Letters to the Editor

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TPD: No reason to expose officer’s human error

Letter by Jim H. Rich, Steilacoom on April 25, 2011 at 11:27 am with 22 Comments »
April 25, 2011 12:42 pm

Re: “Responsibility without consequence” (TNT, 4-23).

The first Amber Alert the Tacoma Police Department was to issue didn’t go quite how they thought it would. The department relied on one human being to issue the alert. That human being had the audacity to be human. How dare he.

The department has since changed its procedure to allow any sergeant or above to issue the alert. That system was changed without exposing a good human being to more embarrassment than he already was experiencing.

Police Chief Don Ramsdell didn’t mention the reason for the Amber Alert delay. So what? The officer was human and made a human error that caused no harm. The initial system was flawed but was fixed to eliminate a single person being responsible.

As a supervisor who cares for his employees, Ramsdell obviously saw no need to have the employee endure the self-righteous indignation that armchair critics would surely hurl toward him. I believe that is an action of a caring, superior leader.

The paranoid will assume the human error would not have come to light if the delay actually had made a material difference. That’s the purview of the paranoid.

How about we all relax a bit and not be quite so judgmental. Until machines do their jobs, errors will happen, hopefully with as few consequences as this one.

Leave a comment Comments → 22
  1. Omega6234 says:

    What planet do you live on where this should go unpunished?? I girl lost her life… i guess losing human life makes one paranoid.

  2. The term “human error” means that a human was at fault.

    The cover up shows that he knew he was wrong.

  3. surething says:

    Ridiculous letter.

  4. For some things, human error, is the worse excuse ever. This is one of those events.

  5. itwasntmethistime says:

    Omega — She was already dead. She didn’t die because Fulghum fell asleep. The delayed alert had absolutely no affect whatsoever, except to give the grieving family a direction to point a finger.

  6. “itwasntmethistime says:
    April 25, 2011 at 6:30 pm
    Omega — She was already dead. She didn’t die because Fulghum fell asleep. The delayed alert had absolutely no affect whatsoever, except to give the grieving family a direction to point a finger.”
    Did they know she was already dead? If not, your reply is possibly the most stupid of the year.

  7. slasmith says:

    Everything that public employees do on behalf of the public should be fully transparent and open to the scrutiny of their employer the public.

  8. SSounder says:

    The story is a legitimate one. That public employees make mistakes in itself is not news. This one is news as the result of circumstances. Most anyone who reads the story is intelligent enough to know that it was a mistake, and they they do not know enough about the facts to judge. Thankfully it is just an embarassing mistake and not a tragic one as the girl was already gone.

    As a result of the mistake, and not the news story, the procedure had been changed so that it could not happen again. We can be assured that next time there is a mistake in the Amber Alert process, it won’t be this one.

    Sorry for the family that gets to relive this story, and for the officer, who I am sure has punished himself many times over.

  9. The blame goes to the person or persons who decide only 1 person can put out an Amber Alert. What if the person who was responsible for putting out the amber alert was being rush or was rushing his child to the hospital is he suppose to stop and make a phone call. No, unfortunately he fell asleep. Beside their no guarantees she would have been found alive even if the alert went out in a timely manner. Only her abductor knows that answer. In fact it may have only meant they found her dead sooner. Another factor needs to be considered, how long it took the parents to call the sheriff’s department. There are those who believe that you must wait 24 hours prior to calling the sheriff’s department which is not true. And they also need to know that the sheriff’s dept doesn’t look for those who left willingly due to the fact it’s not against the law for person to leave there situation.

  10. yabetchya says:

    The Amber alert should of went out as soon as the father made the call…with the discription of the van and the partial plate #, but NO, the TPD had their own agenda. The TPD blew it, not just Mark.

  11. SSounder says:

    yabetchya I think we all agree “The Amber alert should of went out as soon as the father made the call”. You assertion that some agenda by the TPD caused that not to happen is outrageous.

    This was an unfortunate incident in part due to human error, and in part due to a faulty policy that has since been changed.

  12. Omega6234 says:

    Only in a world this messed up would someone think this was ok. Did Mr. Fulgrum know that she was already dead?? No.. he did not. It amazes me how little is placed on human life these days. He should be fired… held accountable. And let me get this straight.. he was on cold medicine on july 4th??? Right… couldnt possibly be a few beers deep on a huge holiday!!!

  13. What was most unfortunate was the attempted cover up, a lie by anyone’s standards.

  14. PumainTacoma says:

    Public servants who are responsible and paid to protect the public and ensure to perform the full functions of the job….Will be judged. It is part of the job!

    Fulghman’s “essential functions” of his job (why the job exists) is to ensure that the City of Tacoma and Tacoma Police Department’s polices are enforced.

    What is so hard to digest about his JOB RESPONSIBILITIES. Ramsdell then cover-ups and hides the TRUTH from the taxpaying public.

    Question for Ramsdell:
    After YOU “knew” Fughlman fell asleep on the job WHAT ACTION DID YOU TAKE TO CORRECT his behavior? We are waiting for the answer. If your answer is NOTHING. You have just lost. Plain and simple YOU have not PERFORMED your essential functions of your job, as Chief of Police for the City of Tacoma.

    Inaction by Ramsdell is in and of itself negligence in the HR arena.

  15. commoncents says:

    No one is saying this is ok. I think that those defending Fulgham recognize that any process that relies on only one person to achieve success is flawed to begin with. In this case, a perfect storm occurred that exposed the flaw. Had there been a deliberate effort to not issue the alert then I can see people’s points but there wasn’t.

    However, where there was a deliberate obfuscation of the truth was in not including the delay in reports. Does that merit termination? I don’t think so. But, I do think that Ramsdell and Fulgham should be losing days without pay…as should anyone else who knew that they had omitted it from reports.

    And yes, Omega – people do take Advil PM during the summer – even when they don’t have colds. Why? for the sleep aid component of it. And that stuff will knock you out. Not make you completely unresponsive but more so unaware of what your doing and/or saying. My wife has on many occasions been unable to recall that she has had conversations with me after taking that stuff.

  16. commoncents says:

    After YOU “knew” Fughlman fell asleep on the job….

    Puma – he was off duty. He did not fall asleep on the job. He had been off duty and asleep in his own bed for at least 3 hours.

  17. pazzo242 says:

    Hind sight is always 20/20 and I feel badly for Officer Fulghum. Nevertheless Ramsdell should have been up front from the beginning. If there was an error in the procedures, as it should not have depended on just one person, then say so. By not saying anything, in that regard, he made the entire thing look to be a cover-up. As if he was trying to protect one of his employees or himself for an inexcusable error.

    The system as it stood was wrong. Who approves these system rules, known as SOP’s—the Chief, which is reasonable to assume was Chief Ramsdell. He, of all people should know through his vast experience that just one person should be responsible for something so important. In every SOP Manual are checks and balances to make sure things get done.

    Furthermore at the time of the kidnapping no one knew if the young girl was dead or not so the sense of emergency should have been paramount. Do I blame Fulghum—no way. Do I blame the system—yes. Do I blame who created the system and those who agreed it was good—yes. In this case the system could not help the victim as it appears she was killed before ever the first word could have been typed in the Amber Alert even if the new procedures were in place, but at the time no one knew that.

    I have felt that Ramdell has been over his head as Chief and this is more evidence that may be the case.

  18. pazzo242 says:

    I wrote: He, of all people should know through his vast experience that just one person should be responsible for something so important. In every SOP Manual are checks and balances to make sure things get done.

    Oops, messed up again–should say:
    He, of all people should know through his vast experience that just one person should NOT be responsible for something so important. In every SOP Manual are checks and balances to make sure things get done.

  19. Respectfully to the letter writer? A young girl was murdered and although the police did not murder her, they did make many mistakes. A timely Amber Alert probably would have led police right to him if only the community had been given a chance. Also according to today’s article and the murderer’s own statement, at the very least could have prevented this precious child’s remains from being desecrated by this maggot. He took the freeway! He probably would have been spotted and maybe she would still be alive! I’m certain that her family care little about the policeman’s reputation when considering what precious Zina, the family, and the community have been put through.

  20. commoncents says:

    Frida – Doubtful…Remember, the amber alert was asked for at 4 am. The girl was taken at 9:45 pm. She was dead before he molested her which was when he first brought her home – within 20 minutes of taking her. At very best it would have allowed police to catch him earlier – possibly with her body since he didn’t dispose of it for a few days.

    given the partial plate and the description of an Asian man….my only question is how did they not use that information to catch him earlier? I can only surmise that perhaps the numbers provided by the father don’t match the plates at all? In which case the amber alert wouldn’t have done any good.

  21. ItalianSpring says:

    Jim- yours is the most rational and logical position on this issue. Now watch those who aren’t either attack like crazed zombies. Oh look. They’ve already started.

  22. Parkland says:

    To fall asleep when you’re supposed to be putting out an Amber Alert is human error. To collaborate among several fellow civil service employees to put out a false story as the official police statement is conspiracy, is unacceptable, and is probably criminal.

    This letter is just plain dumb.

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