Blue Byline

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

Archives: Sep. 2011


Custody ruling a judgment against Powell’s character

On Tuesday the judge presiding over the custody dispute involving Susan Cox Powell’s two young boys said she needed more time to unravel the mess.

What Judge Kathryn Nelson didn’t say, but could have, was “This’ll be one of the easiest decisions I’ll ever make in this job.”

Wednesday, the Pierce County Superior Court judge gave custody to the missing woman’s parents, Charles and Judith Cox, in a decision that should be seen as nothing less than a stern rebuke for Josh Powell and the home he shares with his father, Steven Powell.

This ruling came despite the State’s strong bias towards keeping children in the care of their biological parents. Despite the worthy goal, the judge in this case had ample reason to take a harsh view of Josh Powell’s parenting program.

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Congress: DO NOT mess with military retirement

In the last decade of war, most of us sat out and tuned out. Meanwhile, our soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen deployed. And deployed. And deployed.

Occasionally we stopped tweeting and texting long enough to watch the news, mourn the dead, wave the flag or tie a yellow ribbon. Perhaps we took that extra step of approaching a uniformed serviceman or woman to say, “Thank you for your service.”

But the times have changed. And the times are tough.

Congress now faces the unpleasant task of hacking off sizeable chunks from the budget, including portions of our nation’s vast defense costs (Trib article 9/25). In addition to expensive weapon’s systems and nation-building initiatives, the retirement promised to veterans actually appears to be on the table.

That is, in a word, outrageous. Twenty years and half pay- that was the deal.

There are numerous examples of pensions lost or shrunk in the private sector. The difference is that the capitalism system has always carried the potential for great reward as well as great loss. Any comparison to military benefits would be comparing apples to oranges (or grenades).

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The double-edged sword of criminal justice

“…and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” The Lord’s Prayer

When I was a boy reciting this prayer I took this particular excerpt to simply mean I should steer clear of trouble. But what if, like Pierce County deputies Montgomery and McNicol, your job is to steer straight into trouble?

As the recent Trib article relates, a Pierce County jury returned a guilty verdict on Friday for the two deputies accused of perjuring themselves in March 2010. Fortunately, this shameful scene is a rare event. But when it happens it is painful to watch, especially for those of us in the same profession.

The criminal justice system in which we work is an imperfect format. Cops (myself included) often criticize the process for its loopholes, limitations and one-size fits all approach. In most instances, however, we are there to see the system work well (or at least well enough).

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Norm Dicks, me and the big blue sky

I stood by the open cockpit door of the little four-passenger Piper and imagined myself the very image of a nonchalant charter pilot. Then my passenger, Congressman Norm Dicks, stormed up and my cool demeanor evaporated like water on the hot tarmac. When he realized I was his ride to Hoquiam I swear I saw smoke coming out of his ears.

That was back in 2000. I had just left Tacoma P.D. to pursue an ill-fated dream of being an airline pilot (a year later I would lose my job at Horizon Air when the Twin Towers came crashing down).

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Teachers: Erase strike from union’s lesson plan

Before I add to the vitriol surrounding the striking Tacoma school teachers I should provide this disclaimer: I don’t have kids in Tacoma schools, don’t have any experience in teacher negotiations and have only a basic grasp on the issues.

Now to the point- Tacoma teachers should put down the signs, step away from the picket lines and get back to the vital job of teaching children.

As I mentioned, I don’t have a dog (or in this case, a kid) in the fight. What I do have is the experience of being a public employee charged to perform a vital role within the protective network of a union. Despite a degree of removal, my perspective as a law enforcement officer does give me a minimum level of commonality with public school educators, whose union is currently conducting a very aggressive, ill-timed and controversial job action.

Like teachers, my years in police work have all been spent under the umbrella of a union-negotiated contract. Not surprisingly, the last three years at the bargaining table have been, in a word, lousy. Our union gave back 2% of our pay one year and froze it the next. We received fewer health benefits just as medical costs increased. Finally, we watched staffing, job opportunities and promotions erode. Like many other public and private sector workers in this brave new economy, we are now being asked to do more while being given less.

Compare that with individual Tacoma teachers quoted as saying they would simply like to keep the previous contract’s salary. While I don’t blame them for wishing, in this economy that wish and four bucks will get you a gallon of gas.

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Final ripples from TPD’s Amber Alert belly flop

At its most intense moments, the drama over Tacoma Police Department’s handling of the Zina Linnik disappearance threatened to overcome the careers of the city manager, the police chief and just about anybody associated with it.

Now that the outside expert has finished his analysis of the investigation the effort comes across as more farce than melodrama. The lack of egregious errors make this whole mess appear to be (with numerous apologies to the bard) much ado about nothing.

The Trib article (9/14) detailed the findings of the consultant hired by the city, Mark Simpson. For the tidy sum of $18,800, Simpson informed the council that the department’s spokesman should have issued an Amber Alert when investigators made the request.

That has to rank as one of the more expensive purchases of the word, “Duh.”

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Finding Powell’s remains will be more bitter than sweet

Family and friends of Susan Cox Powell have waited almost two years for some word, any word on the disappearance of this young mother from her home in West Valley City, Utah.

Now they have a word. Bones.

Investigators at West Valley City P.D., who first explored the rugged mine shafts dotted throughout an eastern Nevada scrubland, have finally come across a possible link to Cox Powell’s disappearance in the desert near Delta, Utah. According to the Trib article (9/14), human remains were found in one of these shafts. Could it be Susan Cox Powell?

We won’t have to wait very long for the what if’s to be answered. The Trib reported just this morning that the bureacratic step of an examination by a federal anthropologist is complete, and the remains are not historical. This paves the way for the bones to be transferred to the county medical examiner’s office. The M.E. has the responsibility to answer many questions to include the identity of the deceased and the manner of death.

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At the intersection of Violence and Stupidity

Guess which one of the following scenarios actually ocurred:

1) A young gang member shoots at a rival under the mistaken impression that the rival was responsible for a previous shooting. Fortunately, the rival is unhurt and the shooter’s gang realizes their mistake. But rather than make amends, they return to finish the job, shooting the rival five times.

2) A man calls 911 with the simple complaint, “There’s a dead guy in the bushes.” Police arrive at his house and find a dead guy in the bushes. After a brief investigation, during which the caller states, “You can’t arrest me, I’m the one that called 911!” he is arrested on homicide charges.

3) A man asks his neighbors if he can borrow their trash can to hide a dead body.

If you’ve been reading the Trib lately, you already know that the third scenario is, according to police accounts, a true story. The latest update on the incident states that charges have been filed against Anthony T. Clark for the killing of sixteen-year-old Devondre Davis. The story grabs us because we simply can not believe someone would ask a neighbor if they could “put a dead body in their trash can”, according to the report (9/9).

Believe it.

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