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Tacoma police union’s letter to City Council blasts citizen volunteer’s criticisms of chief in Zina case

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on May 12, 2011 at 2:13 pm with 25 Comments »
May 13, 2011 12:22 pm

The new president of Tacoma’s rank-and-file police officers’ union this week sent a “letter of concern” to the mayor and city council, denouncing a citizen volunteer on a police review panel who publicly chastised Chief Don Ramsdell last week for “lying” in his public statements about the Zina Linnik case.

In his letter dated May 10, Det. Terry Krause, the recently seated president of Tacoma Police Union Local 6, wrote that by his assessment, Citizen Review Panel member Trisha King Stargel “is not capable of performing her duties as a member of the panel.”

“If it was simply the fact that she exceeded her authority as a member of the panel, that would be one thing,” Krause’s letter states. “What Trisha King-Stargel did however was arguably both unprofessional and unethical; and to be blunt, grandstanding. In my opinion, the use of the panel meeting as a bully pulpit was wholly inappropriate and calls her judgment or lack thereof into question.”

Krause’s letter stops short of requesting that the council remove King Stargel from the review panel.  Instead, it asks council members to listen to the recording of the May 3 meeting and “decide for yourselves if Trisha King-Stargel should be retained as a panel member.”

But the letter clearly implies the police union wants King Stargel off of the board.

“Based upon her actions and bias, I am not comfortable with her having input into any of the policy decisions affecting day to day activities of Local 6 members,” Krause wrote. “It is my position that her actions have brought the credibility and professionalism of the panel into question.”

Reached by phone at the police union’s office, Krause declined comment today.

In a written response sent to The News Tribune today, King Stargel, who is in the final year of her tenure on the board, said she believes Krause “is in error to state that I acted unprofessionally or ethically.”

“One of the stated purposes of the Human Rights Commission for creating the Citizen Review Panel was to provide a means to `improve communication between TPD and the community,'” she added.

Krause’s letter about King Stargel was among three he sent to the council this week.  The others included a letter of support from Local 6 for Ramsdell as chief, and a letter introducing himself as the union’s new president. The letter about King Stargel came in reaction to public statements King Stargel made to Ramsdell and City Manager Eric Anderson at the Citizen Review Panel meeting on May 3.

King Stargel, a retired 24-year police officer for the Honolulu and Kent police departments who now works as a Seattle University criminal justice lecturer and a private police consultant, told Ramsdell she believed he “lied to the citizens” due to his changing accounts about why an Amber Alert was delayed in the Zina abduction case in 2007.

King Stargel, who also noted during the meeting that she sits on a state board charged with revoking police licenses, suggested the chief’s actions amounted to the kind of misconduct that gets lower-ranking officers fired and their state police licenses yanked.  Two other members of the citizen panel disagreed with King Stargel about the setting for her comments, saying the issue fell outside of the panel’s purview.

“I am not saying that Chief Ramsdell lied to the panel,” King Stargel responded. “I’m saying he lied to the citizens. And as a representative of the citizens, that is the task that I’m looking at.”

In separate interviews today, Mayor Marilyn Strickland and Councilman Marty Campbell said they appreciated hearing the union’s viewpoint, but added the council likely won’t take any action in response.

“I am going to take it as just a document we’ll keep on file,”  Strickland said of the letter.

“In this situation, it was obviously a personal and very emotional issue to (King Stargel), and I understand that,” Strickland added, noting she has yet to listen to the recording of the May 3 meeting.  “I do think it is outside of the purview of what the Citizen Review Panel was supposed to do, but it’s not going to result in any action to take her off the board or anything like that.”

Campbell said he also hadn’t fully listened to recordings of the meeting, nor did he completely know the context of King Stargel’s remarks or whether they were appropriate given the setting.

“I appreciated the letter and I can see where they’re coming from,” Campbell said of the union’s letter. “But I think as a council, we need to be open and tolerant of criticisms and I wouldn’t want to censor someone’s opinions.”

Councilman Jake Fey added today that, as one of the four members on the council’s appointments committee, he has no plans to remove King Stargel.

“I certainly don’t intend to bring it up,” said Fey, who noted he had listened to King Stargel’s recorded remarks. “She’s entitled to her own perspective about it.  I can understand their taking umbrage to her comments. But she’s in her position. She sees her role as she sees her role. I’m not going to get into a debate about what her role is supposed to be.”

Empaneled in 2007 in the aftermath of the Chief David Brame murder-suicide scandal, the council-appointed Citizen Review Panel drew controversy even before it began. The council’s approval to establish citizen oversight of the police department in June 2005 was opposed by Ramsdell and the labor unions that represent most police employees.

The review panel system that was ultimately put into practice is a watered-down version of a plan first envisioned.  Other than providing advice and suggestions on general department policies, procedures and complaint trends, the review panel has no real authority nor any say on individual officer disciplinary cases.

King Stargel was among the first of five nominees selected from 27 applicants for the new board in late 2006.

“It’s a good group,” then-Mayor Bill Baarsma said of the panel’s inaugural members. “I believe they are all fair-minded and come with no hidden agenda.”

But Krause’s letter this week suggests otherwise.

Calling King Stargel’s public statements a “prepared speech,” the letter takes issue with references she made about her role on the state police academy’s so-called decertification board charged with reviewing officer license revocation cases. The references  “raise questions as to her motivation and displayed a fundamental lack of understanding regarding this issue and police work in general,” the letter states.

Krause also criticized King Stargel for relying “upon a one-sided sole source of information to form a conclusion; instead she should have waited until all the facts are known especially considering this issue is part of pending litigation.”

King Stargel noted in her response today her “comments regarding my belief and concern that Chief Ramsdell lied regarding the delay of the Amber Alert in the Linnik case came out of conversations with other citizens of Tacoma.”

“As a citizen of the City myself, I feel I have the privilege and right to speak out on the point,” she added. “As a member of the Citizen Review Panel, I felt it important to raise with Chief Ramsdell the narrow question of how do I trust his word going forward in the joint work the Panel does regarding police department policy.”

King Stargel’s public criticisms of Ramsdell May 3 came after the chief apologized to The News Tribune last month for not publicly disclosing part of the reason why it took his department 12 hours to issue an Amber Alert for Zina in 2007.

Part of the delay resulted because Mark Fulghum, the only Tacoma officer then-authorized to disseminate the special notification for the department, fell back to sleep after a sergeant called and requested him to issue the alert.

Fulghum, who was on “standby duty” at the time, had gone to bed after working a Fourth of July double-shift and then taking an Advil PM,  according to details revealed last month in court records and interviews. The chief and Fulghum previously had told the public that the alert was delayed due to necessary police work.

Since the new revelations emerged about the Amber Alert’s delay, Anderson, the city manager, has defended Ramsdell and Fulghum, saying he did not believe their actions amounted to lying.

Leave a comment Comments → 25
  1. Dear Police Union President. Please chill, take some advil PM and go back to sleep. Meanwhile my fellow citizen consumers please relive this wonderful event on YOUTUBE! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybrYXNHMiVw

  2. Pecksbadboy says:

    Remember, we gave the Police Union “God” status even before four Lakewood officers were gunned down.

    They have full paid national funeral rights, unlimited family benefits if they passed away even if not related to duty, university education for all immediate family members if they stumbled on a sidewalk crack and got disability and much more.

    They thought we would never turn on them…………Yes, we are keeping track

  3. LibertyBell says:

    The police officers union questions regarding “credibility and professionalism” are truly amusing.

    The ghost of Chief Brame on display.

    I vote King Stargel, or is a police review board, just another “sweep it under the rug” concept that the TPD’s infamous?

  4. I am a citizen and I agree with King Stargel’s assessment.

    Here’s why:

    Without disregarding the import and consequences of Brady v. Maryland1 and Giglio v. United States,2 this article proposes that it should be the public policy of law enforcement agencies that untruthful conduct by a law enforcement agency employee has a most damaging effect on the day-to-day efficient and effective service of policing. Moreover, the use of untruthful statements to avoid disciplinary action further undermines the efficient and effective service expected of police departments. Truthfulness by employees is not only an issue of witness credibility in a court of law; it is the fundamental nature of law enforcement service and strikes to the core of the ability to provide appropriate service. As a result, untruthful conduct must be met with the most serious of disciplinary action: termination.

    Source: http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display_arch&article_id=2163&issue_id=82010

    Unless Chief Ramsdell resigns or is terminated, Chief Ramsdell will be the only Chief still serving in his position of trust after being untruthful and while on the TPD Brady list. Perhaps, you know of another Chief in a similar circumstance?

    Read more: http://blog.thenewstribune.com/bluebyline/2011/05/10/chiefs-controversy-reveals-an-undercurrent-of-mistrust/#ixzz1MB9nL2qB

  5. I am a big supporter of unions so it pains me to see them making public relations errors like this. Do the right thing comrades!

  6. LibertyBell says:

    Everyone knows that being accepted to the Brady list, is a police union requirement, and reason for the Pierce County Classics!

    Wheres Old Sheriff Janovitch, when you local corruption specialists can’t “get er done.”

    A statewide problem, taught at the academy, and under promotion by the Governor, the biggest liar of all.

  7. The police union official, Detective Larry Krause has clearly stated that the “code of silence” that exists at the TPD is more important than the truth and public policy and citizens opinions. The reason this citizens panel was put together was to END the “code of silence” After all, this “code of silence” led up to the criminal action of Chief Brame who murdered his wife and shot himself in front of their children. Ms. King Stargel should be praised for breaking, TPD, “Code of Silence” Her actions are that of a true leader.

    The Code of Silence breeds, supports and nourishes other forms of unethical actions.

    Whistle-blowers, (including Ms. Stargel) are generally not supported by the administration of law enforcement agencies.

    The Code of Silence typically conceals serious law enforcement misconduct for years before the corruption is revealed.

    The Code of Silence usually occurs within cultures created by the role-modeling of leaders.

    The “Us versus them” mentality is usually present within the minds of those who participate in the Code of Silence.

    A culture which acts as fertile ground for the destructive features of the Code of Silence to grow is one that promotes loyalty to people over integrity.

    Leaders themselves lie at the core of both the cause and solution to corruption and the Code of Silence

    At its worse, a destructive Code of Silence is both condoned and privately encouraged by supervisors and administrators.

    Some police agencies have shown they are incapable of policing themselves.

    Supervisors should be held accountable for role modeling behavior that could encourage officers to take part in the Code of Silence.

    Every effort should be taken to prevent employees from feeling victimized.

    A culture must be established in which an allegiance to principles is a higher priority than loyalty to people.

    Some officers who participate in the Code of Silence rationalize their behavior by convincing themselves that what they are doing is not actually hurting anyone, while others intentionally replace the facts with a self-serving version because it is emotionally painful to admit the truth.

    http://www.aele.org/loscode2000.html

    RCW 43.101.021
    “It is the policy of the state of Washington that all commissioned, appointed, and elected law enforcement personnel comply with their oath of office and agency policies regarding the duty to be truthful and honest in the conduct of their official business.”

    The question is: Should police officers who lie be terminated as a matter of public policy?

    The answer is clearly: YES.

    The societal benefits of creating a public policy of police honesty are enormous. If all parties in the criminal justice system believe that police officers would not lie at the risk of losing their careers, issues of credibility regarding police will be greatly reduced, leading to more successful prosecutions, a reduced number of constitutional violations, and fewer liability cases and losses. In addition, officers are increasingly reluctant to cover for fellow officers who have committed acts of misconduct because of increased moral and ethical standards as well as the risk of discipline. If lying for a fellow officer will lead to almost certain termination, such a policy might in time eliminate the “code of silence” completely.

    Source: http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display_arch&article_id=1458&issue_id=42008

  8. LibertyBell says:

    Join the Police Union, and become a Criminal.

    We love the liability, with that Ku Klux Act of 1871. Just go ask the former Attorney General, now Governor, how much she cost the state, for state and federal law violations by her departments of incompentance.

    The democratic partys favorite act, and the states most expensive party; est 1865

    http://caselaw.findlaw.com/wa-supreme-court/1500519.html

    Mr. Justice Douglas from Yakima, define the local Ku Klux Act Clear enough, as in Brady, and Monroe?

  9. The most powerful means for transforming the organizational culture of a law enforcement agency into an atmosphere that is consistent with employees embracing loyalty to principle above all else is a combination of leadership, role modeling and training. Role modeling by the chief administrator must come first, for what a chief or sheriff actually does is what informal and formal leaders use to decide whether they will support any attempts to improve the culture. Other actions that help to create a positive culture includes providing in-service training on developing and maintaining an internal culture of integrity, asking for the help of “informal leaders” in developing an integrity driven internal culture, harshly disciplining any supervisor who promotes the “Us vs. them” attitude and rewarding supervisors who strive to eliminate it. The fact that controlling the code will save careers and lives must be discussed and believed.

    -Neal Trautman, Director, The National Institute of Ethics

  10. @libertybell you sound like you could use some Advil PM yourself.

    Just be honest and the people will give you more respect yo.

    Coverups and attacking little old ladies on oversight panels with no real power to do anything just comes off as creepy and weird.

  11. thatsjarrod says:

    Congrats Tacoma, you now have your own Rich O’Neil-circle the wagon type police union cover your tracks and lie “leadership” thuggery that we have here in Seattle.

  12. fatuous says:

    Det. Terry Krause, what an idiot!!! Please do us all a favor and just leave.

  13. Rowdy_Rob says:

    This whole affair is turning into a Family Circus comic. I’m just waiting for Not Me and Ida Know to show up…

  14. Mudbone says:

    Wow! The police union is almost one fourth as corrupt as local 23 Tacoma longshoremen’s union!

  15. tacoman1 says:

    Please tell me this Krouse guy is not allowed to police the streets. Face it the chief lied and Fulgum was incapacitated due to drug use with no fallow up testing. Cops are not perfect and they are public employees who deserve to have the light shined on them. What was it that Ice T said. We need more King Stargels and good for Jake Fey at least he has a pair.

  16. Mudbone says:

    What REALLY bothers the police is that they are once again exposed as being the REAL criminals that they are!

  17. Does TPD have a “whistleblower” policy that adequately supports and protects employees who break the “code of silence”? If not, why not?

    Mayor Strickland and Council members will you support those in TPD who break the “code of silence”?

  18. the whistleblower policy is called tape documents to the new takhoman’s front door.

  19. I nominate Ms. King Stargel as the new “citizens” Chief of Police of Tacoma. She has shown true leadership!

  20. A former deputy has filed a federal lawsuit against the King County Sheriff’s Office, alleging he was unable to work after he was harassed for providing damaging information against a fellow deputy accused of punching a handcuffed suspect.

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2015034700_deputy13m.html

    Mayor Strickland, City of Tacoma Council Members are you serious about limiting civil liability for it’s citizens? Take action, reward Ms. King Stargel for speaking up and breaking the, “Code of Silence” at TPD. Her comments to Chief Ramsdell should be praised publicly. Remove, Chief Ramsdell and Mark Fulgham from their position as Chief and publicity officer.

    Leaders themselves lie at the core of both the cause and solution to corruption and the Code of Silence. Be part of the solution.

  21. “Tacoman1 says:
    MAY 12, 2011 AT 4:33 PM
    Please tell me this Krouse guy is not allowed to police the streets. Face it the chief lied and Fulgum was incapacitated due to drug use with no fallow up testing.”

    What kind of irresponsible comment is this? Drug use? Did you even read the article? This is the kind of comment that spreads dangerous rumors. No where in the article or in the whole situation, for that matter, does it say that Officer Fulgum had indulged in or was suspected of drug use. As a matter of fact, here is what the article says, verbatim: “Fulghum, who was on “standby duty” at the time, had gone to bed after working a Fourth of July double-shift and then taking an Advil PM, according to details revealed last month in court records and interviews.”

    Yeah, I believe that the Chief lied, and should be punished accordingly. It very definitely undermines the credibility of the Chief of Police office, but the whole police organization, which is already under the gun. (no pun intended) How can you trust a Chief of Police who had lied about something that is not as important as some other issues. (Note: I am in no way saying that this issue is not important. Putting out an Amber Alert is extremely important) What else has he lied about? Is he lying now about other very important issues? You can see how the trust breaks down. And then, on top of that, it call into question all other police persons. It is a bad cycle, but when the top of any organization, particularly law enforcement, has their honesty questioned, generally the whole organizations integrity is called into question. And I know, it’s not fair, but that is the way of people.

  22. vincati says:

    I’m so heartened to see so many other readers chastise Det. Krause for his arrogance. Ms. King Stragel absolutely was within her rights and duties to call the chief out. I’m saddened that, apparently, she is the only person at City Hall with the courage to say what she did. I wish our town had a mayor or city manager wtih the guts she has.

  23. papasan says:

    Big surprise: Local 6 circling the wagons around another Chief (pun unintended). The only time this will change is when: 1) Local 6 pulls it’s nose out of politics and settles in to doing their jobs, ie: keeping our streets safe.; 2) getting elected in Tacoma is possible WITHOUT the endorsement of All police, fire and municipal labor organizations; 3) the citizen review panel is given some actual CLOUT as to discipline of officers and Police Management. It doesn’t matter for beans that they have input, if the input is meaningless. This whole situation could have been avoided if just ONE person had acted like a mature ADULT and said: “I screwed up. I made a mistake. I’m sorry. I’ll try not to do it again”. But NO. They have to try to protect themselves against the attorneys for the Linnick family. It’s over, guys! Write the damned check and THEN we can move on.

  24. Why is it that the Mayor and the council members interviewed for this article all stated they had not, and/or do not intend to listen to the audio recordings of the Oversight Committee meeting in question, but still state they are not going to get involved on the grounds that they don’t ‘see’ (or hear) any facts to indicate they should? Maybe if they took their fingers out of their ears, they might.

    It seems that listening to the unedited recording would certainly throw some light on the subject and probably remove it from the ‘he said, she said’ category. Ignorance of the facts is one thing, but refusing to take the necessary steps to eliminate that ignorance is beyond excusable.

  25. newshound says:

    @thatsjarrod You’re right.

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