Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Worthy of Trust and Confidence?

In 1973 when I began my career with the US Secret Service, I was given a commission book that included my name and photograph. Immediately below my full name was a paragraph that included the agency's statutory authority, my permissions, and the assurance, "...is commended as being worthy of trust and confidence."

Several years later, the Secret Service decided to modify its badge and commission books. In the new commission books, the wording, "...is commended as being worthy of trust and confidence" was to be dropped. The outcry from the employees was so intense that Headquarters relented and reinserted it. We, the protestors, recognized that while hardly anyone ever read the wording on our commission books, it was important that phrase remain for those who did. We considered it to be our personal pledge, a promise, a commitment to the people we served that we would work to continue to be worthy of their trust and confidence.

"Worthy of trust and confidence" is a good standard to judge law enforcement officers by, because it must be earned and can only be conferred by those whom the officer serves. It is those served who decide if the officer is worthy of trust and confidence. That applies to all levels from the highest supervisor down to the new hire.

But trust and confidence can be lost. A law enforcement officer can betray the trust and confidence that the public has conferred. Once lost, it is difficult to regain.

As a member of the public, I no longer consider Kootenai County Sheriff's Lieutenants Neal Robertson and Nile Shirley , Sergeant Al March, Deputy Kevin Mumford, and Idaho State Police Lieutenant Curtis Exley to be worthy of my trust and confidence. I relied on them collectively in their capacity as a Review Board to fairly and impartially examine the legally justifiable homicide of Michael Madonna to determine if his death and the wounding of Coeur d'Alene Police Officer Michael Kralicek could have been avoided. I relied on them to evaluate the conduct of Deputies Bangs and Smart and their supervisors and trainers to see if their overall conduct was appropriate. I relied on the Review Board to ask the questions I could not, to be the public's, my, advocate for professional, disciplined law enforcement. They failed me. They did not fail Sheriff Watson. They gave him the decision he wanted.

Neither do I consider Kootenai County Sheriff Rocky Watson, Captain Ben Wolfinger, and Lieutenant Kim Edmondson to be worthy of my trust and confidence. It is clear from their comments made to the press before and after the Review Board announced its results that they had little desire to provide the public with a complete picture of what happened on December 28, 2004, in the Grouse Meadows subdivision of Hayden. Why not? Simply put, they do not trust us. Fortunately, the Idaho State Police Region 1 Investigations Division report of the incident does what the KCSD command staff and the Review Board were unwilling to do: Reveal what happened. I have the utmost trust and confidence in the ISP investigators who prepared their report.

Perhaps the Sheriff, his command staff, and the Review Board were trying to protect Deputy Bangs from further emotional distress. He is certainly the third victim of this incident. He could have been held accountable without being punished, for I suspect he has inflicted more severe punishment on himself than any Review Board ever could. I have trust and confidence in Deputy Bangs. The mistakes he made on December 28 were mistakes he very likely had made before, but his supervisors and trainers either didn't recognize them or failed to correct them. They deserve to share whatever burden he bears.

Deputy Bangs' failure to properly control his prisoner Michael Madonna was the underlying factor of the shooting incident. When he handcuffed Madonna, Bangs accepted custodial responsibility for Madonna to protect Madonna from harming himself and prevent him from harming others. The obligation to control a handcuffed prisoner is a fundamental duty that takes precedence over the desire to confidentially exchange investigative information with another deputy. Yet, according to The Spokesman Review, "'It's not in their summary so I guess it wasn't an issue for them (the Review Board),' Wolfinger said." Wolfinger's flippancy says it all.

Perhaps the Review Board and the KCSD commanders named were trying to deflect attention from KCSD's failure to provide timely information to its field deputies. Bangs knew of Madonna's escape attempt while in Coeur d'Alene Police custody on December 17, but Bangs had been given incorrect information about Madonna's escape technique. Other deputies interviewed by the ISP, including one acting as a field training officer, were unaware of Madonna. The December 17 incident should have prompted the KCSD training officer and every supervisor to immediately ensure that every deputy had complete and accurate information about Michael Madonna and his escape attempt technique on December 17. That didn't happen, and that's an institutional failure of supervision and training.

The ISP report supports the conclusion that Bangs had handcuffed Madonna with his hands behind his back but with his palms together rather than palms outward. Palms together handcuffing facilitates the type of maneuvering that enabled Madonna to get his hands in front of his body. With his palms together in front of his body, Madonna could easily and quickly pick up and fire his revolver. His hands, although cuffed, were in their "natural" position in relation to his body. Had he been correctly handcuffed with his palms outward and behind his back, he would have been less able to maneuver his hands to the front of his body. And with his palms handcuffed facing outward, even if he had maneuvered them to the front, his thumbs would have been pointed downward, an unnatural position to grasp anything. Picking up a large-frame revolver and firing it as the ISP report described would have been difficult, maybe made even moreso by Madonna's blood-alcohol content of 0.16. The revolver would literally have been upside down! It was Bangs supervisors' responsibility to ensure he followed his POST Academy training handcuffing prisoners. It was the department training officer's responsibility to ensure that deputies trained and retrained on correct handcuffing technique. Applying the cuffs quickly, smoothly, and correctly is a function of training, training, and more training. They failed Deputy Bangs.

Perhaps the Review Board didn't want to address the question of why Madonna was allowed to remain seated in his garage close to the connecting door into his house. Lieutenant Edmondson evaded that question in a newspaper interview: She "...can't second-guess the reasons for that." Yes, Lieutenant Edmondson, you can and you should. As a supervisor you have a responsibility to supervise, and that includes asking subordinates why they took a particular action. That's not second-guessing or sharpshooting; that's doing your job as a supervisor. You have a duty to correct inappropriate or dangerous behavior in your subordinates. If you don't understand that and do it, you should not be a supervisor.

Maybe the Review Board didn't want to consider the unusual treatment accorded the woman who was with Madonna at the time of the incident. According to the woman's statement to the ISP investigator, after Deputy Bangs handcuffed Madonna, Deputy Smart escorted the woman to the back seat of his patrol car where he seated her, unhandcuffed, with the door opened and with the cage window down. When the shooting started, Smart ran back to the garage leaving the woman unconfined and unrestrained. From the ISP report: "(The woman) remained in the police car during the shooting. After the shooting stopped, an officer closed the rear door and put the window up in the cage." Then, "(The woman) saw officers adminster first aid on a male in the garage. Two (2) ambulances came and then left after a while. After the ambulances left, an officer came to her, handcuffed her, and placed her back in the locked police car." This sequence of events came from the ISP's interview of the woman.

It is interesting that the woman's sequence of events varies from Kootenai County Prosecutor Bill Douglas's described on page four of his seven page summary. On page four, Douglas's summary states that when the garage door opened to reveal Madonna and the woman inside the vehicle in the garage, "Officers commanded her to exit her car and she was handcuffed and seated in a patrol car." Douglas's wording implies she was handcuffed and seated in a patrol car before the shooting started. That varies from her statement. Neither Bangs' nor Smart's statements refute her statement. In fact, Deputy Smart's statement in the ISP report refutes Douglas's: "The female indicated she was cold and Deputy Smart offered his patrol car for the female to sit in. Deputy Smart put her in the rear of his patrol car with the door open. The female was not under arrest nor handcuffed." Smart went on to say that it was he who closed the door with her in the back seat after the shooting had stopped, but he makes no mention of being the one who handcuffed her.

Do Sheriff Watson, Captain Wolfinger, Lieutenant Edmondson, and the officers on the Review Board care that they are not worthy of my trust and confidence? Probably not. The community's cheerleaders and politicians will continue to pat them on the back and tell them how well they're doing. Sadly, the cheerleaders and politicians who are patting them on the back are reinforcing poor leadership and supervision. That does not bode well for the deputies on the road.


Anonymous Mike Stallcup said...

Thank you for your writings on this unfortunate incident. As a retired veteran law enforcement officer I also found the circumstances surrounding the Kralicek and Madonna shooting to be questionable. It's difficult to "Monday morning quarterback" this type of incident, but the known facts of what led up to the shooting are unexcapable. I to feel for the involved officers. I'm sure they carry a personal burden that is difficutl. But - How any reasonable law enforcement administator/supervisor could not see that poor tactics & poss. training was what allowed this incident to expand, is most likely blind, ignorant or just plain doesn't care. What kind of leadership is in place in The Kootenai County Sheriff's Department? Poor leadership from the top just carries down the line of command ending with those deputies on the street. And Sheriff Watson says its the low pay that has caused such an exodus from his department. I say it's poor morale brought about by ineptness of the Sheriff Department Administrators. Nice to know others out there are observant and conscious of the problems. Xclnt investigation on your part. Too bad our SO couldn't have done the same. ms

7:52 AM, March 31, 2005  

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