Year end reviews are a time-honored tradition in print journalism. Looking back on the year’s crime stories may not match the feel-good quality of other reviews, but it may highlight our progress on the many challenges we have faced. And vice versa.
So, here is a laundry list of the most popular topics addressed in Blue Byline this past year (based on site visits and commentary).
January: We began the year with the steamy topic of marijuana legislation. The state legislature was under a great deal of pressure to fix the gaping, truck-sized holes in the then current statute, and the upcoming session began the incubation period for the momentous passage of I-502.
February: We mourned the loss of Washington State Patrol Trooper Tony Radulescu, a veteran cop who was shot during a traffic stop. The column was a send up to the immigrant, military vet and seasoned trooper and father who lived such a rich and worthwhile life. Gone but not forgotten.
March: The Trayvon Martin shooting was the first violent incident to polarize the zeitgeist. George Zimmerman’s exceedingly questionable killing of the young Trayvon brought gun control, civil rights and racial prejudice back into the spotlight. It will likely continue playing out in 2013.
April: Suicide was a much deliberated topic, especially when an April review of suicides by military veterans revealed disturbing statistics and a previously unspoken factor: the stigma surrounding soldiers who sought professional counseling. The tragic suicide of a Daffodil Princess planted the issue on the front page, and made a strong case for an open discussion on this taboo topic.
May: Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign revealed a troubling account of a bullying incident in which he was alleged to have spearheaded while in high school. The comments disappointingly split right down the middle: Republicans vs. Democrats.
June: The targeted killing of sex offenders in Clallam County sparked a debate on the role of vigilantes in our modern day criminal justice system. The alleged killer had no connection to his victims, nor to the victims of his prey, thus making this impersonal and random act impossible to justify. Many disagreed.
July: We were reintroduced to mass killing when a deranged man opened fire in a crowded theater in Aurora, Colorado. The so-called Batman Massacre deeply affected the average person, and the calls for gun control (and “more guns” by gun rights advocates) began in earnest. The comments section became a verbal war zone.
August: Closer to home, a psychotic woman with severe mental health issues was arrested for shooting several people at a store on the Key Peninsula. The minimal resources available for mental health patients remains a crucial problem that demands action, fiscal cliff or not.
September: A Nicaraguan court was shamed into reviewing the farce trial and conviction of Jason Puracal, a Seattle native arrested for alleged money laundering. The appeals court finally admitted defense evidence and testimony, and his conviction was overturned. Having written about his plight in previous columns, it was wonderful news. He has since returned home.
October: Following the Trib’s excellent, in-depth story on the Northwest Detention Center (the federally contracted incarceration center for illegal aliens located on the tide flats), I wrote a 3-part series highlighting my own experiences, both as a law enforcement officer working alongside immigration agents and as the son of immigrants. Comments were deeply divided and could have fit into two categories: “deport them all” or “amnesty for all.”
November: The election was the climax of a fractious split between our parties and, it could be argued, our entire nation. Here in Washington State the unprecedented vote on legalized marijuana made I-502 an international talking point. Its success can be attributed to the detailed, consequences-driven and tight language of the law itself. If the federal government hops off the fence in 2013, we may soon know whether I-502 was worth the effort.
December: The unspeakable mass shooting incident in Newtown struck a national nerve and sparked the extremely fractional argument over gun control. Grieving parents buried their children while politicians, NRA officials and private citizens through steaming heaps of rhetoric at each other. If there is to be any good to arise from this tragedy, it will have to wait until the anger, distrust and fear dissipate.
With another year in the can, I want to thank you for being one of the approximately 112,000 site visits (and over 1200 comments) in 2012.
See you next year!