement under oath violates policy and state laws relating to perjury and false swearing.” [emphasis in the original]

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