Saturday, December 29, 2007

Non-Response to Carnation Murders 911 Call Reflects Lack Of Professionalism Training Within KCSD

A government official friend and I were talking about the grisly murder of six members of a Carnation Family on Christmas Eve. I mentioned that one of the strangest items in the news reports about the murders was the apparent failure of two responding sheriff deputies to make contact with anyone at the scene after getting a 911 hang up dispatched call from the home where it was eventually discovered the murders took place.

He and I both have had long careers in criminal law related fields. He worked in law enforcement and I worked in the court system. We are both familiar with the long established policy of police departments everywhere that says when a 911 hang up call is made officers are required to make contact with someone at the location of the call to verify the safety of citizens at the location and ascertain that no laws have been broken. It’s simply common sense based on the principle of protecting the safety of the caller or others at the location.

Apparently the deputies arrived at the Carnation property a half hour after getting the call but simply left after encountering a locked gate. Even though according to newspaper reports the property was not fence in a way that would of kept the deputies from gaining access by simply walking around the gate and up to the house.

We know now that six murdered individuals were just beyond that gate. Court filings on the case indicate that one of the victims apparently made the 911 hang up call approximately one half hour before the deputies arrived. One of the alleged killers has apparently admitted to investigators that he took the phone from the victim and then commenced to shoot her in the head as she pleaded with him not to do it.

Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. John Urquhart said the department's policy requires deputies who respond to 911 hang-up calls to make contact with someone at the scene. “Their blood is not on our hands," Urquhart said. "Should we have gone up there? Yes. But there was nothing we could have done to prevent this tragedy.”
This matter of the police not contacting someone at the property is being buried somewhat by the gruesome major facts of the case. The sheriff department saying in effect that it would of not made any difference because the murders had already taken place. The murders were not actually learned about until two days later when a friend of one of the victims went to the property after one of the victims did not show up for work at her post office job.

King County Sheriff Sue Rahr has called for an investigation. An investigation that should tell us whether any lives could of possibly been saved had the deputies properly followed department procedure instead of just blowing the 911 call off.

I ask my law enforcement friend what he thought about it. He said he thought it reflected the long running rank and file “arrogance” problem on the part many of the deputies in the KCSD. I live in rural King County and personally know of numerous complaints about response times by officers. "It's sort of a running joke out here". Once the officer arrives they often seem bothered that they actually have to do something that involves actual community law enforcement and meaningful interaction with citizens. I guess they’d rather be writing chippie tickets to everyone speeding 10 miles per hour over the speed limit on the local 2-lane highway and I'll avoid inserting any jokes alluding to the local donut shop here.

According to my friend Deputies don’t respond quickly because they believe they don’t have to respond quickly. Often they invoke their union contract at the slightest disagreement with management on department policy or work rules. Because the Union is strong this often manifest itself in an arrogant attitude and poor or unprofessional work ethic by the rank and file officers in the field. I describe it as “They can’t really fired me” attitude of invincibility. In recent years this systemic problem reflected itself more in corruption scandals that would often pop up within the KCSD.

Much of this culture apparently grew under the theatrical grandstanding style and leadership of former Sheriff Dave Reichert, the current 8th district Republican Congressman. Reichert turned his back on many low level indiscretions by the rank and file in a effort to be one the boys and not alienate the union. It is said by some that Reichert used the department mainly to build his image and reputation as a tough no nonsense cop with an eye on an eventual run for congress. It worked even though many felt he didn't really deserve as much credit as he claimed for the department successes like the arrest of the Green River Killer. That case made Reichert into national figure .

Getting elected to Congress was more important that making sure that the work ethic of the deputies was meeting acceptable standards or standing up to the powerful police union when officers used their union's power to get away with not doing the job professionally at times. This long running attitude problem by deputies perhaps led to the officers ignoring clear cut department policy when they were reponding to the Carnation 911 call. The department investigation should eventually shed light on whether the deputies failure to follow department policy resulted in not preventing any of these murders from happening.

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