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Posts Tagged ‘Ostling’

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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On Friday, a jury awarded $1 million to the family of Douglas OstlingOstling was a mentally ill man who was shot and killed by Bainbridge Island police officer Jeff Benkert after Benkert and Officer Dave Portrey responded to a 911 call at the Ostling home.

The jury found that Officer Jeff Benkert did not conduct an unreasonable search the night of the shooting. They also found that Benkert did not use excessive force or unreasonably fail to render medical aid to Ostling.

The jury found, however, that the City of Bainbridge Island and police chief Jon Fehlman failed to properly train the city’s police officers in dealing with the mentally ill, and awarded $1 million for that failure. Ostling’s parents, Joyce and Bill Ostling, were each awarded $400,000 and the estate of Douglas Ostling was awarded $200,000. Fehlman and the City will be indemnified by the City’s insurance pool.  (more…)

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Last week the Bainbridge Review reported that former Secretary/Chief Examiner of the Civil Service Commission Kim Hendrickson had kept hundreds of pages of City files in her garage. She returned a large plastic tub full of Civil Service files at the end of March.

Hendrickson responded to the report with comments on blogs and Trippwires, downplaying the importance of the files (saying they were “dated” and “trash”) and striking back at City officials for discussing the incident in executive session and politicizing the story.

So were the files “trash”? (more…)

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The State Auditor’s office has dismissed a complaint filed against the City by former Civil Service Commission Secretary/Chief Examiner Kim Hendrickson. Her complaint alleged violations of whistleblower laws, open government laws, and Civil Service Commission rules, specifically targeting former City Manager Brenda Bauer and Council member Bob Scales.

“Your concerns regarding the City are outside our audit authority,” wrote Jan Jutte, Director of Legal Affairs for the Auditor’s office.  “Our office has no authority to examine compliance with civil service or local government whistleblower laws.” (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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