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.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Eerie Similarities - San Francisco vs Kootenai County

The San Francisco Chronicle has begun a three-part series titled The Use of Force. It examines the use of deadly force by San Francisco police officers.

The Sunday, December 3, 2006, leadoff article by Chronicle staff writer Seth Rosenfeld was headlined When officers resort to gunfire. It reviewed four officer-involved shootings that resulted in lawsuits against the City of San Francisco. The City settled all four lawsuits but was required to provide the press with the police department's own investigative reports of the incidents.

In reviewing the official police reports about the four shootings, The Chronicle and its experts (University of South Carolina criminology Professor Geoffrey Alpert and former Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Lou Reiter) found a disturbing pattern in all four shootings. Quoting from the Chronicle article:
  • "In the moments leading to the shootings, officers used faulty tactics, needlessly placing themselves in danger, then shot their way out."
  • " The department's internal investigations resulted in reports that did not mention the missteps. "
  • "The public did not receive a full account, and police officials may have lost opportunities to discipline or retrain officers and to improve operations to help prevent more shootings."

If these findings don't sound familiar, reread Whitecaps' February 16, 2005, post titled Theft, Gunfire, and Death in Hayden, Idaho: Part II. Then look at the March 2, 2005, post titled Worthy of Trust and Confidence?. The first post discussed the shooting death of Michael Madonna in a confrontation with two Kootenai County sheriff's deputies. The second was Whitecaps' response to the subsequent effort by the Sheriff's Department to conceal the facts of an avoidable deputy involved shooting from the public.

In the Madonna shooting, one deputy failed (twice) to maintain control over his prisoner, Michael Madonna. Madonna was able to reposition his handcuffed hands from behind him to his front, run into his house, recover a firearm, and turn and shoot at a pursuing deputy and a Coeur d'Alene police officer. Compare this to the Chronicle's first finding: "...officers used faulty tactics, needlessly placing themselves in danger, then shot their way out."

The Kootenai County Sheriff's Department failed to release relevant information to the public about the deputies' conduct in controlling both Madonna and the woman with him. The subsequent administrative hearing, conducted by carefully selected law enforcement officers (no civilians present), found no fault with the deputies' conduct. This sounds eerily similar to the Chronicle's second and third findings quoted above. (Thankfully, the meticulously completed Idaho State Police investigative report obtained by Whitecaps revealed what the Sheriff would not.)

In reading The Chronicle article, I was struck by the behavioral similarities of the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department and the San Francisco Police Department command staffs: Cover it up and conceal the facts from the public. This persistent and always misguided cover and concealment tactic damages public trust and confidence in our local agencies.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill, nice piece. Am I the only one, but why is DFO on HBO skewering Prosecutor Douglas while the Bonner County Prosecutor who fails to file income tax returns for 8 years gets a free pass? Am I missing something here?

9:08 PM, December 07, 2006  
Blogger Bill McCrory said...


Thank you for reading "Eerie..." and commenting.

I haven't been doing anything more than glancing at DFO's column for over a week now, so I don't know what he's been saying about either prosecutor's conduct. It's interesting that today's (Friday) S-R reports the original email issue investigator hired by the county resigned after reportedly receiving outside pressure and exposure. The newspaper reports the county will try to conceal the new investigator's identity to shield him/her from outside pressure.

It may be that Kootenai County is low hanging fruit for the S-R. Three or four years ago the S-R pulled its reporter out of Sandpoint and back to CdA in a consolidation move to let the S-R focus on its core market, Spokane d'Alene. With its Idaho bureau in CdA, it may be easier/faster/cheaper for the S-R to focus on the Douglas (with Kalani subtitles)/Baughman story.

Part of the S-R's intense Kootenai coverage may be because the misconduct alleged occurred inside the walls of county government, not in private. The Bonner prosecutor's feeble excuse that his innovative and imaginative tax deferral program occurred while he was in private practice doesn't cut it, though. It's an integrity issue regardless of when or where it occurred. Wouldn't you think, though, that if someone in Bonner County had been paying attention, the issue of his tax non-payment would have been a campaign issue?

Thanks again for reading and writing.

7:17 AM, December 08, 2006  

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