Blue Byline

A cop's perspective of the news and South Sound matters

Archives: April 2011


Easter Mass, or The Roundup of all lost Catholics

On Easter I walked to church through drizzling rain. The bright parade of people, young and old, walked in ever-tightening lines into the church, all wearing their Sunday best, of course. As the minutes prior to the start of the Catholic Mass crept by, standing room inside gave way to standing in the rain.

My father made sure we showed up early because, “Every one shows up on Easter Sunday, even guys who don’t go to church anymore, like you.”

Ouch, but very true. As a lapsed Catholic, I don’t miss the Sunday services that became so routine over a childhood spent in catholic parochial school, as an altar boy, and later as a student at a Jesuit high school. But Easter somehow has a way of quadrupling the eternal Catholic guilt until even a guy like me has to show up. Read more »


Tired of being told what’s wrong with us? Me too.

“You know what’s wrong with America?”

I gotta be honest, I can’t stand that question. For some reason it has become the pop culture question of the decade, just as comfortable on the lips of a Fox News Anchor or an NPR analyst; it shows up on the front of a weekly news magazine or the cover of a book put out by the latest batch of political know-it-alls. It will definitely be asked more and more as November 2012 approaches.

To me this question, which smugly suggests that the speaker has the answer and that one answer reigns supreme, rings false. For our country this question has become an interrogative phrase dripping in divisiveness and seeking no real truth. It serves only to broaden the chasm between fellow Americans with increasingly divergent self-interests.

A conservative may profer the answer one day that it is crime. Another day that it is terrorism. Still another that it is taxes. A liberal (unless that’s now an undesirable word) might one day provide the answer as poverty. Or lack of health care. Or not enough taxes. The point is that at the moment the rhetorical question is raised, there’s only one answer; please hold while (fill in the blank) provides your answer. Read more »


The federal deficit: the ultimate platinum credit card

The federal government is truly not what it used to be. Where once farmers, soldiers, businessmen and normal people (defined as “those who work for a living”) considered it an honor to spend a few years making the trek to the swamp in D.C., there are now career politicians entrenched in the magical and profitable world that is the Beltway.

Obviously, that was not a shocking revelation. Still, one can argue that if the members of the Constitutional Convention could get a look at what now passes for government in D.C., they might have decided to write a few extra chapters onto our country’s original parchment.

State’s rights would have been a great place to start. Here in our Washington, state and local governments must balance their budgets or cut whatever looks least necessary. Here we pay the vast majority of government workers a middle class wage along with respectable benefits. If the economy tanks then everything, salaries, benefits and retirement, is susceptible to some painful tweaking.

For example, when I was hired in 1988 I worked with quite a few cops who were still part of the old retirement system (LEOFF 1) which was generous to a fault. That seismic fault appeared in 1978 in the form of spiraling inflation. Along came LEOFF 2 with no medical, later retirement age and less money.  Back in the present, our current recession has caused the first round of layoffs and pay cuts that I have ever experienced in law enforcement. Everyone, from public to private business in our state, has shared this recession. Read more »


We all get a chance to be young and…eager

After listening to an airline pilot friend of mine tell me a funny story about somebody screwing up at his work, I mentioned that the average person might not find anything humorous about mistakes at the airport.

He rolled his eyes. People screw up, he said. Deal with it.

Then he looked at me and asked if I had had any malfunctions at the police department. Me? No way, I said, as the temperature in the coffee shop rose a few degrees (or was it just me?).

So instead I told him a brief story about a…friend of mine. It took place many years ago in a city far away from the one that currently signs my paycheck and involved a young and eager kid, fresh out of the academy. As was fairly common for rookies, he had developed an unholy crush on his police gear. This kid liked everything on his belt–the flashlight and handcuffs, the nightstick and radio, the speed-loaders and revolver.

Remember I said this was a long time ago, right?

Read more »


New state law protects the wrong element

In a surprise move our state legislature did succeed in passing a gang bill during this session. The only problem is that it’s the wrong one.

Unlike the failed HB 1126, which would have disrupted gang activity through injunctions, Senate Bill 5242 will now be a tool for outlaw motorcycle groups to circumvent our state traffic laws. This measure has passed through our legislature, been signed by the governor and been added to RCW 43.101 as of April 13.

The bill was written because our state officials agree that law enforcement officers have been unfairly profiling motorcycle riders, and enough is enough. After some focused thought on the matter, my best attempt at an eloquent response is, “Huh?”

If police officers have shown any special interest in targeting motorcyclists for extra enforcement, then that would be news to me.  Along with many of my fellow police officers, I am a motorcycle rider and enthusiast. About the only consistent comment I hear when police officers contact riders is, “Nice bike.”

Nevertheless, I am pretty sure I know who sold our lawmakers on this fiction—the aforementioned outlaw motorcycle groups. These are not your “Wild Hogs,” as portrayed by John Travolta and his crew. These are clubs such as the Bandidos and Hell’s Angels that, like our local criminal street gang the Hilltop Crips, have been identified as a criminal organization. Like the Crips, the outlaw clubs have been the target of federal investigations as a result of narcotics trafficking and violence. Gangs and outlaw clubs share a similar mindset, as evidenced by the typical Facebook page of a local Bandido who described one of his interests as “taking care of snitches.” Unlike the Crips, the outlaw motorcycle clubs have some Hollywood cache and an excellent P.R. machine.

Back to the new state law.

Read more »


Technology and a good set of eyes make a solid arrest

I left police work in 1999 to pursue new endeavors. When I returned in 2007 I noticed that a few things had changed. Some people have asked, what’s been the most difficult adjustment?

Technology. Hands down.

That cavernous empty area to the right of my car radio, circa 1989, has now been populated with a comm system, an assortment of emergency light switches, buttons that operate options that I can’t talk about (or still don’t know how to use), a video camera system, a flashlight charger, a hands-free phone cradle and a printer. Lastly, there’s the touch-screen laptop computer with a desktop of programs stuffed with more data than the FBI mainframe held in 1989. It was, and is, an intimidating array.

Unfortunately, all of that police technology sometimes isn’t enough. In Federal Way, for example, it couldn’t keep an 8-year-old child safe in her home from a real boogey man and his twisted version of reality. The Amber Alert went out all right, but what good are all the radios, lights, phones, printers and computers in police cars throughout our area when no one knows where she went? Read more »


Domestic violence- looking back and looking ahead

We fight our wars abroad, put billions of dollars into protecting ourselves from domestic terrorism, and yet the body count inside our own homes just continues to mount. Here in Pierce County, it’s hard to be anything but upset about the news of eight lives recently lost to domestic abuse.

Below I have reprinted a guest column I wrote a couple years ago. After thinking it through I realized that this particular incident gave me the majority of my own training in domestic violence. I think it’s a touch melodramatic, but it was a sincere effort.

If you think, after reading, that it’s a cause you could get behind, open up your wallets and/or your time to the Tacoma-Pierce County YWCA. They are fighting the good fight.

The Cycle of Violence (3/09)

Once upon a time there was a young woman; let’s call her Maria. There is little I can tell about Maria as a young girl, but when she fell in love with her Prince Charming, her story intertwined with mine. She was happy and in love, and I was a rookie cop, inexperienced and naive. We met the day Maria first called 911 to report domestic violence. Read more »


We own cartel violence as much as Mexico

As the body count in Mexico’s cartel war surpasses 34,000, those of us in the U.S. watch with horror and fascination. Then we change the channel, turn the page or scroll to the next story. Our country seems to have the overriding sense that this convulsively violent crime wave is Mexico’s dirty problem.

But the truth about the cartel wildfire is that the U.S. is both the kindling, the logs and the match.

The origin of this problem is our insatiable thirst for narcotics such as meth, heroin, marijuana and cocaine, which our addicts order up in more varieties than Starbucks has lattes. To the great misfortune of Mexicans, whose average income is 1/3 that of our own (according to the CIA website), some of their most ruthless citizens have seized on Mexico’s proximity to the U.S., as well as its prime positioning on the corridor between the U.S. and South American drug fields, in order to conduct an extremely profitable business.

For this (illegal) business model to thrive, one needs guns. A lot of guns. Because of stringent anti-gun laws, Mexicans have often crossed the border for firearms. The ubiquitous presence of guns for sale, in stores, gun swaps or online from private individuals, has fueled a weapons trafficking business in the reverse direction of narcotics.  In many cases, Americans have been the conduit for an endless flow of gun purchases. Only a small percentage are seized at the border. Not surprisingly, weapons recovered from cartel killings are commonly traced to the U.S.

Those weapons have also been turned on Americans. The recent homicide of a Homeland Security agent in Mexico was carried out with a weapon reported to be purchased in the U.S. In addition, cartel hit men have shown up in American cities and rural areas, and in some cases their targets have been U.S. law enforcement. Read more »