SEATTLE, Washington (An editorial): An alert member of Copwatch.com recently provided notification of a untenably dangerous situation in King County, Washington.
David Acosta, currently employed as a deputy by the King County Sheriff's Department, was determined to have committed an unjustified shooting in the service of his previous employer, the North Las Vegas Police Department. The victim of that shooting is on the verge of obtaining a $500,000.00 settlement from the city of North Las Vegas.
Michael Montandon, the mayor of North Las Vegas, greatly understates the severity of the matter when he acknowledges that "Half a million is a big number, no question. My personal philosophy is that a settlement is a beginning and you use it as a learning experience. ... The bigger the settlement, the bigger the learning experience."
The citizens of King County, Washington, may soon be faced with a similarly expensive "learning experience". Acosta resigned from the North Las Vegas police department on May 12, 2000, thereby precluding the imposition of disciplinary action for the unjustified shooting. The King County Sheriff's Department hired Acosta as a patrol deputy on April 20, 2001.
According to an article appearing in the July 31, 2001 edition of the Las Vegas Review Journal, King County has refused to disclose whether it was aware of the unjustified shooting at the time Acosta was hired.
"If an officer is involved in a wrongful shooting, that's going to give us a cause for concern," said King County detective Katie Larson. "Any shooting review documentation we would be privy to unless the department withheld that information. But we don't typically run into that."
This evasive statement is wholly inadequate to provide any reassurance to the worried citizens of King County. Whether the Sheriff's Department is "typically" cognizant of the dangerous proclivities of its new hires is entirely irrelevant. Citizens need detailed information concerning this SPECIFIC case, not feel-good platitudes regarding theoretical cases.
What is truly typical of this situation is the defensive, uninformative police response to legitimate public safety inquiries. When faced with potentially unflattering revelations, the first reaction of the police is to close ranks, refuse comment, withhold information, and protect their fellow officers at all costs, regardless of the potential danger to society.
Once again, the ubiquitous "blue wall of silence" presents an impenetrable bar to the public's right to know.
The King County Sheriff's Department must come clean. If the leaders of that organization have an iota of consideration or honor, they will immediately call a press conference and fully address these pressing concerns. However, we advise you not to hold your breath.
Let us hope that no one else has to die before the King County Sheriff's Department condescends to grant at least a modicum of attention to the interests of the citizens it is sworn to protect rather than catering exclusively to the antithetical, self-serving interests of its demonstrably dangerous employees.
UPDATE: NORTH LAS VEGAS SETTLES CLAIM FOR $500,000.00- CITY ATTORNEY AFRAID OF MASSIVE JURY VERDICT
A TALE OF TWO COVER-UPS: KING COUNTY AND NORTH LAS VEGAS ATTEMPT TO CONCEAL UNJUSTIFIED SHOOTING FROM WORRIED PUBLIC
NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nevada (An editorial): A diligent local member of Copwatch.com has managed to obtain a confidential police department memo, forcing North Las Vegas to admit that it deliberately concealed, (from its citizens and King County alike), the fact that former police officer David Acosta committed an unjustified shooting.
Acosta resigned from the North Las Vegas Police Department before any disciplinary action could be imposed, and was subsequently hired as a deputy sheriff by King County, Washington.
King County, which had initially followed the lead of North Las Vegas in refusing to release any information on the matter, was forced to reveal that it was indeed cognizant of the shooting at the time Acosta was hired, though the County allegedly remained unaware that the shooting had been deemed unjustified by North Las Vegas.
Matters came to a climax in midsummer 2001, when the North Las Vegas city council unanimously approved a $500,000.00 settlement with the victim of the unjustified shooting, in part because the city attorney was afraid to present a jury with the facts of the case.
POLITICIANS ARE GAMBLING WITH OUR LIVES IN NORTH LAS VEGAS:
IF NLV CITYCOUNCILMAN SHARI BUCK WERE THE CROUPIER IN THIS MORBID GAME OF LIFE AND DEATH, THE ODDS WOULD BE HEAVILY STACKED AGAINST THE SURVIVAL OF INNOCENT CITIZENS
Though confessing to the cover-up, North Las Vegas stubbornly refuses to release any further information, claiming the shooting is a "personnel matter" rather than a matter of public record. According to the Las Vegas Review Journal ,City Councilman Shari Buck said that she was "'dismayed at the confidential information that's passed into the wrong hands. *** It's just information that's not supposed to be public knowledge.' *** She said the former officials or current employee who released the [memo] should be found and reprimanded."
It is imperative that Shari Buck be booted out of office in the next election, if a special recall is not held immediately. She obviously does not care at all about public safety or other issues of vital importance to her constituency.
DID NORTH LAS VEGAS DECEIVE KING COUNTY?
According to North Las Vegas city spokeswoman Brenda Johnson, whose comments were published by the Las Vegas Review Journal, "What we (the North Las Vegas Police Department) did was supply [King County] with the facts of the case and allowed them to come up with their own conclusions."
In other words, North Las Vegas deliberately withheld from King County the most crucial fact of all- that the shooting committed by Acosta was unjustified.
Failing to disclose this information verges on criminal negligence. At the very least, it reveals a shocking disregard for public safety.
Clearly, King County was in no position to assess the true circumstances of the shooting. It conducted its "investigation" more than a year after the event had transpired, after memories had probably dimmed, after evidence was perhaps lost or tampered with, not knowing the full context of the situation, under an inadequate deadline, and without proper support staff and resources.
North Las Vegas, on the other hand, was intimately familiar every detail, having examined all the facts in a timely manner, assessed completely-preserved evidence, interviewed eyewitnesses while their memories were still reliable, utilized sufficient staffing and resources, and taken ample time to do a thorough job.
WAS KING COUNTY COMPLICIT OR MERELY NEGLIGENT?
"We sent two detectives to Las Vegas in April of this year," said King County Sheriff's spokesman John Urquhart. "They spent two days on just the shooting. It was our opinion this was a justified shooting, that this was an exemplary officer."
Should we be impressed, Mr. Urquhart, that TWO of your detectives spent TWO WHOLE DAYS examining the musty records and fading memories of the year-old shooting? Once again, you folks up there in King County have done an unbelievable job- just like you normally do.
By the way, Mr. Urquhart, don't become defensive if impertinent, suspicious citizens doubt your professionalism, competence, motives, sincerity, or intelligence. After all, who are they to question you or the "expert" opinions of your department (even if those opinions are directly contradicted by equally qualified experts who are far more familiar with the relevant facts).
A bit of friendly advice, Mr. Urquhart- you should consider modifying the tenor of your comments, since people may get the impression that you "doth protest too much", and thus begin to believe the opposite of what you assert. For example, in the Las Vegas Review Journal, you are quoted as saying, "It looks at first blush this was a case of North Las Vegas trying to get rid of their bad apple and not giving us all the facts. But we spent two days on this case and looked at it doubly hard. ... We are absolutely convinced this was a good shooting."
We get the picture, Mr. Urquhart. Perhaps if you repeat this often enough you'll even start to believe it yourself.
[NOTE: Various members of COPWATCH.COM in Washington State tell us that Mr. Urqurhart is a notorious flack for the Sheriff's Department, whose most noticeable characteristic is the ability to issue utterly ridiculous and unbelievable press statements without betraying any discernable embarrassment or discomfiture.]
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NORTH LAS VEGAS SETTLES CLAIM FOR $500,000.00- CITY ATTORNEY AFRAID OF MASSIVE JURY VERDICT
North Las Vegas recently decided that it was safer to pay the victim of this unjustified shooting half a million dollars than to allow a jury to examine the facts. In light of this settlement, King County's decision to hire Acosta is inexcusable.
If this was a "good shooting", as King County flack John Urquhart hysterically insists, then North Las Vegas would never have volunteered to give away so much money.
According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, North Las Vegas City Attorney Sean McGowan " told the council to avoid a trial because a jury probably would find that the victim posed no threat to the officer and that the officer's version of what happened 'was just not credible.'"
The City Council of North Las Vegas unanimously agreed with this assessment, and all the councilmen voted in favor of the payment.
King County alone holds the delusional belief that the shooting was justified.
It seems clear that King County conducted an inadequate investigation, and reached an erroneous conclusion.
This lapse might be forgivable, if it were not for their stubborn failure to admit and remedy the error, and their insistence on concealing important information from the public.
The "Blue Wall of Silence" has deep foundations in King County, and citizens there will not be safe until it is completely demolished. [See our Crucial Reforms section for further details.]
"If the people conclude there can be no public justice, how long will it be before some citizen or other decides to take the law into his own hands? Out there on the streets, the police are outmanned. The public assumes they're the "good guys." But even our best and bravest officers depend on the continued support of a public that has to know there will be an accounting, should the wrong person get shot. This kind of secrecy can only erode that vital base of public support."
Help copwatch fight police brutality. Bad cops must be prosecuted. Police corruption is a major problem - copwatch will root it out. Dirty cops threaten the criminal justice system. Police misconduct is an epidemic. Police abuse innocent citizens all too often. Police harassment is a frequent occurrence. The blue wall of silence protects bad cops, and police culture must be reformed. Deviant cops must be fired. Police deviance cannot be tolerated. Last year saw a bad cop arrested for rape, a dirty cop charged with extortion, police corruption involving drug distribution, a criminal cop jailed for brutality, a disgraced police chief sentenced for domestic abuse, a convicted sheriff guilty of theft, moonlighting police disciplined for misconduct, convicted cops fired for sexual assault, a guilty cop suspended for harassment, a discredited cop charged with perjury, and a law enforcement officer suspended from duty for being on the take. Police corruption is common across the country. Such activities are a disgrace to the badge, and dishonor the uniform, so the offending cop was forced to turn in his badge. Subsequent reports revealed a state patrol officer investigated for arson, a highway patrol officer indicted for fraud, a state trooper jailed for assault, a top cop ousted for brandishing his weapon, a Police Sgt. fired for bribery, (while another Police Sergeant quit the force), a Police Lt. pressured to resign (the Lieutenant is accused of murder), child-molesting police, and a Police Commander crashed his squad car in a high speed pursuit. The police department engaged in a coverup to hide evidence of misconduct, refusing to release relevant public records and public documents, despite the open records law and the submission of a public disclosure request. Finally, Serpico breaks ranks. As the bad cops close ranks, good police put their lives on the line, while an overzealous county mounty (or mountie) is an embarrassment to the force. An ex-cop turns in his gun. Learn how to prevent police brutality. The Police Benevolent Fund manufactures support for the police department - a department under fire amid accusations of misconduct. The Police Guild negotiates a new contract for its members. The Police Union demands raise in overtime pay. Funds are increased with the seizure of drug money. Forfeiture proceedings are instituted, and the police seize the property of alleged drug dealers, including cars, homes, planes, real estate, guns, and drugs. At the same time, police raise funds for charity and participate in public service programs. Community policing resulted in ride-along programs for local citizens, and increased participation in police Explorer programs. But the broken-window, zero-tolerance program is difficult to evaluate. A gun-buyback program was successful, with cops collecting a variety of firearms, including assault rifles, handguns, Saturday night specials, automatic weapons, shotguns, tec-9, glocks, taurus, S&W, .45 caliber, .44 caliber, .357 caliber, 9mm, all military style. The guns were auctioned off or melted down. BATF agents were investigating the sale of handguns. The FBI conducted a background check, so citizens interested in the militia movement attended gun shows, where they were able to purchase handguns from vendors. Issuance of a concealed weapons permit was allowed, and this gun permit allowed the man to use his handgun for concealed carry in a shoulder holster. The national law enforcement memorial fund is a beautiful tribute to the boys in blue who have made the ultimate sacrifice. To serve and protect is their honorable motto. Duty and honor is another. The LAPD scandal tarnishes public perception of police officers. Police brutality is a major issue in minority neighborhoods. Neighborhood watch programs were quite effective in reducing crime statistics and increasing neighborhood safety. Cops shoot suspect, and then the cops shoot suspect again. The suspect is wounded, and then the suspect dies in police custody. This pattern is called custody death syndrome. Positional asphyxiation is often blamed for the death of prisoners, after the prisoners are pepper-sprayed, maced, beaten, handcuffed, and thrown in the back of a police car. Suicide by cop is another term that is becoming popular, as police seek to blame the victim and excuse their unprofessional behavior. These police cover-ups are ineffective, and police brutality is found to be the cause of death. Cops and robbers is a nice game, but when the cops kill or fatally wound a suspected robber, the circumstances are often suspicious. Many cops are drug abusers, some police are drug addicts, many officers are alcoholics. Cops on steroids often exhibit roid rage. Police brutality and racial profiling are two issues that often arise at major metropolitan police departments. Bill Sheehan created a website revealing the social security numbers, home addresses, and home telephone numbers of Kirkland Police Department (KPD) officers. SPD info was scheduled to go live on April 1st. Civil rights abuses probed. Officer convicted of drunk driving. Man killed in police raid. At the N30 demonstrations, cops without nametags beat nonviolent protestors without provocation. The direct action network, DAN for short, was created in response. During the Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday celebrations in Seattle, a roving gang of black thugs beat Kris Kime to death as he was attempting to assist an injured women, and the police stood by and did nothing. This murder is on the hands of Mayor Paul Schell, who refuses to prosecute the perpetrators for hate crimes. Some people have argued that a database of bad cops should be developed. Many authoritative academic studies examine the psychological profile of police officers. There are many deviant police officers. Some police departments foster a culture of police deviance. Where is a free punk music concert? Kids like to thrash on their skateboard. Snowboarding, or boarding, is enjoyed by straightedge skinheads. RATM is phat. The swat team, equipped with military gear, broke down the door and swarmed into the apartment with guns drawn. Dynamic entry police raids are dangerous to citizens. Police brutality is a growing problem.