Letters to the Editor

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TPD: Ramsdell’s error isn’t a firing offense

Letter by MacKenzie Allen, Tacoma on May 6, 2011 at 1:47 pm with 13 Comments »
May 6, 2011 1:59 pm

Re: “Police chief ‘lied to citizens,’ review board member says” (TNT, 5-6).

I’m a retired sheriff’s deputy and served on Tacoma’s Citizens’ Review Panel in 2010. I resigned my position after a year for two reasons.

First, the panel’s duties are, by statute, extremely limited, providing little more than proofreading services for the police department’s written policies, making the work tedious in the extreme.

Chief Don Ramsdell was almost always present at these meetings, which took place in the evening. I marveled at his patience and equanimity when, after what had to be a long day, he sat and gave his full attention to the work of the panel.

Second, I found the panel’s chair, Trisha King Stargel – the person calling for Chief Ramsdell’s firing – to be a self-impressed attention-seeker who would go on ad nauseum about the most insignificant point, making tedious work even more unpleasant. I was therefore disheartened but not surprised to read of her call for Ramsdell’s dismissal.

John LaFond and Mike West, both mentioned in the article, are bright, level-headed and completely accurate in their assessment of this situation being outside the purview of the panel.

Ramsdell made a serious mistake of judgment, but his motives were not evil and he has certainly paid the price for his actions. If, as King Stargel suggests, this constitutes a firing offense, we’d better start hiring robots. But I’ll put my money on Chief Ramsdell any day.

Leave a comment Comments → 13
  1. Golferscantjump says:

    Very well stated!

  2. ItalianSpring says:

    Bravo.

  3. Polago says:

    “Ramsdell made a serious mistake of judgment,”

    He is dishonest. He lied and tried to cover it up.

    “but his motives were not evil”

    He is dishonest for reasons that are not evil.

    “and he has certainly paid the price for his actions.”

    If he had not been found out he would have gotten away with it and not have “paid the price.”

    What is the going rate for lying and trying to cover it up? Embarrassment?

  4. Earth_watch says:

    It’s true our Citizen Review Panel is “limited” to just discussing policy – – not like other cities thanks to the bullying police union which stopped our panel from being an effective body.

    If our other police men and women are also standing behind Ramsdell’s having lied and covered up for it for years, then we are in serious trouble. And where are they? Where are the comments of fellow-active-duty police on how they feel about this and what it’s doing to their reputation? Because of Ramsdell and their silence, they are going to be lupped in with him and assumed to protect themselves more than the people they are sworn to protect (and who pay their salaries).

  5. beerBoy says:

    One of the most consistently supportive poster of anything and everything the police does/have done was named citylies……. Now I understand why he chose the name – in solidarity with the Chieflies

  6. harleyrider1 says:

    No one that knows Don Ramsdell will tell you he is impolite or inattentive. He is paid a very large salary which compensates him for often, long days.
    That’s a moot point.

    The point is he was not truthful. He knew if he fully disclosed events that took place during the timeline, it would be a public relations problem. He also knew it could be dealt with by Fulgham’s termination. He chose neither.

    Everyone makes choices. In this case, as the City’s police Chief, did he make the right one? A police officer on the street is an extension of his or her Chief. One cannot have it both ways. If you can trust the Chief, you can trust his officers.

  7. pazzo242 says:

    As a retired Tacoma police officer I can tell you that if an officer is found lying to cover for another or to cover for their own mistakes that officer would first be relieved of duty, pending investigation. That was the first thing that struck a cord with me as to why he was never put on admin leave.

    Upon the completion of the investigation and assuming the investigation found the officer did, in fact, lie; the officer would be terminated. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. That outcome in clearly written in the SOP manual.

    Truthfulness is the heart and soul of law enforcement. If that is compromised then no matter what you do for the remainder of your career you will be questioned as to the integrity of your actions…..period. The Top Cop has to be the leader by example.

    Is Ramsdell a nice guy—sure he is. On a personal level I like “Donny” but this cut to the core and without some sort of sanction–which just might include termination, he has circumvented the office of Chief of Police.

    As for “Rammer” showing up at these after work hour meetings and being so patient and even tempered (as you put it)—please do me a favor and check out the job description for Chief and then take a close look as the number of figures on his pay check. When you exam that I do believe you may have a bit different point of view about the magnanimous feeling of his presence.

  8. Pazzo-if it were only true that an officer found guilty of lying was terminated, we would be in a much better place with citizen-police trust. One only has to look at the case of Dougil in Gig Harbor…..he’s back being a cop, and cranky that he isn’t getting a promotion! This issue with Ramsdell needs to be dealt with in a manner to restore the publics trust. Whether that is termination, or a suspension, or a public sanction or????

    To say that a little bad press is sufficient “punishment” is laughable.

  9. Curmudgeon1 says:

    To the thoughtful writers who disagreed with my position: after reading your comments and reflecting on them, I must say I agree with you. My intention was never to justify lying or to relieve the chief of culpability. I agree that as law enforcement we have little more than our credibility. I simply didn’t think firing him was the appropriate punishment. Maybe it is…maybe it isn’t. But you’ve given me pause.
    Respectfully,
    Mac Allen

  10. pazzo242 says:

    TMell–I cannot speak for Gig Harbor..as I stated I am a retired Tacoma police police officer and can only tell you what I saw in my 22 years on the force. I never had much interaction with GHPD. But at TPD guys who were caught lying were sent packing. Of course the definitive word there is “caught”.

    You are right that this needs to be dealt with to bring back the public trust and not end up like Seattle. Should he be fired..that is not for me to judge but I think others would have been.

  11. pazzo242 says:

    I don’t like making comparisons with the Brame incident as they are nothing close except two things: 1) It is the Chief and 2) It is a case of what’s good for the troops is not necessarily good for the Admin

  12. I wouldn’t mind hiring RoboCop as the bitter an apathetic letter writer suggests. I have a different take on King Stargel. In fact, I liked King Stargel’s comments so much I made an animated cartoon of them so that MORE people can judge for themselves.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybrYXNHMiVw

  13. “Second, I found the panel’s chair, Trisha King Stargel – the person calling for Chief Ramsdell’s firing – to be a self-impressed attention-seeker who would go on ad nauseum about the most insignificant point, making tedious work even more unpleasant.”

    (It’s never insignificant when the public trust is breached. The Citizens Review Board was established to represent the citizens of Tacoma after the Brame murder/suicide. Ms. King Stargel did her job, tedious as it may have been.)

    “Ramsdell made a serious mistake of judgment, but his motives were not evil and he has certainly paid the price for his actions. If, as King Stargel suggests, this constitutes a firing offense, we’d better start hiring robots. But I’ll put my money on Chief Ramsdell any day.”

    (The public can understand errors. The public cannot understand lying about it. Is it really about the money for you? )

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