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.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Harmless Fireworks or Lethal Explosives?

In his June 29 Huckleberries Online post, The Spokesman Review columnist and associate editor Dave Oliveria asked, "Should fireworks be banned altogether in Kootenai County (except for community displays)?".

Some of the responses were serious, others humorous.

Initially, let's understand that when we use the term "fireworks" as Dave did in his question, we are talking about Class 1.3G explosives (display fireworks) and Class 1.4G Explosives (consumer fireworks.) These materials are regulated by federal law in order to provide for safe manufacture, storage, handling, transportation, and presentation. Possession and use may also be regulated by state law or local ordinance for pretty much the same reasons.

It really doesn't matter if the intent of the manufacturer, transporter, wholesaler, retailer, or end user is profit or patriotism . Explosives (including "innocent" fireworks) that are carelessly and sloppily manufactured in countries with poor or nonexistent quality control and safety standards (Mexico and the People's Republic of China come to mind) will kill innocent people in the United States. They already have.

In 1980 the US Customs Service (USCS) seized several hundred pounds of Mexican "fireworks" being imported illegally into the United States near San Diego. The USCS contacted what was then the US Army's 70th Ordnance Detachment (EOD) in San Diego and requested the 70th to safely store and destroy the material. This request was consistent with Army EOD's mission at the time. The 70th complied with the request and stored the seized explosives (fireworks) in one of its bunkers. When it came time to dispose of the material, soldiers from the 70th backed a truck up to the storage bunker door. Soldier/EOD technicians SSG Nancy Oszakewski, SP5 Ron Kostenbader, and SP4 Joe Tripodi were in the bunker loading out the stored fireworks, the fireworks the Mexican manufacturers had planned to sell in the United States so that Americans could use "harmless fireworks" to vicariously relive the bombs bursting in air over Fort McHenry. In a flash, literally, Nancy, Ron, and Joe were incinerated in the bunker. The incident investigation determined the most likely cause of ignition and deflagration was that the Mexican manufacturers had carelessly packaged the "harmless fireworks" and allowed component material to contaminate the outside of the packaging. Investigators speculated that the friction created when the EOD technicians moved the packages allowed the material to rise to ignition temperature.

Only a few years later in Los Angeles, CA, police bomb technicians were called by uniformed officers to an apartment in Hollywood to investigate the contents officers found. The uniformed officers correctly assessed they had stumbled onto an illegal fireworks factory in the apartment, so they carefully backed out, evacuated the building, and called the bomb squad. When detective/bomb technicians Bob Gollhofer and Dan Johnson entered the apartment, they saw the chemicals, the plastic storage containers, and other signs proving that the uniformed officers' assessment had been accurate. As Bob Gollhofer carefully looked down into a plastic wastebasket, there was a blinding deflagration. Both detective/bomb technicians remember being dragged outside by rescuers. The subsequent investigation revealed the most likely cause of unintentional ignition was an electrostatic discharge, the discharge of static electricity. The electric charge had likely accumulated on the plastic storage containers and wastebaskets being used by the manufacturer. The unequal charge on one of the bomb technician's bodies very likely created the spark that caused ignition of the dustlike and highly flammable chemicals used in the manufacture of "innocent fireworks". Fortunately, both detective/bomb technicians survived, though one received permanently disabling injuries.

I don't know where the Coeur d'Alene Tribe gets the fireworks it sells in its stands on the reservation. Neither do I know where the "safe and sane" fireworks stands in Kootenai County get their product. I hope their products have been safely manufactured in the United States under good quality control inspections. I hope they are safely displayed and stored when not being displayed. I hope they are manufactured and transported legally and then handled and sold by people who have been properly trained to handle explosive material.

Here's a simple safety test for those who might be interested and going to visit one of the local fireworks stands either on or off the reservation: Do you see anyone in or near the stands wearing any clothing not made of cotton? Do you see any nylon windbreakers? Are the explosive products being put in plastic shopping bags? The synthetic plastic materials commonly found in our clothing and packaging are excellent generators of static electricity. All it takes is one electrostatic discharge spark to ignite any flammable residue on the fireworks' packaging.

As one who was once certified as an explosive handler and who has worked with bomb squads to produce pyrotechnic training exercises for public safety agencies, I won't go near fireworks stands or products of any kind, no matter how "safe" the sellers represent them to be. I would rather leave the pyrotechnics to the professional pyrotechnicians and sit in the bleachers to appreciate their workmanship. Here's a link to Pyrotechnics, Fire, and Explosion Effects by Michael McCann, PhD, CIH. The site is a basic but informative introduction to responsible pyrotechnic displays and materials handling.

To answer Dave's question: Yes, Class B (special fireworks) and Class C (common fireworks) explosives should be banned in Kootenai County except in the hands of trained and licensed pyrotechnicians.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A Response to Spokane Mayor James West

On Tuesday, June 28, 2005, The Spokesman Review published a guest column by Spokane Mayor James West. Here is Whitecaps' response to the Mayor's statements in the column.

WEST: With over 92 articles, hundreds of column inches, thousands of words, several editorials and screaming headlines by The Spokesman-Review, people have a hard time remembering this simple fact: In our system a person is innocent until proven guilty.

WHITECAPS: The rebuttable presumption of innocent until proven guilty applies only to the person who is a defendant in a formal criminal proceeding. West is not entitled to that presumption until he has been indicted or charged in a criminal complaint.

WEST: The Spokesman-Review is not the judge or the jury, and its accusations are false.

WHITECAPS: West is partially correct. The Spokesman-Review is not judge or jury. If we accept West’s analogy to the criminal court system with West as accused/defendant, then the Spokesman-Review would more accurately be characterized as the prosecutor. The Spokesman-Review has presented its accusations and its evidence with such sufficiency as to shift the burden of proof back to West. But now that he’s heard the accusations and evidence, West wants to change the judge and jury. Rather than allowing Shannon Sullivan’s recall petition to stand or fall on its merit in front of the electorate serving as judge and jury, West and his lawyers have decided to seek a different court. West now wants the sufficiency of the accusations and evidence to be decided not by those to whom he appeals and who elected him, but by the Washington State Supreme Court.

WEST: I did not molest anyone, 25 years ago or ever, and I have not misused my official office for personal gain. I am certain the investigations now being conducted will show that I have done nothing that makes me unfit for public office.

WHITECAPS: West’s publicly and personally acknowledged conduct has already proven him unfit and unsuitable for public office. The purposes of the ongoing investigations are to determine if West violated city personnel policy or criminal law or both.

WEST: I look forward to the time when the City Council and The Spokesman-Review can turn their attention away from my private life and onto the pressing needs of the city. In City Hall each day that’s what I do as I continue to focus on the future of Spokane and work with our employees to deliver the best services possible for everyone. At the same time, I will continue to defend myself against falsehoods, using appropriate legal means.

WHITECAPS: West is intent on misconstruing his misconduct as mayor as being part of his private life. It was he, not the Spokesman-Review, that crossed the line between private life and official conduct.

WEST: Today my lawyers are filing an appeal to allow the state Supreme Court to review the recall petition filed against me. The citizens of Spokane deserve to know why I have decided to appeal. Simply put, it is because the charges are false, and the ballot statement they would vote on was improperly prepared and is prejudicial.

WHITECAPS: If the charges in Shannon Sullivan’s recall petition are false, West's lawyers are skilled enough to show that, and the voters of Spokane are intelligent enough to see it. It is West’s lawyers’ job to make his side of the story known to the electorate who would vote in the recall petition. Questioning the adequacy of the form and content of the ballot is appropriately the duty of the Spokane County Auditor. Putting that question to the State Supreme Court now would be premature since the ballot has yet to be prepared. If the ballot wording is prejudicial, it can be contested once it has been finalized.

WEST: A recall is unique in our court system: The judge makes no attempt to determine if the charges are true. Instead, his ruling only determines whether the charges are a clear statement of the accusation (true or not) and whether those charges would constitute misuse of office (“malfeasance or misfeasance”).

The judge who reviewed the recall petition dismissed two of the three charges. But he ruled that one charge was sufficient for the recall, that internships were offered improperly. The only “evidence” submitted at the hearing were articles from The Spokesman-Review. Unfortunately for us all, in over 90 articles and increasingly shrill editorials, The Spokesman-Review has twisted testimony and ignored facts that do not fit its view of this matter.

WHITECAPS: And after reviewing those charges, the judge ruled that one of the three charges could and should be put before the voters. It is not a question of law but a question of fact on which the voters will be asked to decide.

WEST: Let me give you an example from last week’s newspaper.

Its reporters read through hundreds of my e-mails, looking for a “smoking gun.” They found nothing incriminating. Yet, in one article, they reprinted private e-mails from people who had written words of encouragement to me – for the sole purpose of publicly chastising them and hoping to embarrass them into submission.

WHITECAPS: The determination of whether the content of the emails was incriminating rests with the voters. As for disclosing the contents of supportive emails, how does that hurt West? And to what and whom would the emails' writers be forced to submit after having their supportive emails disclosed?

WEST: Then, in another article, headlined “West used city computer to make internship offer,” the newspaper retold the tale they’ve told many times of how they hired a chat room impostor to pretend to be a young man.

The story says, “The online story progressed … to an offer of an internship at the mayor’s office.” But a comparison of the full transcript with the published story shows how far the newspaper will go in its crusade against me. Remember, the paper hired the impostor with the explicit purpose of trying to lure me into committing an illegal act.

WHITECAPS: The newspaper publicly reported that it hired a computer expert to try and accurately determine the true identity of the person corresponding with its expert. West has knowingly mischaracterized the newspaper’s stated intent and has tried to raise an entrapment defense. But the newspaper did not plant the idea of soliciting young men for sex online in West’s mind.

WEST: This newspaper edited the exchange to make it sound as if I had offered an internship to the young man – instead of simply encouraging him to go through the application process.

It is commonplace to suggest to young people that they apply for internships, and every elected official I know has done it hundreds of times.

I wrote – although the newspaper did not report it, that I offered no guarantees, “You could also ask him to mail you an application form so that you can fill it out … They may have all the positions filled for this spring so you should get on it if you are at all interested.”

In the article, The Spokesman quotes its online impostor as saying, “Thank you so much for honoring me with this offer.”

A full transcript shows he continues and concludes by saying, “I wanted to write and thank you for your e-mail and the opportunity to apply.”

The full exchange shows that I encouraged a young man to apply for an internship but did not reveal my official position and did not in any way guarantee him that he would be chosen. At the mayor’s office, there is a review procedure for all these unpaid internships, and I did not interfere in that process.

In an earlier story, The Spokesman-Review stated as a fact that I had offered jobs to another young man. However, if you read the transcripts of his interview he is emphatic that no job was offered but only that he was encouraged to apply. It also said that I had met this young man online. The fact is I’ve known him for several years and worked with him in another job so knew his experience.

WHITECAPS: Let the voters decide what West’s intent was and register their conclusions appropriately in their recall ballot.

WEST: This type of distortion is far from isolated. First, the newspaper wondered why police records from 20 years ago had been destroyed and implied that I would be named in those reports if they were still around. Then, when the reports turned up after a search and showed no mention of me, the newspaper wondered why they turned up suddenly.

WHITECAPS: The Spokane County Sheriff, Mark Sterk, stated unequivocally that the reports had been shredded. Sterk did not say the reports had “probably” been shredded or that it was common practice to shred or destroy such reports as part of a regular and ongoing practice of records destruction; Sterk said they had been shredded. Thus, when the “shredded” reports suddenly appeared, it is reasonable to question why Sterk had been so certain in his assertion. And West should certainly not object to the reports mysteriously appearing, because according to him, they support his story. The voters can draw their own inferences from the reports that magically reappeared from the shredder's teeth.

WEST: When I was accused of visiting one of my accusers at the local jail, the newspaper doubted that the logs kept were accurate. When The Spokesman reported a decade’s old hearsay statement that I had taken Morning Star boys on outings, the Boys Ranch responded emphatically that its own logs and records confirmed I hadn’t.

WHITECAPS: All West’s lawyers need to do is take sworn statements from the appropriate people at the Geiger correctional facility and get them to answer questions about West's alleged visits to the facility under the circumstances reported in the paper. Of course, once locked into a story by a sworn statement, any contradictory testimony in a trial would be subject to impeachment.

The Boy’s Ranch has now acknowledged that its logs were incomplete. Unless complete logging was an absolute and unwavering requirement, West cannot persuasively assert the absence of log records confirm he had never taken Morning Star boys on outings.

WEST: The truth is, I can’t go into The Spokesman-Review building without signing in before a security guard. Why do they think that entrance into a jail or check out at a juvenile residential facility is any less secure?

WHITECAPS: Perhaps the security officer at the Spokesman-Review is more diligent in visitor accountability and occupant control than the administrators of the Geiger facility or the Boys Ranch. Is West now inviting the Spokesman-Review to investigate the adequacy of the levels of security at the city’s jail and juvenile facilities?

WEST: I wish I could write that there is not a shred of truth to the things that have been written about me in The Spokesman-Review. The problem is, there is a shred of truth, and The Spokesman-Review has shredded it into a hundred small pieces and rearranged it to fit its agenda and theories.

Yes, I exercised poor judgment and made mistakes in my personal life, but nothing illegal and nothing unethical. Chatting online about sex with a person I believed to be 18 years old was wrong. Although it was a private conversation conducted on my personal computer in my home, I’m ashamed of it and embarrassed by it. I have apologized to the community and have sought forgiveness for my actions.

As I said, I’m embarrassed and ashamed, but my personal mistake need not be a public crusade to drive me from office and to stop the good work being done at City Hall. It also doesn’t mean that I have to sit silently by while the facts are distorted.

WHITECAPS: If West feels his own evidence is persuasive and the evidence against him is weak, then he should not fear having the voters of Spokane see and hear all the evidence and then decide if they still want him as Mayor.

WEST: My lawyers are confident that after an appeal to the Supreme Court, we will have a more accurate ballot statement to put before the voters for a fair recall election.

WHITECAPS: The wording of the ballot statement can and should be resolved fairly quickly with the County Auditor. Once the Auditor has decided the wording, then and only then might a court appeal be appropriate. The appeal to the Supreme Court is West’s attempt to delay the recall and improve his leverage in negotiating the financial terms of his departure.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

To Protect and Serve...But Don't Hold Us To That

My blog post on April 29, 2005, provided some information about the case Castle Rock, CO v. Gonzales, Jessica, et al, pending before the US Supreme Court. The decision before the court was whether the Castle Rock Police Department could be held liable for failing to enforce Jessica Gonzales' restraining order filed against her husband.

On Monday, June 27, 2005, the US Supreme Court ruling in this case held that

  • Gonzales did not, for Fourteenth Amendment Due Process purposes, have a property interest in police enforcement of the restraining order against her husband
  • A benefit (police enforcement of the restraining order) is not a protected entitlement if officials (the police) have discretion to grant or deny the benefit
  • Colorado law has not created a personal entitlement to enforcement of restraining orders
  • Even if Colorado's statute had made enforcement mandatory, it would not necessarily mean that Gonzales had an entitlement to enforcement
  • Even if the US Supreme Court were to think otherwise about Colorado's creation of an entitlement, the Court is not convinced that an individual entitlement to enforcement of a restraining order could constitute a "property interest" for due process purposes.

Thus, the Court held in Gonzales that the police were not liable when they failed to enforce the restraining order filed by Gonzales against her husband. The police had no culpability for the deaths of Gonzales three children taken by her husband in violation of the court order.

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Electronic Crime Scene

The proliferation of digital electronic devices during the past twenty years has created several challenges for public and private investigators. How does an investigator recognize, acquire, preserve, and present electronic evidence, evidence that by its very nature is transient? In an effort to answer these and more significant questions, the US Department of Justice has begun publishing a series of guidelines that public and private investigators can use. The first two have been published and are linked here.

Electronic Crime Scene Investigation - A Guide for First Responders

Forensic Examination of Digital Evidence: A Guide for Law Enforcement

Future publication topics in the series will include:
  • Investigative uses of technology
  • Investigating electronic technology crimes
  • Creating a digital evidence forensic unit
  • Courtroom presentation of digital evidence

These publications are useful not only for investigators but also for students, newspaper reporters, and others who need to be better able to understand the complexities of digital crimes.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Gadgetizing Sex Offenders

Well, the snake-oil salesmen of technology have jumped on the sex offender tracking and locating bandwagon. Use our product and service, and your sex offender problems will be over.

Nope. The technology can at best tell us that the offender is (if the service is monitored in real time) or was (if location data was collected and stored for retrieval) at a particular location at any particular time. Knowing where a sex offenders is or was at any moment does not tell us what the offender is doing at that particular moment.

The technology of choice for sex offender tracking and locating is based on the global positioning system (GPS). The problem is not that the technology can't or won't work, because it can and does. The problem is that the technology must be monitored in real time and its results correctly and quickly interpreted by its operators to meet the public's expectations, expectations that have been unreasonably elevated by, you guessed it, the technology sales representatives.

The CBS Evening News on Wednesday, June 22, 2005, aired a piece entitled Tracking Convicted Sex Offenders. The technology touted in that news piece was based on the state's existing online sex offender registration database. Users would know, and even be alerted, if a registered sex offender (RSO) had a residence address in their neighborhood. The biggest value in these enhancements to the state's database is that subscribers/users will be notified "immediately" after an RSO's information has been entered into the state's online database and the service provider has initiated its notification process. Essentially, this service reduces the need for an inquiring individual to manually search the state's database. The service certainly adds nothing to the state's database to further enlighten the subscriber about the offenses committed by the RSO. In short, it increases convenience but not protection.

Then on Thursday, June 23, 2005, The Orange County Register published an article headlined GPS to track sex offenders. The article reports the California Department of Corrections has a budget allocation of $5.4 million to purchase 500 GPS tracking devices to be worn by sex offenders on parole. Interestingly enough, the article accurately describes the real-world limitations of these devices. In particular, the Register article notes that the devices only reveal the location of the offender, not the nature of his activity at that location. Bingo!

Criminal justice technology to monitor and track RSOs in these examples is too often and incorrectly viewed as an acceptable substitute for improved behavioral assessment methods, more precise offender classification methods, and behavioral modification treatment programs. Technology in any form is not a single simple solution to the problem. Technology is, at best, a tool to be used to provide information in an evolving program that leads to correction of an underlying behavioral problem.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Idaho Criminal Justice Commission - When? Who?

In her June 16, 2005, Eye on Boise weblog post titled Big prison-building cost looms, Spokesman Review reporter Betsy Z. Russell noted that Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne has yet to appoint the members to the Idaho Criminal Justice Commission.

That Commission was created on January 10, 2005, when the Governor signed and sealed Executive Order No. 2005-01 "Establishing a criminal justice commission for oversight of the state's criminal justice system."

Russell's blog entry revealed that the Governor's chief of staff said the Governor was considering adding more legislators to the Commission. He also said the Governor has no particular timetable for forming the Commission.

More legislators? There are already two who are de facto members by title: The Chair of the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee (currently Denton Darrington, District 27 , Declo) and the Chair of the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee (currently Debbie S. Field, District 18, Boise ). I'm not convinced adding more legislators will improve the chances of meeting the Commission's objectives, but if it is going to happen, I hope that the Governor will nominate State Representative George Sayler, District 4, Coeur d'Alene, and State Senator Shawn Keough, District 1, Sandpoint. The composition of the Commission identified in Executive Order 2005-01 is weighted too heavily to southern Idaho.

Though it is possible that one or more of the three citizens-at-large members could come from northern Idaho, it is made less likely because of the ninth provision in the Executive Order which reads, "Commission members will serve without compensation or reimbursement for expenses, including related travel and per diem to attend Commission meetings." There are certainly some people in northern Idaho who could afford to travel to Boise at their own personal expense at least four times annually as required by the Executive Order, but their experience and credentials qualifying them to serve on the Commission would need to be closely examined.

The issues identified in Executive Order 2005-01 need to be prioritized and then addressed. Some objectives already identified may need re-prioritizing or even elimination. Other more pressing objectives may need to be added. If the Commission is to have any credibility and effectiveness, if it is meant to be more than a commitee to rubber-stamp the Governor's criminal justice objectives, the Commission's membership needs to be completed and it needs to meet. Soon.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Report: State and Local Homeland Security: Unresolved Issues for the 109th Congress

On June 9, 2005, The Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service, released a report for Congress entitled State and Local Homeland Security: Unresolved Issues for the 109th Congress.

The report identified as important three laws passed since September 11, 2001. They are
  • PL-107-56, "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act (USA PATRIOT Act)
  • PL-107-296, "Homeland Security Act of 2002"
  • PL-108-458, "Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004"

But the report doesn't spend much time discussing these laws. Rather, it proceeds to identify and discuss other important state and local homeland security issues for the 109th Congress to discuss. Those issues include

  • Emergency first responder needs identified but as yet unmet
  • Proposed reductions in appropriations for federal homeland security assistance
  • Determination of state and local homeland security risk assessment factors
  • Absence of emergency responder equipment standards
  • Development of state and local homeland security strategies
  • The limited number of state and local officials with security clearances

Like most Congressional Research Service reports, this is rather dry but nevertheless informative reading.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Dean Arthur Schwartzmiller - Predator

If ever there was a child molester whose offenses demonstrate conclusively the need for improvements in the management and control of sexual offenders, that person would be Dean Arthur Schwartzmiller.

According to the June 17, 2005, Los Angeles Times story headlined Police Find Molester's 'Stunning' Records, Schwartzmiller has a history of child molestation dating back to February 1970 when he was first arrested in Juneau, Alaska. The Times article provides an abbreviated timeline of his extensive history of arrests and convictions for child molestation.

Schwartzmiller, who may also have been known as Dean Harmon, Dean Miller, and Tim Miller in Idaho and several other states where he apparently molested thousands of children (according to his own journals), is a dangerous predator by anyone's definition. There are others like him. He's not the only one out there.

Schwartzmiller's track record convinces me that we must commit the resources necessary to better identify, assess, classify and track sex offenders. We must also learn to differentiate between those offenders who can and ought to be treated and those who cannot be treated and must be forever locked up. These will not be easy tasks.

  • A federal sex offender tracking system to complement, not replace, state registration systems. When an offender relocates from state to state, require the offender to notify the losing state seven days before the relocation and provide the new residence address. Require the offender to re-register in the gaining state within 72 hours of his arrival and confirm his new residence address. Require the offender to obtain a driver's license or state identification card from the gaining state within five days of his arrival in that state. Require state sex offender registration system administrators to have databases that "tickle" the state's registration agent in the gaining county when any offender is scheduled to register. If the offender fails to register within the 72-hour limit, require the state agent to notify the US Marshal for that district. Require the US Marshal to immediately seek a federal arrest warrant for the offender and to immediately enter that warrant into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) network.
  • Federal standards for sex offender classification systems administered by the states so that offender classification levels are the same from state to state. For example, a level III offender in Washington would meet the same criteria as a level III offender in Wisconsin.
  • Federal and state fund commitments to more accurate, more complete, and more timely assessments of persons charged with sexual offenses. Initial assessment must occur when the offender is first charged, regardless of the crime for which s/he is convicted.
  • Federal and state fund commitments to provide for periodic reassessment of convicted offenders. The objective is to identify those offenders who are not likely to reoffend, who have been successfully treated, and who should be removed from the registered sex offender registry. Once removed from the registry, state-funded assessment and monitoring would stop unless and until the former offender is accused of reoffending.
  • In Idaho, elevate the importance of and funding for improved offender classification and assessment systems in the Governor's Criminal Justice Commission for Oversight of the State's Criminal Justice System. It appears from the Governor's executive order number 2005-01 that the Commission has been instructed to be more concerned with meth labs and reducing prison inmate populations than with accurate assessment and classification of offenders. Absent the best assessment and classification of offenders, more like Schwartzmiller will be released rather than confined.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Sex Offender Recidivism

What is the likelihood that a released and now-registered sex offender will reoffend? Under what circumstances is any particular offender likely to reoffend? What can be done to reduce the likelihood of reoffense?

These were the questions posed in the introduction to a May 2001 study entitled Recidivism of Sex Offenders. The study was published by the Center for Sex Offender Management (CSOM). CSOM was created by the US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, as a national project supporting state and local jurisdictions in the effective management of sex offenders under community supervision.

The purpose of the study was to answer the questions posed in the first paragraph by examining the critical issues in defining and measuring recidivism. The report also discusses the current research devoted to measuring the reoffense rate of adult male sex offenders.

The study arrives at several conclusions:

  • Research on sex offender recidivism must be designed and applied to practice with the goals of preventing further victimization and creating safer communities.
  • Research and the studies it produces must be ongoing and up-to-date. This current research drives intervention strategies individualized for particular offenders. The more valid and reliable the studies, the more likely that individual interventions can be developed.
  • Researchers must strive to identify dynamic characteristics associated with sex offending behavior that can serve as the focus for intervention. In other words, it's the things that change rather than remain the same that will dramatically influence the success and failure of intervention strategies.

For a better understanding of why communities should care about sex offender recidivism, read San Jose police: child molester may have had thousands of victims in the Thursday, June 16, 2005, Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The article reports that, "A convicted child molester with ties to Washington, Idaho and Oregon may have committed sex crimes against thousands of victims, police said Thursday after finding computers, notebooks and meticulous, handwritten lists with more than 36,000 boys' names and codes apparently indicating various sex acts."

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center

Congressional concern that terrorists could use biological agents as weapons of terror has resulted in the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Health and Human Services (HHS) proposing the creation of the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC). The Center will focus only on defenses against bioterrorism, because the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention which permits only defensive research activities. Congress will have many decisions to make in funding the NBACC and in overseeing it. Congress will also need to ensure that there is no duplication of effort (and therefore unnecessary funding) between federal agencies.

On April 25, 2005, The Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service, provided Congress with a report entitled The National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center: Issues for Congress. As the title explicitly says, the report identifies the issues Congress faces in establishing the NBACC.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Dealing With Idaho's Registered Sex Offenders

Earlier posts here have commented on the numbers and residence addresses of registered sex offenders (RSO) in Coeur d'Alene and Kootenai County.

Regulating RSO programs is a state responsibility. That responsibility was federally mandated by the Wetterling Act passed in 1994 which was amended by Megan's Law in 1996.

The June 12, 2005, Chicago Tribune published an article headlined State mulls process for confining sex offenders. This article demonstrates the challenges states face in dealing with RSOs and complying with the federal mandates.

The Idaho Sexual Offender Classification Board (SOCB) was created in 1998 by an act of the Idaho legislature. Here is a link to the SOCB website. The website describes the SOCB's staffing, duties, and responsibilities.

One of the more interesting items on the SOCB website is a link to the SOCB's Required Format For Psychosexual Evaluation Reports. Page 2 in the link explains the basic standards for psychosexual evaluations.

But states like Idaho need not feel alone. In November 1996, the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), U.S. Department of Justice, convened the National Summit: Promoting Public Safety through the Effective Management of Sex Offenders in the Community. The summit sought input from over 180 practitioners, academic researchers, and other experts regarding the most effective strategies for managing sex offenders. The result was the creation of the Center for Sex Offender Management (CSOM). CSOM's goal is "...to enhance public safety by preventing further victimization through improving the management of adult and juvenile sex offenders who are in the community." Thus, the Idaho SOCB has the ability to draw on the CSOM for assistance.

Friday, June 10, 2005

The Inspector General's Unclassified and Redacted Report on the FBI's Performance re: 9-11-01

In July 2004 the Department of Justice's Office of Inspector General (OIG) completed its 328page A Review of the FBI's Handling of Intelligence Information Related to the September 11 Attacks. The public release of the report was delayed because of objections raised by attorneys for Zacarias Moussaoui. The report had several references to Moussaoui. On June 7, 2005, the OIG petitioned the District Court to release the report with references to Moussaoui redacted. After the Moussaoi case is over, the OIG intends to release the unclassified and unredacted report. The entire report, classified Top Secret and in the Sensitive Compartmented Information compartment, will not be publicly released.

The report linked above has six chapters:
  1. Introduction (including the OIG investigation and organization of the report)
  2. Background (including a description of the FBI's organizational structure with respect to international terrorism; a discussion of the wall between intelligence and criminal terrorism investigations; and the process for obtaining a Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant
  3. The FBI's handling of the Phoenix electronic communication and other information relating to use of airplanes in terrorist attacks
  4. REDACTED IN ITS ENTIRETY (Probably pertaining to the surveillance and investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui and his associates)
  5. Two September 11 hijackers: Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi (including the OIG's analysis of the FBI's handling of intelligence concerning al-Hihdhar and al-Hazmi)
  6. Recommendations and Conclusions

Thursday, June 09, 2005

"Question: Are you still hopeful?"

In his Thursday, June 9, 2005, Huckleberries weblog, The Spokesman Review columnist Dave Oliveria posed this blog topic: "Question: Are you still hopeful?" He was asking the question based on colleague Susan Drumheller's article headlined Hopes are high that missing Groene children are still alive.

Reread Kootenai County Sheriff Rocky Watson's comments in the article, particularly, "It was a highly emotional crime scene, a violent crime scene. Real violent crimes are usually driven by love, money or drugs."

Of those three usual motivations he lists, only "love" is the intangible one. "Love" can assume many forms and have many interpretations, even some that apparently contradict love's traditionally accepted definition.

For one example, consider the possibility that the children's abductors committed the crimes out of a distorted sense of love for the two missing children. What may have been found in the house by investigators or what may have been removed from the house by the abductors would tell investigators and us much about the emotional state of the abductors and their intentions toward the missing children.

I see two indicators supporting investigators' reasonable optimism the missing children are still alive:

  • The apparent absence of crime scene evidence that the missing children were harmed during three brutal murders
  • The apparent absence of physical evidence that the missing children have been harmed since being abducted

So, to answer Dave Oliveria's question: Absolutely! In the absence of evidence to the contrary, evidence investigators would expect to see if the children had been harmed during or after their abduction, it would be unreasonably pessimistic to give up hope.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Pizza and Honors

On Tuesday, June 7, 2005, I attended a pizza lunch and awards ceremony in the Sociology and Criminal Justice Department at Eastern Washington University (EWU) in Cheney. The ceremony was to honor the three top Criminal Justice students in EWU's 2005 graduating class. It was an honor to have been invited and to be able to applaud these three exceptionally gifted students who, in addition to completing the academic requirements for their Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice, were also campus leaders and teaching assistants.

Remember these names. These soon-to-be graduates will make an indelible mark in criminal justice:

Colleen Gillespie is a brilliant student who will soon head for Marine Corps Officer Candidate School. If she chooses not to make the Corps her career, she will be snapped up by the Drug Enforcement Administration. She has an eye and a mind for detail. She was this year's recipient of the V.A. Leonard Award.

Andrea Folk is from Canada. She is a killer golfer and plans to join the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. I'm guessing that one day soon I will see her in combat gear rappelling from an RCMP helicopter, followed by a tour with The Ride, and thence into the command positions with the RCMP.

Rosie Warfield is the third academic whiz and student leader. I don't have the foggiest idea what career Rosie is going to pursue, but I could see her making revolutionary changes in correction systems before (hopefully) imparting her knowledge and experiences to students in a university somewhere.

These three exceptionally bright and articulate women received their well-deserved awards from Dr. Dale Lindekugel, Professor and Department Chair, from Professor Jay Moynahan, and from lecturer,intrepid lawyer, and social worker Pamela Indahl.

This was a challenging year for the Criminal Justice program at EWU. Dr. Lindekugel's predecssor passed away suddenly, and a key professor resigned. The remaining faculty and staff redoubled their commitment and efforts, aided by the three students who were honored at the lunch yesterday.

It is worthwhile and important to distinguish between criminal justice education programs like those at EWU or Washington State University and law enforcement training programs taught at community colleges such as North Idaho College. The distinction is between education and training. Students graduating from four-year university criminal justice programs have not received vocational training. What they have hopefully received is far more important: They have learned to think clearly and communicate effectively. They have learned to recognize what they don't yet know and seek more knowledge. They have learned to develop their skills as resource managers. They have progressed from cocksure ignorance to thoughtful uncertainty. Criminal justice program graduates may pursue careers in corrections, juvenile and adult justice, and law enforcement...or they may not. They are not limited by the boundaries of vocational training. And even if the criminal justice program graduates pursue careers outside criminal justice, they will be perpetual assets and contributors to the communities where they live.

I'm looking forward to following Colleen's, Andrea's, and Rosie's careers. Remember their names. You will see them again.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Police Chiefs in the 21st Century

What will the police chiefs of the 21st century look like? What knowledge, skills, and abilities will they have, must they have, to deal with the ever increasing challenges in criminal justice and public administration?

Make no mistake about it, the days of the neanderthal cop are numbered.


Chiefs and their command staff will be social scientists, business managers, personnel specialists, technology gurus, and physical scientists. This century's emerging chiefs and command staffs will be able to discuss economic theory as comfortably as they decide what color the light bars on the patrol cars should be. They will gather social data as skillfully as they gather physical evidence. They will be as smart and as well educated as their counterpart department heads. Maybe better. They will be as imaginative as Walt Disney's "Imagineers". They will be artists as well as practitioners.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police has published two studies that reveal the future of police leaders in the 21st century.

The Future of Women in Policing

Police Leadership in the 21st Century

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Community Wildfire Protection Plan

As Kootenai County becomes more populated, the wildland-urban interface (WUI) also becomes larger and more important. One of the consequences of a growing WUI is increased danger from wildfire. The International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Association of State Foresters, and The Wilderness Society have devloped some materials to help communities in the WUI create what these organizations call the Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP).

Here are links to some of that material. They are worth reading and sharing with neighbors, including homeowners associations.

Preparing a Community Wildfire Protection Plan - A Handbook for Wildland-Urban Interface Communities

Leaders Guide for Developing a Community Wildfire Protection Plan

Leaders Guide Supplement

The management of fire protection in the WUI is a responsibility shared between the fire services and those who live and work and play there. The cited material will help us work better and more effectively together.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Crime Scene Investigation

It's been barely two weeks since the bound and bludgeoned bodies of Brenda Groene, 40, Mark McKenzie, 37, and 13-year-old Slade Groene were found in their Wolf Lodge Bay home a few miles east of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. The apparent abduction of Shasta Groene, 8, and Dylan Groene, 9, adds to the mystery. Yet according to an article in today's The Spokesman Review, family members are already expressing some frustration that these crimes have not been solved.

Investigators from the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department, the Idaho State Police, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation will be understanding and forgive family members' frutstrations. Investigators know that while major crimes sometimes appear to be solved as a result of "one big break", that break often results from painstaking, meticulous, systematic, and often mundane investigative practices that acquire, collate, and analyze hundreds or thousands of bits of information. The "one big break" that appears to solve a case has a parallel in the theater: Often an actor becomes an "overnight success" only after years of developing his craft.

We who are not investigators must remember that the importance or significance of some piece of information or some item may not be immediately apparent. Its value may not be revealed until later in the investigation.

For readers interested in getting a better basic understanding about the complexities of real criminal investigations (as opposed to fictionalized television programs), see

Crime Scene Investigation - A Guide for Law Enforcement

Death Investigation: A Guide for the Scene Investigator

The first "bible" of homicide investigation was Homicide Investigation: Practical Information for Coroners, Police Officers, and Other Investigators by LeMoyne Snyder. The current reference book of choice is Practical Homicide Investigation: Tactics, Procedures, and Forensic Techniques, Third Edition edited by Vernon J. Geberth.

Reading any of these references won't make us investigators, won't make our uninformed theories of what happened any more valid. What they will do is give us a better appreciation of the effort that goes into investigations and a better understanding of why these crimes may not be solved as quickly as the ones in fictionalized television mysteries and cop shows.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Report: Olympic Security - US Support to Athens Games

It might surprise many people to learn just how extensively the US government provided security support to the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. Almost 20 entities and offices within a number of US agencies provided more than $35 million in security assistance and support to the government of Greece. Several members of Congress requested the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) to:
  • Determine the US approach for providing security assistance to Greece for the 2004 Summer Olympics and how such security efforts were coordinated, and
  • Examine the roles of US agencies in Athens Olympic security and their financial outlays, and
  • Review lessons learned in providing security assistance in support of the Olympics and how those lessons are being incorporated into preparations for future Olympics, particularly the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy.

The results of the GAO's study were sent to the Congressional requesters in May 2005 in a 30-page report entitled OLYMPIC SECURITY - U.S. Support to Athens Games Provides Lessons for Future Olympics.