As I mentioned before I was hoping to get this story out on Friday but was waiting for some folks to respond, they haven’t, so I’m forced to break this story into parts. I know there are folks interested in SPD’s Criminal Intelligence Unit, so hopefully I can get to it in PART TWO.
Thursday March 31st, shortly after 1 PM this Reporter along with Rachel Alexander (I apologize for any previous misspellings of Rachel’s first name) from the Spokesman Review, and Mitch Ryals from the PNW Inlander had an opportunity to talk with and ask questions of Meidl and Lundgren.
I want to thank both Craig Meidl and Justin Lundgren for providing us the opportunity, I think it was healthy and a step in the right direction as far as transparency is concerned, and I was able to double and triple confirm many things, directly from them which I already knew, however because our time was limited I wasn’t able to get into some things I wanted to cover but we covered some interesting areas, and one of those areas appeared in Spokesman Review the same day, so I will start with it.
(Please keep in mind when you read this story that I am maintaining my holdbacks at this point)
You might recall that the issue of the Mayor being asked to invoke Garrity Statements was first reported right here at Buffalo Brian Breen. It took the Spokesman Review a long time to finally report it but at least they did.
My understanding is we will be hearing from the City Council regarding this issue in the near future, possibly in a press conference.
During our Q & A with Meidl and Lundgren we learned from them, as the SR story states, that they were interviewed by Kris Cappel and according to Meidl and Lundgren those interviews were voluntary and not compelled. I found that interesting in that my information is, and apparently the SR received the same information, that there were some compelled statements taken from others prior to a change, and that change from compelled to voluntary came from City Hall.
You may recall that Interim Chief Rick Dobrow “retired” in early February 2016, and was replaced by long time Condon associate, big campaign contributor, and go to guy, Jim McDevitt.
Dobrow of course is a key witness in the Cotton/Straub case. Dobrow made public statements regarding what he described as his “shoulder to shoulder” working relationship with Straub so his testimony is obviously critical and it will be interesting to see if in fact Dobrow was interviewed and whether or not he voluntarily cooperated or was compelled. Dobrow’s retirement date was March 1st, 2016 so obviously in order to compel his testimony the investigator had to get to him prior to March 1st, and only Mayor Condon could have compelled his testimony during that time frame.
Both Meidl and Lundgren made it clear they didn’t want to discuss the Cotton/Straub case, but we were able to establish some facts regarding the Cotton/Straub Investigation. During our interview Meidl, after a bit of congenial prodding, he said that in his current position he does have the authority to compel statements from any SPD Employee, he did however make it quite clear that he would not do that unless he was directed to do so by City Hall. We also discussed the fact that Jim McDevitt does not have the authority to compel statements because he does not have disciplinary authority.
Another thing we specifically established during the interview, and is widely known throughout SPD, is that Frank Straub is a lousy driver (we even joked about it), and on more than one occasion Straub did damage to his assigned police unit. The most recent damage discovered when two of Schwering’s people had to retrieve the City Vehicle when Straub was fired. This was in September of 2015, and my information is that when the vehicle was retrieved damage was noted that had been spray painted over to hide it, and the damage had to be repaired. We also established that Interim Chief Dobrow did at least one of the vehicle damage reports.
Yes, I know…you are saying to yourself… “What the hell does Straub’s lousy driving have to do with the Cotton/Straub case?” I’m sure that Rachel and Mitch were wondering the same thing. The fact is I couldn’t help myself…I think it must now be ingrained and I can’t get it out of my system.
The Cotton/Straub case if it gets to court, which I seriously doubt, will boil down to a question of “veracity” …who has the most? So if I were back in the saddle, so to speak, this is one of the many things I would be looking at regardless of who I was working for. If you have been following my Stories, you probably would have anticipated that with an opportunity like the Q & A we had… this “confused Jeremiah” would have found a way to get it in.
Look at it this way, as Nick Deshais points out in his story regarding David McCabe’s statements to him; “He said that he and many other members don’t have much faith in the investigation, considering how a previous complaint from the association against Cotton was dismissed.” One of the complaints against Cotton that was dismissed by HR was this one:
When you read the IA Complaint above, you might notice that part of the complaint was that Monique Cotton made a false police report to “Brady Cop” Lydia Taylor regarding damage to her City Assigned Vehicle, so what happened to all of the cases involving Straub’s damaging City vehicles?
Some of you might still think I’m a “confused Jeremiah” but my guess is that both Mary Schultz, and Bob Dunn would disagree with you, or at least to some extent…but who knows for sure.
This was another one of the issues that both Meidl and Lundgren did not want to discuss, but we were able to establish a few things. Interim Chief Meidl did state that he was “given direction” by then Interim Chief Dobrow to file an IA Complaint against Arleth. We then had some discussion as to whether or not it was a “Direct Order”, after a little bit of back and forth Meidl indicated his interpretation was that he had no choice but to file the IA Complaint. We even joked a bit about my history on SPD of not always following orders.
As a bit of a side note and to set the record straight, one of the occasions I refused to follow a direct order was SPD’s first ever introduction to Garrity when I was ordered to provide a statement to an insurance adjuster doing the insurance companies independent investigation into a lawsuit against the City in which I was named. It ended up being kind of comical because ultimately once I got longtime family friend Carl Maxey involved, and he in turn got the City Council, and the City Manager involved I never gave a statement to the adjuster, was never disciplined, and as a matter of fact the last thing said to me was by my supervisor at the time, Lt. Jerry Hickman, when he jokingly said “We never should have sent you to IA School.”. That wasn’t the first time nor the last where I didn’t follow an illegal or improper order.
My point in all that is to answer a question I have been asked more than once, and that is; “If I were Meidl, would I have made the complaint?”. Knowing what I know about the case now and what Meidl surely knew… my answer is NO! I would have told Dobrow if he wanted a complaint made to make it himself or have Teresa Sanders do it. If there were any attempts to try and discipline me for refusing, it would have been a fun ride and I likely would have added to my savings account.
After reviewing the IA Case against Arleth, and drawing my own conclusions as to what it really involved, one of the questions I had for Meidl and Lundgren was what Standard of Proof SPD used to reach a “Sustained” findings in IA Cases. Their answer was that SPD uses a higher standard of proof than many law enforcement agencies who use the lower standard of “Preponderance of Evidence” which makes it easier to discipline Cops. SPD uses the “Clear and Convincing Evidence” standard.
I’m would think that both Rachel and Mitch were thinking to themselves…” He is a “confused Jeremiah!” when I asked that question…but allow me to explain.
Just so you understand, to the best of my knowledge, SPD has never documented in writing the standard they use for a “Sustained” complaint. The only time the standard has been mentioned, other than by Meidl and Lundgren in our Q & A, is in media stories and discipline appeals, in those media stories the individual interviewed stated that the standard was “Clear and Convincing Evidence”.
SPD purchases a boiler-plate Policy Manual, like many other Police Departments, from a company named Lexipol, LLC, and like other agencies they modify the boiler-plate to fit their needs.
For this story let us compare just two other agencies to SPD. If you want to do your own comparison of more agencies…it is easy to do.
In the Images below show how the Canton Ohio PD and Duluth Minnesota PD document their “Preponderance of Evidence Standard.
I’m not sure what the “ample evidence standard” is…but it is the one Dobrow used in his decision to discipline Arleth.
Hopefully you can see my point. If, as Meidl and Lundgren stated, in order to “Sustain” Meidl’s complaint against Arleth it was necessary to have “Clear and Convincing Evidence” … where in the hell was it?
If you use the standard of “sufficient evidence” (whatever that is) documented in the SPD Policy Manual the question becomes was there “sufficient evidence” for a sustained allegation against Arleth…not by my standards there wasn’t.
So what is the “standard”? Are there different standards for different people? Since Arleth was not allowed to have his case reviewed by his peers (The Administrative Review Panel), what standard did Dobrow use to “Sustain” Meidl’s complaint? What standard did Heather Lowe us when she denied the appeal? Since Heather Lowe’s husband left the SPD after a very, very short time, was there a conflict of interest in her decision making process? Now that the decision regarding Arleth’s complaint, at this level at least, will be made by the individual who got the complaint started, Teresa Sanders, what standard will she use, and is there a conflict? Will Mayor Condon step in and do the RIGHT thing?
According to McCabe’s letter to McDevitt, which by the way I don’t understand because McDevitt is supposed to have absolutely NO involvement in disciplinary issues, he (McCabe) states the standard used by SPD is the “Clear and Convincing Standard” so since it isn’t documented that must be it…right?
Included in the Furniture-gate aspect of the Q & A was my question to Justin Lundgren when I asked him why all of the IA Cases were removed from Schwering’s IA Website. Justin responded “I think you know!”. It is always good to know the answer to the questions you ask beforehand and I’m sure Justin anticipated I would ask, so he was kind of ready. Justin said that the IA cases were taken down because he was “reviewing” them. We finally did get to the crux of the matter, at least to a certain extent, when Justin took responsibility for not redacting Arleth’s personal phone numbers from the IA Report in violation of the Public Records Act. I will have more about the IA Cases being removed later in this story, but for now this is all I’m willing to give up regarding the now infamous “Furniture-gate”.
Ever wonder what standard SPD uses when a Citizen makes a complaint?
The real big question of course is how much more “Furniture-gate” will cost the taxpayers?
TIM SCHWERING FAILING THE CITY POLICE CIVIL SERVICE EXAM!
Meidl was asked directly whether or not there were morale issues as a result of Tim Schwering failing the City of Spokane Police Civil Service Exam yet being sent to the State Police Academy. Meidl said he had not heard any rumblings about that issue (I sure have!) and he went on to explain that Schwering did pass the Spokane County Sheriff Civil Service Exam, but did not pass the City Civil Service Police Exam which was specifically designed by the City of Spokane Civil Service Examiners Office to test our Police Officers. Meidl did tells us Schwering did pass a national exam test which is used by some departments. SPD recently started using the same one that the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office has used for a while…if you get my drift. J
Of course you can always do test preparation. 🙂
That question of course lead to discussion of the rumor that Tim Schwering is Mayor Condon’s actual choice for OUR new Chief of Police, Meidl even referred to Karen Stratton’s statement indicating a concern that Mayor Condon already had his person picked. We weren’t able to determine if Meidl and Lundgren actually know if the rumors are true or not regarding Schwering, however we didn’t press the issue. We did however specifically ask Meidl if he was going to apply for the Chief of Police spot, he denied that he was but if he were to be chosen by whomever became Chief he would be interested in being an Assistant Chief, if not he would revert back to his Civil Service Rank of Captain…things sometimes change though…so who knows for sure.
THE REASON SPD TOOK DOWN ALL OF THE IA CASES FROM THEIR WEBSITE!
As I mentioned earlier Justin Lundgren stated that the reason all of the IA Cases were taken down was because he was reviewing them. When I asked the question he was quick to respond “I think you know”. Well I’m sure Justin knew I was aware of Arleth’s personal information being made public, and even a cursory reading of my recent stories would have lead almost anyone to anticipate that would be a question I would ask…so I did. But in reality because I knew part of the reason they were taken down, I wanted to get the rest of the reason with follow-ups. So we talked about the various Public Records Act Violations that existed by making public personal information in the IA Reports as well as other documents SPD has released and have been made available to the public which included personal information like full names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, driver’s license numbers, and in a couple of cases social security numbers. One of my pet peeves, so yes I do have copies, and the image below of emails between Terry Pfister and myself will give you some indication that Arleth isn’t the only Cop that has complained about their personal information being made public.
IA 14-053, is of course the Lydia Taylor, Mell Taylor Steriod/Brady Cop case which contained personal information of the Taylor’s.
Heck we even talked about a time when Rachel posted an un-redacted SPD report she had received from SPD containing a lot of personal identifiers including the victim’s full name, DOB, address phone numbers, and even her social security number. After copying it, I called Rachel to give her a heads up and she took it down.
Some people might think it a bit strange that I would copy and maintain files on all the improper document releases made by SPD, but if you were in the criminal justice business as long as I was you know that sooner or later the issue will come to a head and someone will say you are full of BS in order to try and squirm out of their own mess…so it becomes a matter of SOP to be able to back your play with evidence…which I make a concerted effort to do.
After I asked the lead, I was hoping it wouldn’t, but things kind of went South. I asked Justin why the Taylor case was never posted on the website for the public to read, his answer was that it contained information from a Federal Agency. The problem with that answer is of course, that not only was the entire unredacted report released to several members of the media back in 2014 when the story was widely reported, but beyond that I had a copy and knew there is nothing in the report from the interviews of the Federal Agents that was necessary to redact, and if somemone felt it was necessary to redact, they could have easily done so. Another obvious problem is that IA 14-053 was indetified on the website as a case which was “Administratively Suspended” when nothing could be further from the truth, and some Citizen checking the IA Cases would think it was nothing to bother with.
Administratively Suspended – A complaint that is closed because the investigation is unable to proceed any further at a point prior to the review process (i.e. Involved officer quits/retires, complainant does not cooperate with the process, complaint involves the elements of a crime that is in the process of prosecution, etc.)
Justin said that when IA redacts a case they go through a check list provided them by the City Attorney’s Office, and they follow the check list. I’m sure both Justin and the City Attorney’s Office are hanging their hat on this RCW cite.
Identity of Witnesses, Victims, and Persons Filing Complaints. The identity of witnesses, victims, and persons who file criminal or quasi-criminal complaints with agencies other than the Public Disclosure Commission if the complainant indicates at the time of filing the complaint that the complainant desires for it to be confidential, is exempt if disclosure would endanger a person’s life, property or physical safety. RCW 42.56.240(2).
And of course the problem, as I have mentioned before, is that little square box on the police report that cops never check, nor do they ask if the witness, or complainant wants their identity and personal information disclosed to the public or whether the victim is in fear that their life, property, or physical safety is in danger. Justin says they ask people but I think there are cases were that didn’t happen, or at least it sure wasn’t documented that it did.
Sometimes you just have to use common sense, even if the witness/victim didn’t expressly state they wanted non-disclosure redact it anyway to protect the witness victim from reprisal or identity theft and let the court decide if someone wants to push it. Doing that at least protects the City and SPD’s butt, as well as us tax payers.
I should note that in the Q & A referred to the IA website as Tim Schwerings website. Justin apparently didn’t appreciate that and when I pointed out that it had Schwerings name all over it…his response was “Well it isn’t his!” so I, in the interest of congeniality, quit referring to it that way. But someone else according to this letter seems to believe Schwering has something to do with records redactions.
If you are wondering who Paul Zachary is, he is a PhD student at the University of California San Diego.
Just to give you an idea of what was on the website before everything was taken down here are just a few cases from my IA Joke/Weird Folder. Jokes because there are NO reports, or they are just kind of funny to me. If you read some of these it might make you wonder whether or not the folks from COPS/DOJ ever read what was on Schwering’s IA Website before they gave SPD plaudits for posting IA Cases for the Public to read.
There is actually quite a bit more about the problems SPD has with Tim Schwering’s IA website, and the redaction of SPD cases but what I have reported here should give you at least some idea of the mess they/we are in!
More to come!
I REPORT YOU DECIDE!!!