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Tacoma police chief reprimanded in Zina case

Post by Adam Lynn / The News Tribune on April 29, 2011 at 11:13 am |
April 30, 2011 1:11 am

Tacoma City Manager Eric Anderson has reprimanded Police Chief Don Ramsdell for not telling him the department’s spokesman was being paid to be on-call the morning he fell back to sleep instead of issuing an Amber Alert for 12-year-old Zina Linnik.

Anderson also ordered Ramsdell to initiate an internal affairs investigation to determine if spokesman Mark Fulghum violated department policy the morning of July 5, 2007, by taking something to help him sleep. Police department personnel are forbidden from being impaired when on-call, Anderson told The News Tribune this morning. (Click here to see reprimand and related documents.)

Fulghum said in a deposition filed in a wrongful death suit brought against the city and other governments that he took an Advil PM before going to bed about 1 a.m. that day.

“We do not know that he violated policy,” the city manager said. “The issue has been raised.”

Don Ramsdell, Tacoma Chief of Police

The city also will hire an independent, outside consultant to review the way the Police Department investigated Linnik’s disappearance and murder “from beginning to end,” the city manager said.

Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland said the actions were needed to repair what she called the “fragile relationship” between the police department and the community.

“When I hear people say you violated our trust, it says to me there was trust there to begin with,” Strickland said. “We have to work on repairing that relationship.”

The action comes as a result of The News Tribune’s reporting on the wrongful death lawsuit brought against the city, Pierce County and the state of Washington by Linnik’s family.

Records filed in the case and reported by The News Tribune show Fulghum fell back to sleep after receiving a call from a detective sergeant to issue an Amber Alert about six hours after the 12-year-old girl was abducted from behind her home July 4, 2007. The alert did not go out for about another six hours.

Fulghum and Ramsdell initially told the news media the delay occurred because detectives needed more time to firm up details used in the alert.

Anderson and Strickland announced the investigations this morning just three days after saying no further action was needed in the case. The reversal in action came after News Tribune reporter Lewis Kamb formally requested from the city Fulghum’s pay records from July 4 and July 5.

It was during the course of responding to that inquiry that Anderson said he learned for the first time that Fulghum was on-call July 5. The city manager said he’d previously been under the impression that Fulghum was off-duty and on his own time that morning.

Chief Ramsdell should have told him that fact during multiple conversations regarding Fulghum’s actions, Anderson said.

“I did not know that, and I should have been told that,” the city manager said. “I wasn’t informed, and action was necessary.”

Fulghum, who has not be disciplined for his actions, remains on paid duty.

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