Nah…no fire…no cigars… just a lot of Blowing Smoke.
This was the first Human Rights Commission meeting I’ve attended (March 28th, 2017), and I probably wouldn’t have attended if I hadn’t noticed that both Chief Craig Meidl and OPO Bart Logue were on the Agenda. It was obvious what that was all about, SPD HIDING IA CASES FROM THE OPO!
I should start of by saying that based on the meeting The Spokane Human Rights Commission appears to be group of bright dedicated volunteers who stand for a cross-section of the Spokane Community, which is exactly what the community would want and expect.
The only problem, from my point of view, and is almost always the case with Commissions, Committees, or Councils is that when it comes to law enforcement issues they just don’t have the background or knowledge necessary to ask the right questions and in most cases, don’t initially know when someone is Blowing Smoke. I can guarantee you based on experience that is something that law enforcement administrators have known since at least the 1970s.
The first part of the HRC meeting was like most meetings, going over structure and procedure. One of the things that interested me was their plans to implement a complaint process and how they are going to go about it. They mentioned that they will need to interact with City Legal on some of the issues they raised. Just to answer one question they had which was, “Are the complaints made to the HRC a matter of Public Record?” … Well… Yes, they are! as is the date they are going to try and capture. The HRC is going to have to be very careful how they handle those complaints, even those made anonymously. Someone is also going to have to figure out how to handle complaints that overlap with OPO, and IA Complaints.
As is usually the case the public has a few minutes to get their two cents in. Unfortunately, the public comments section was prior to the testimony of Meidl and Logue so there really wasn’t an opportunity to clear any of the smoke, and I intend to do that here.
During my comment time, I stressed the need for, Meidl as Chief to Fess-up, and Face-up when it comes to IA Issues at SPD, he didn’t however admit, as he should have done, that withholding 11 IA cases from the OPO was just flat out wrong. I wasn’t surprised, not Fessing-up and Facing-up has been a problem at SPD for a long time and it looks like despite all the smoke will continue continuing.
I also brought up the FACT that the only reason the McMurtrey Body Camera video was made public was because I found out through sources and made a Public Records Request, Meidl even publicly admitted that. I also pointed out that the FACT that McMurtrey’s “atrocious” video wasn’t just about African American Folks, but also about Gay Folks.
These links will offer some background:
“What happens right now is someone calls Brian Breen and says ‘Hey, go request that one,'” Beggs says. “That should not be the way it happens.”
Meidl called the interaction “the most atrocious demeanor I’ve seen in my career.”
Prior to my public comment, I passed out a copy of this IA Synopsis which only very few people have seen, and I’m not sure the OPO has seen it.
The copy I gave to the HRC has the name of the Officer, I have redacted it from the image above. The reason I gave the HRC with an un-redacted copy was two-fold, a transgender person made the complaint, and I had expected what Meidl would say in his testimony before the HRC.
Before I go any further, some people might wonder why I keep track of all these City and County IA Cases. The truth is I have been doing it ever since I retired from SPD and started doing Defense Investigations where the issue of Brady Cops often comes up. I still get calls from Defense Lawyers asking if I have any Brady/Giglio/Henthorn info.
During Meidl’s testimony he said that SPD is auditing all the 2015 and 2016 IA Cases he alluded to the fact that SPD has released personal information about people in the past that was in violation of the Public Records Act, something I have been harping on for years. What Meidl did not mention is that the biggest complaints about personal information being released hasn’t come from complainants it has come from Cops whose personal information was released to the public by IA.
In April of 2016 almost a year ago, I reported on the real reasons the IA Cases were taken down.
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.
As you can see in this email from the story above Ms Pfister even tried to get a copy of the infamous Mel and Lydia Taylor IA Case back or destroyed which had their home address and was given to her by now Assistant Chief Justin Lundgren who was in IA at the time.
In the Arleth Furniture-gate Case Lundgren in a PRR release also made public some personal information regarding Arleth that SPD IA had to quickly try and correct, but the damage was done.
Arleth and the Taylors aren’t alone of course, and that is what part of the issue is just so you folks at the HRC know.
The other part of the issue is that SPD can’t figure out quite how to handle this new IA Synposis Posting Plan they have. Meidl tried, as he has in the past, to leave the impression that Spokane PD is trying to go to a Synposis or Summary style of posting used by Seattle PD that he would like folks to believe was the result of the DOJ Consent Decree Seattle is under. The Seattle Police OPA had been releasing Closed Case Summaries Publically long before the Consent Decree. Even then because of the Contract with the Seattle Police Union Officers names in “Sustained” reports were not released without doing a PRR.
Right now Meidl and Lundgren are trying to figure out how they are going to handle this big Synopsis/Summary Plan without having to release the names of Cops in Sustained IA Cases. At this point the law is clear that they can release the names on the IA Website Summaries in sustained IA Cases, and there is nothing stopping them from doing so. The problem is, their boss doesn’t want the names of Cops public because that is exactly what the Police Unions don’t want, along with more stifling of the OPO and OPOC, in the current contract negotiations.
In Meidl’s testimony before the HRC he tried to lead them to believe, when talking about the City Charter Change creating the OPO and the difference between the subsequent OPO Ordinance, was a result of a complaint by the Unions to the Washington State Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC). The truth is there was no such complaint, the Unions didn’t have to bother, because Condon and Straub negotiated away any of the real power the voters intended when the Charter Change was passed by voters. Those previous negotiations also gave complete power of Body Camera Video to the Unions.
I had to control a big laugh when Meidl tried to blame the mishandling of the McMurtrey case on the above Guild Contract Language. I watched as a couple of the HRC Members kind of looked confused when Meidl brought it up, so here are the facts; There were several witnesses in the case independent of the Body Camera Footage that were never interviewed, including the ASU researcher Natalie. The recording of the Sally Port audio and video might have been available back then. The Detention Officers were witnesses, and beyond all that what a great “atrocious” case for Arbitrator Jamie Siegel to decide, isn’t that what she is for, and aren’t Body Cameras supposed to be accountability tools?
What will be interesting is when I get a response to my most recent PRR concerning the O’Brien Case so we can compare it to the McMurtrey case. Of course I still haven’t received all the documents from the McMurtrey case so who knows when I will get the O’Brien case, although I bet Meidl will have a press conference again before I get the O’Brien Video and Documents … any bets??
Meidl passed on the same old it is just too time consuming and labor intensive to redact all these IA Cases, the same story the Lundgren gave to the Public Safety Committee. Karen Stratton even jumped in on that one explaining how long it took to redact public records when she was in the City Clerks Office. Karen with all due respect when you were in the Clerk’s office they didn’t have all this very expensive automated redaction software, and what happened to the money Condon was going to set aside for PRRs as a result of my lawsuit?
Meidl of course went on to blame part of the problems for a big turn-over in IA, which his wife and soon to be Captain now leads. Although Tracie Meidl accompanied her husband to the meeting she didn’t testify.
Councilperson Karen Stratton did admit to losing her focus for a short period after I had brought up some factual historical information. I hope she regained it when during a discussion of how great it was that the City funded 4 additional NROs (Neighborhood Resource Officers) and Meidl talked about how difficult it is because he only has 115 Officers in Patrol. He went on the cry about all the problems with staffing patrol because of Cops at the Academy etc.
If you know anything about Law Enforcement Staffing Levels, which none of the HRC Members do, the obvious question to Meidl once he made those statements would have been;
Chief Meidl, according to your own records, which you put together in response to a PRR by Brian Breen in February of this year, you have 182 Officers of Patrol Division Rank, excluding for some reason 20 Officers with the Rank of Corporal. Of those 182 Officers 52 are listed as assigned outside of Patrol Division, including 16 Officers listed as being an “NCO” (Neighborhood Condition Officer, which we both know was Frank Straub’s term for the long standing “NRO” (Neighborhood Resource Officer) a term you have reverted back to.
The records you provided Mr. Breen bring up a number of questions I would like you to address.
1) As I’m sure you are aware the Civil Service Position of Police Corporal was created in the early 1970s, with a pay scale equal to the rank of Detective. The reason the position was created was three-fold, to help augment the first line supervision of a Sergeant and maintain an appropriate Span of Control, to be trained and develop expertise that would free-up Patrol Officers to be more available for Calls for Service, and provide field back-up for Patrol Officers as well as respond to Calls for Service Overloads. Your own policy basically reflects the original intent of the position.
Are Corporals currently being utilized as they were originally intended to be in the Patrol and Precincts Division Ranks?
2) Included in the documents you provided to Mr Breen there was an SPD Organization Chart created by Michelle Loucks on January 31st, 2017 which depicts three separate SPD Divisions. The “Patrol and Precincts” Division, The “Strategic Initiatives” Division, and The “Investigation and Administration” Division. According to the Organization Chart there are a total of 146 Patrol Officers, and 13 Corporals in the Patrol and Precincts Division. Of the 146 Patrol Officers 23 are Probationary Patrol Officers some of whom are likely attending the Academy, and as we know others are working the Street, so even if you don’t count all of the Probationary Officers that leaves a Staffing Level of 123 Patrol Officers, and if you were to include the 13 Corporals it would give you a staffing level of 136, so how do you reconcile your 115 figure?
3) Also assigned to the “Patrol and Precincts” Division are 6 Detectives, which one would assume have the responsibility of investigating reports in their particular Precinct similar to the NIRO (Neighborhood Investigative Resource Officers) of the Mangan Community Oriented Policing Era. As I’m sure you recall the NIRO concept was quite effective as it was a Proactive, rather than Reactive position where the Detective would, aside from carrying a caseload of 25-30 cases per month, respond to calls, take reports, back-up Patrol Officers, and proactively initiate cases in their Neighborhood. Do the 6 Detectives assigned to the Patrol and Precincts Division have a Proactive Role or is it entirely Reactive, and if they are Proactive should they not also be included in your 115 figure?
4) In the documents you provided Mr. Breen one showed there were 16 Officers who have an NCO/NRO Assignment 15 of those are assigned to the “Patrol and Precinct” Division, Jennifer DeRuwe the 16th is assigned to the “Investigations and Administration” Division.
The question would be Chief Meidl are you not counting the 15 NCO/NRO Officers in the 115 figure, and if not why not?
5) According to the documents there are 46 Officers with the rank of Patrol Officer assigned outside of the “Patrol and Precinct” Division, 32 in the “Investigations and Administration” Division, and 14 in the “Strategic Initiatives” Division. You mentioned in your testimony about assigning more Patrol Officers to the DV Unit, where according to press accounts Patrol Officers are preforming duties historically the responsibility of Detectives. Can you explain, what is apparently your theory, that assigning Patrol Officers away from the Patrol Function, which as you know is the backbone of any police department, serves the Public, and especially considering that your own data demonstrates a decline in Offenses Reported to SPD, as well as a decline in Calls for Service?
6) Since the Staffing Level for the Detective position(48) remains close to what it has been for many years, would you be willing to provide caseload data to the HRC so we can compare SPD current Detective Caseloads as consulting groups have done in the past?
Next up OPO Logue, a retired former Marine Corp Brass, who has to be wondering why the hell he took this job. Having been on the wrong side of Marine Corp Brass on more than one occasion although Logue did a pretty good job of not showing it, there is no question in my mind that he was pissed about what had transpired regarding the 11 hidden cases, and perhaps other things as well.
Logue played nice but did express some of his frustration though not necessarily overtly, and seemed to imply that correcting the issue was a bit more than he felt it should have been. Logue’s testimony was more about comparing what people want as opposed to what the Ordinance allows him to do. He made it very plain that the Ordinance doesn’t allow him a voice, and he primarily has to keep his mouth shut about what is going on because of the restrictions in the Ordinance, that in and of itself has to be difficult for him, although I’m sure he had occasions in the Corp where he had to keep his mouth shut in the presence of higher ranking Brass.
He tried to give an explanation of the conflict that exists between some people as to whether he should be an Evaluator or Investigator. I’m not sure that didn’t go over some folks heads, but the truth is whether Logue ends up being an Evaluator or Investigator is entirely up to the Police Guild, and NOT the Ordinance Breean Beggs is trying to get passed. At this point regarding the Begg’s OPO Ordinance he likely doesn’t have the votes to get it passed and even if he did the second it was passed the Police Guild would file a Unfair Labor Practice with the Public Employment Relations Commission, which they would very likely win. So the folks holding their breath for the Begg’s OPO Ordinance should probably quit holding their breath.
Here is what you won’t see in Spokane:
I REPORT HSS YOU DECIDE!!!