Blue Byline

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

Continued violence demands legislative solutions

Post by Brian O'Neill on March 4, 2012 at 10:26 pm with 13 Comments »
March 5, 2012 11:05 am

If you’ve been keeping up on news in the Puget Sound area you already know that 2012 has been a violent year. In January a park ranger, Margaret Anderson, was shot and killed at Mount Rainier National Park. In early February our region garnered unwanted national attention due to the domestic violence homicide of two small boys by the now infamous Josh Powell. Just last week we lost another police officer, State Patrol Trooper Tony Radulescu, at the hands of a meth-crazed criminal.

Violent crime remains a critical issue. The question is, what are we doing about it?

One hurdle became apparent only a few years ago when I attended a criminal procedures class at the police academy. It was a certification course for cops transferring to Washington State (I was gettig re-certified). Over the next two weeks the students, who represented almost every state in our union, listened with growing dismay as the instructor discussed the legal restraints on police work in Washington State. Sometimes the reaction was a stunned silence. Sometimes the students groaned in unison. Eventually, some decided living in the Evergreen State was not worth the hassle.

That remains the current reality, and it needs to change. In light of the violence over the last two months (not to mention the last couple years) our legislature has had ample opportunity to reshape the public safety model in favor of future victims. Several promising bills were written – almost all of these have failed.

Attorney General Rob McKenna/ AP Photo

For example, in 2011 Attorney General Rob McKenna sponsored a bill targeting criminal street gangs. It was a timely endeavor as the resurgence of gang violence in the last several years has brought many communities, both in the urban setting of the Seattle-Tacoma corridor and the rural areas of Eastern Washington, to their knees. Modeled after California’s successful anti-gang legislation, the bill was aimed at decreasing the presence of gang members on their chosen turf via civil injunction.

Despite the entreaties from citizens and police officials from all over Washington, the bill never made it out of the committee. Instead, a bill that was written to protect against “motorcycle profiling” was unanimously passed into law. The legislation was backed by outlaw groups such as the Bandidos, but this did not dampen the enthusiasm of Governor Gregoire. She signed the legislation before a crowd which included a member of an outlaw motorcycle group who had served time for killing a Portland police officer.

In 2010 a Tacoma teacher, Jennifer Paulson, was murdered outside her school by a man who had stalked her for years. Last year a bill aimed at preventing similar crimes was put forth in the legislature. It was largely supported by domestic violence groups and the Attorney General’s office, but this bill also died in committee. The spoilers were judges and their lobbyists who argued that the bill amounted to an invasion of privacy (Olympian 2/10). It would seem a stalker’s right to privacy exceeds that of his or her victim.

The legislature has also shown poor judgment on budgeting for the Department of Corrections. DOC has shrugged off a huge number of Community Corrections Officers recently, though these probation officers play a vital role as caretakers for recently released felons. The loss of these positions has created a gaping hole in the system. As a gang enforcement officer I have noted a sharp increase in violent activity committed by subjects who no longer fall under DOC supervision.

Too often it seems that the decision to table a controversial crime bill or cut public safety funding is a matter for either philosophical debate or spreadsheet accounting. Our judges and elected state officials need to understand that the repurcussions are brutally real. Protecting the public from violent crime does not require theoretical discussion. It requires insight on the real barriers; it requires experience with the system and the players, both good and bad; and it requires a true commitment to the principles of justice.

In contrast, our legislature has spent the last year bowing to the esoteric views of the ill-informed, placing the rights of criminals before innocent victims, and decimating the ranks of community guardians. It is time to recognize that this process and these decisions are partly to blame for such a violent beginning to 2012.

What we need in our communities, our cities and our State Capital is the collective courage to make better choices.


Leave a comment Comments → 13
  1. rivitman says:

    I’m not sure it’s a matter of new laws.

    Prosecutors are making too many plea deals, and judges are signing off on those deals.

    For our part, we aren’t willing to pay the taxes to deal with the problems.

    A plea deal is cheap, a jury trial isn’t. Neither is incarceration. We are closing prisons. We are letting people out who haven’t served all of their time, even on already lenient sentences. People want to complain about crime from the peanut gallery, the same location from where they complain about taxation.

  2. The only law that will make us a safer society over time, is one that restricts gun ownership, but no politician Left yet alone Right will address the issue. It will happen, likely not soon enough however.

  3. BlaineCGarver says:

    “The only law that will make us a safer society over time, is one that restricts gun ownership”

    What utter crap…Since when did anyone but law abiding persons follow laws?? I legally carry a gun because I can’t carry a cop around. The kid that shot that poor little girl in Bremmerton got his gun from an Idiot Mother that was a felon and legally can not own guns…

  4. BlaineCGarver says:

    Oh….Good article, Brian…Thanks!

  5. smokey984 says:

    Ipsut couldn’t disagree more…

    BlaineCGarver great point regarding cant carry a cop in your pocket.

    So i will carry a gun to protect myself because laws that restrict gun ownership only disarm the victims of the criminals who disregard said misguided legislation in the first place.

    Anyway good article Brian, although the last sentence ending with the collective courage to make better choices…i would have appreciated if you would of expanded your point a little.

    The collective courage of parents to raise their children with some moral clarity based on sound religious principles and an achievement of higher education…

    The collective courage of our politicians saying no to special interests…

    The collective courage of our citizens for peaceful civil disobedience…

    The collective courage of our citizens to….etc.

  6. Objective says:

    I wonder how many laws are on the books as of today? Then of course how many of them actually prevent criminal activity? Or are actually enforced.

    The state seems to be more worried about who has a fire going in their fireplace/woodstove.

    I also have to say, when you state “True Principles of Justice”. It is obvious this state does not share the same definition in Principles of Justice, and will vary greatly among those of us in the state. Remember most criminals still vote!!!!

  7. Restrict felons who are violent or a predators from benefiting
    from government entitlement programs unless they are truly
    entitled. I’ve heard so many sob stories I could puke.
    Monthly checks, housing and food stamps programs should develop much better filters against fraud.

  8. Don’t you see it? Our elected officials can’t keep up!!!

  9. harleyrider1 says:

    Brian, sometimes it is incomprehensible that you are in law enforcement.

    None of the deaths in your first paragraph were caused by gang-bangers or motorcycle gangs. And before you joined TPD and now, there are more than enough laws to deal with those people.

    Law enforcement and its success is a matter of policy, especially in Tacoma. Long before you and it will be after you. If the Chief wants to reduce the crime, the edict is made a priority and political support is thrown behind it. The guys hit the street and the crackdown begins.

    When you run out of laws to enforce and the people seem to be obeying those, then come to the voters and make your plea. Meanwhile to say you need more laws to reduce crime in Tacoma might fill your column, fill up more code books, but it will not protect anyone, especially police officers.

  10. BlaineCGarver: You mentioned the little kid in Bremerton. The gun in question was bought from the manufacturer by someone that was not a felon, correct? Then that someone had it stolen from them, sold it, or gave it away. Restrict the flow of guns by not selling them in the first place.

  11. Brian O'Neill says:

    hr1- I appreciate your comment, but it seems you’re running short on perspective. The point was not to link each recent act of violence to a specific bill. Instead, it was to highlight the fact that homicidal acts continue to occur, and that the legislature has failed to provide reasonable measures for law enforcement to deal with the problem. If this were California, we would have far more tools and a broader scope for the mission (especially in the realm of gang supppression).

    Gang violence is responsible for a large percentage of injurious and fatal shootings every year. Despite that, gang-bangers are free to congregate in large groups, actively recruit and increase their sphere of influence. This creates fear in the neighborhood, and let’s face it – if it’s your neighborhood you’re gonna want the police to do more. At least one of the bills that failed this past year would have allowed police to step in and reduce the gang presence.

    While it may be incomprehensible to you that I am a police officer, I would expect by your comments that you are 1) also in law enforcement or, 2) arrogant enough to suggest you know more about my job than I do.

  12. Objective says:


    If you think restricting guns will save peoples lives. Then you may want to consider restricting the sales of cars, trucks, motorcycles also. More are hurt or killed in auto related incidents than guns.

    Also with record years in gun sales. Would you be one to go out and enforce some law restricting / confiscating guns? Or do you prefer somebody else to do that?

  13. Objective: You don’t seem to understand the message do you. The items you have raised ( cars,motorcycle’s,trucks etc.)are involved in accidents, rarely involved with intentional homicides. Guns on the other hand— . But never fear, during the foreseeable future, our “leaders” are too timid to enact such laws. Therefore you will be able to continue viewing with pride, more parades in future.

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