Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Police department shaken by car impound scandal

King City, CA— Four police officers in this central California town, including the recently retired police chief and the acting chief—have been arrested following an investigation into how the department had been impounding vehicles of poor Hispanic people. With announcement of the arrests, one-third of the department's officers are under investigation. The cars were towed and sold or given to some officers when the owners couldn't pay the fees. Readers may find the Associated Press report at http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/police-officers-arrested-car-impound-scheme-22674552.

Possible relevance to the City of Pacific lies in Pacific's impound policies, which, at least in the recent past, could dispossess low income individuals of their vehicles if they could not afford impound fees. Readers are directed to the Speed Trap City blog of October 4, 2013,entitled Les Miserables and the City of Pacific.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Les Miserables and The City of Pacific



An open letter to Pacific Mayor Leanne Guier

Dear Mayor Guier, 

It’s my understanding that more than 60 million Americans have seen the musical Les Miserables, so it’s a pretty good likelihood that you know the story:  A desperately impoverished Frenchman, Jean Valjean, steals a loaf of bread to feed his family, and for that he is imprisoned 19 years and then paroled.  Parole is a “scarlet letter” that subjects him to abuse, so he abandons it and starts a new, respectable life. But throughout that life he is hounded by a fanatical Inspector Javert, who compensates for his own low beginnings by becoming a super cop, unrelenting in his quest to dominate and enforce.

I mention this because of two court cases which have recently been resolved in Washington State involving undocumented immigrants. The decisions essentially say that stopping people for a bad tail light doesn’t give police authority to ask about immigration status. You can read about these decisions at http://www.nwirp.org/  (See Settlement Reins in Border Patrol Stops on the Olympic Peninsula and Court Rules Law Enforcement Can't Prolong Stop to Question an Individual About Immigration Status.

We could interpret these rulings as a comeuppance for the City of Pacific for its racial profiling policies in the recent past. However the cruel truth is that the damage has been done and the victims are not likely to be made whole. People suffered and lives were destroyed by the Pacific police because of unconstitutional, illegal policies that even drew the attention of the governor’s office. Under the claim of law and order, the City of Pacific broke the law and made people’s lives miserable, and for no good reason other than the gratification of some misguided and sometimes malevolent public officials.

Allow me to give you an example of the mindless ways in which this city can destroy lives. And let’s forget about the immigration issue and just focus on income status – a big factor in Pacific, because of the demographics of the population here.

 I have a large rental house in Pacific. In one instance there were two families sharing the ample house. One of the men living there was driving within a few blocks of the house one day when he was pulled over for a traffic infraction. The detaining officer discovered he had an expired New Mexican driver’s license, due to failure to provide child support to an ex wife. The driver’s brother-in-law was in the vehicle and had a legitimate license. But rather than allowing him to drive the vehicle the few blocks home, the Pacific police impounded the vehicle. It went into storage at $200 per day. My renter didn’t have the funds to pay the impound and storage fees, which grew swiftly after only a few days, until the charges were greater than the value of the vehicle. Normally, car theft is a crime, but the City of Pacific and the towing company have figured out how to take your car without committing a criminal offense. The towing company enjoyed a tidy profit. My renter no longer had a vehicle and therefore could not maintain employment.

Perhaps, Madame Mayor, you can explain to me how this man was going to be able to pay child support for his past marriage and put food on the table for his current wife and children when he has been rendered unemployable? How exactly does this policy protect and serve?

Following a memorandum drafted by Sergeant Jim Pickett of the Pacific Police Department, your officers detained people who were undocumented, a practice that was illegal. In fact, the memorandum instructs police officers that individuals questioning the legality of the immigration questions should be detained for asserting their rights. Is this policy still in effect? (I would like to point out that, until she was 29 years old, my mother was undocumented. She was born at home in Idaho in 1915, and didn’t have a birth certificate until she was 29; she obtained it with the help of a 1920 census record. Being undocumented is not a crime.)

Latinos were threatened with incarceration and deportation. Families were broken up; lives were destroyed. When Latinos planned to stage a protest march they were illegally threatened with arrest. The threat was delivered to Pastor Mark Gause of New Hope Lutheran Church by Lt. Edwin Massey of the Pacific Police department. It was announced in a news release by Mayor Richard Hildreth. Police from other jurisdictions were summoned for backup. Only when the American Civil Liberties Union advised the city attorney that Public Safety Director John Calkins and Mayor Hildreth were violating federal law did these two bullies and lawbreakers back down. But several months later, Lt. Massey invaded a meeting at New Hope Church to issue the same threat when Hispanics were planning to protest the expropriation of the Cinco de Mayo celebration by the City of Pacific. The city was planning a party to which Latinos were not invited. And across the street from the church a fleet of vehicles sporting American flags was prepared to launch a counter demonstration – a sort of message that Americans could celebrate Cinco De Mayo and those unamerican Latinos could just lump it.

I’m prompted to mention this not only because of the court decisions, but also because of the Amazing photograph immediately below this paragraph. The photo shows you flanked by two lawbreakers, John Calkins and Ed Massey. Mr. Massey, you may recall, was Johnny on the Spot when Mr. Calkins was stopped for drunk driving. He showed up almost immediately to make sure Mr. Calkins’ car wasn’t impounded. He also served as a convenient witness to contravene the arresting officer in court. And Lt. Massey was the officer who twice violated the law by pressuring Latinos not to exercise their civil rights.

 Mr. Calkins deserves special attention, because he is a civilian impersonating a policeman. As I understand the law, I don’t need a permit to wear a handgun on my hip, as long as it is not concealed. So if I show up at a city council meeting in a police uniform with a pistol on my hip, would that be OK, or is it only Mr. Calkins who may be extended that courtesy? He is not the police chief, even though he has claimed to be so, and is frequently referred to as “chief.” Before Mr. Calkins, Pacific had a real police chief. He was a retired State Patrolman who pulled duty with his subordinates. Mr. Calkins is only a pretender.

Immediately below is another photo of Mr. Calkins, taken at a White River Lions party. This was taken some time after he testified at his drunk driving trial that he didn’t drink beer. I don’t know what was in that schooner in front of him, but an educated guess, and comments made by people who were at the event, suggest that there was beer in that glass. So what is the implication of sworn testimony that he doesn’t drink beer? And by the way, as a recovering alcoholic (Auburn Reporter story) who was photographed at the party, do you have any idea what might have been in that glass? Perhaps Cathy Roppo, the city’s court clerk, who was sitting with Mr. Calkins, can clarify this.


There’s a third photo I’d like to share with you. This is Mr. Calkins' famous DWI booking photo in which he is wearing a T-shirt honoring police brutality, with the slogan, “we kicked your father’s ass, and now it’s your turn.” When I put that photo on a T-shirt that I wore to a city council meeting, your senior council member, Clint Steiger, (chair of the public safety committee) drew a laugh by complimenting Mr. Calkins on the likeness. I guess when a public official drives drunk or is drunk in Pacific, that is a source of good natured mirth.

Here’s my message for you, Mayor Guier. I don’t enjoy holding people up to ridicule. It grieves me to do this to you. It’s stressful and unpopular. But I’m going to do it, if that’s what it takes to keep reminding current and future city officials that they are here to serve, not dominate. What I’ve said here merely scratches the surface of the stories to share about the tawdry nature of Pacific politics and government. I’m fully prepared to share the stories such as the mayor who was found hiding in a vacant lot after making the mistake of starting to undress in the wrong house; of the public safety director who was caught witness tampering; of the crony who vetted Mr. Calkins and, what that crony  didn’t tell the council. And how he covered for Mr. Calkins over the years. 

And then there’s the story of how Pacific combined police and fire departments into a single public safety department headed by a former private eye, whose incompetence was demonstrated by the almost immediate need to hire a fire chief to do his job for him. When the Regional Fire Authority finally provided professional fire protection service for Pacific, half of Mr. Calkin’s job disappeared, but he’s still employed by the city. 

There are many more stories to tell, and I’m going to be tempted to share them again,  every time I see you using the power of your office to honor a bully and a lawbreaker whose bloated salary means starvation wages for honorable city employees. And, I would like to add, this lawbreaker is the individual who put into writing Pacific’s policy of cash register justice – writing traffic citations not to improve public safety, but to raise revenue. That’s the reason I call this blog Speed Trap City.

If you want to honor a real policeman, I suggest you start with Sgt. Michel Bos, who also appears in that photo at the top of today’s blog. I’m not a genius. I have average intelligence, which means that at least half the people in Pacific know what I know – that Mr. Calkins should have left a long time ago; and if they knew Sgt. Bos, they would know who should be the police chief of this town.  They also can understand how easy it would be to eliminate the position of Public Safety Director, re-create the position of Police Chief, and then hire someone with the character and expertise to do the job right. I don’t know whether Sgt.  Bos is a knight in shining armor, but he’s a damned site more professional and humane than the individuals who compromise your command staff. He knows what it means to serve. I can’t imagine him telling people they don’t have the right to protest unfair policies.

Here’s a promise from me: Just as John Calkins and company were the inspectors Javert for the Latinos, I am the Inspector Javert for the City of Pacific. I know the history of this town for the past 14 years and more.  It shouldn’t be dismissed as old news. The same people are around doing the same things. Every time the city tries to sweep its sordid past under the rug, I’ll be there to lift that rug and shine the spotlight. I hope this encourages others to speak up as well.

Robert Smith

Monday, December 31, 2012

Resolution 9: Let it in!


When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars

This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius
Age of Aquarius
Aquarius! Aquarius!

Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind's true liberation
Aquarius! Aquarius!

Let the sun shine, Let the sun shine in
The sun shine in
Let the sun shine, Let the sun shine in
The sun shine in
Let the sun shine, Let the sun shine in
The sun shine in
Let the sun shine, Let the sun shine in
The sun shine in
Let the sun shine, Let the sun shine in
The sun shine in
Let the sun shine, Let the sun shine in
The sun shine in
Let the sun shine, Let the sun shine in
The sun shine in
Let the sun shine, Let the sun shine in
The sun shine in
Let the sun shine, Let the sun shine in
The sun shine in
Let the sun shine, Let the sun shine in
The sun shine in
Let the sun shine, Let the sun shine in
THE SUN SHINE IN!




Sunday, December 30, 2012

Any thing in common?



Pacific is a geographical area populated by isolated groups and individuals, and whose community infrastructure has decayed and been dismantled. In the same way, families become dismantled and drift  apart as new generations grow up without shared  experiences. If you want an example of a government/community combination that exists within the confines of Pacific, consider Alpac Elementary School. That community of instructors, parents and youngsters has a common, constructive, positive focus that binds it together and is sustainable the education of children. The population served by the school, and involved with it, is distinct from and much more numerous than the public servants at the school.
For the City of Pacific, the leading adhesive that has been holding a few people together the past several months is the myth that Pacific is a community with a functional government that an evil man has destroyed. This group is characterized by the same trait that sometimes keeps couples together—couples who aren’t so much in love with each other as they are in love with the idea of being in love. That’s not enough.
Individuals who want to recall Mayor Cy Sun have the bit in their teeth and believe that, with the removal of this "evil man," things will “return to normal.” They are so much in love with the idea of a city that they have conveniently ignored reality  – that the voters in the City of Pacific elected Cy Sun because they were dissatisfied. And they were dissatisfied because the city  has been poorly run and has abused its powers and estranged itself from the population it served for at least 10 years, and that once  this current issue of the evil leader is resolved, the estrangement will continue.
A government without a community will lose its way and decay. That is its nature. Until this disparate population has something in common to bind it together with a positive, sustaining focus, it too will drift and its bonds will decay. 
The past is not necessarily a guarantee of the future, but it is a pretty good indicator. And Pacific’s distant and recent pasts are characterized by turmoil, scandal, power grabs, incompetence, in-breeding, corruption, abuses and insolence. Without community to keep it in check, Pacific’s city government simply awaits the rise of another buffoon or charlatan lacking a vision that is shared by the population served. It was the absence of community which allowed Pacific to come to the precipice. The evidence for this is right there, for any reasonable person to observe.




Saturday, December 29, 2012

Resolution No. 8 Ask, and Answer




I was reminded of an interesting experience that occurred several years ago when I was culling my computer and rediscovering old memoranda. I came across a memo I distributed to my colleagues on the Pacific City Council pointing out that Pacific’s public safety department seemed to be one of the most expensive, if not the most expensive, among small cities in the region. 
I laid out the figures as well as I could, based on e-mail responses from the different cities. The first response I received from my colleagues were that these were LIES! They actually shouted this out. Yes, that's right. They shouted.
This was one of those poignant moments when pubic officials display true stupidity. If someone’s going to lie to you, they are not going to put the lie in writing and explain how they developed their information by specifically directing the reader to their resources. Anyone was at liberty to double check and determine whether the information was sound or not. (By the way, this is the scientific approach – say what you determined, and show how you arrived at that conclusion, so that people can double check and correct you if you are wrong. This is  not the approach that liars take.)
I point this out, because of a flap over whether Pacific Council member Clint Steiger unfairly acquired a truck from the City of Pacific. The story came up in e-mails from my friend, Jeanne Fancher, Pacific’s de-facto news medium.
Now first of all, there’s plenty of reasons to distrust Mr. Steiger. He pulled the wool over the eyes of several council members several years ago to trick them into illegally confirming a new city treasurer. He turned a blind eye to several glaring abuses by Pacific’s controversial Public Safety Director, John Calkins, who should have been dismissed years ago. No reason to trust Clint Steiger. But in this case, Ms. Fancher, whom I trust, said he acquired the truck on the up-and-up.
Well, OK. But let’s look at the experience I had. When I raised a question, I was called a liar.
How do you establish trust with the public , or anyone, if when they ask questions they are called liars? Or they are insulted, the way Prior Mayor Richard Hildreth would interrupt, insult and demean anyone who tried to speak to the city council?  How do you establish trust when you try to suppress a constitutionally-protected march to challenge the city’s policing policies?
Short Answer: You don’t.
What you end up with is people who disengage and then toss mud, frequently from behind the bushes.
There are many examples of why the City of Pacific has not earned the public’s trust.
Here’s how you establish trust: You welcome questions. You allow the public and members of the government to ask any question, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you feel. And you answer it cheerfully and courteously. You do this so effectively that they feel comfortable to ask follow-up questions. And when you make a mistake, you acknowledge it and you thank– that's what I said: thank – the person who discovered it. And when you do that, often enough, you will see the accusations disappear and the trust emerges. Imagine that!

New Year’s resolution No 8:  Ask questions courteously and fearlessly. Answer them courageously and patiently.

Build trust.





Friday, December 28, 2012

Explain this to me...



 This is one of those rare days when I have two postings on the same day. This is the update for what’s below, based on an e-mailing from Jeanne Fancher, Pacific’s de-facto one-woman news media. My question is how did the state auditor miss the fact that for 10 years, Pacific wasn’t keeping its financial records properly?
Here’s what Jeanne writes in her e-mail:

Finance Director Garrison and her staff have found accounting miss-entries and re-entered data with the Correct BARS codes, going back 10 years. They are completing a yearly State Audit--- with fewer "questions" than in previous years. They have produced monthly Financial reports, updated the 2012 Budget, and produced the needed spreadsheets used by the Mayor and Council to propose and adopt the 2013 Budget—in half the time (or less) allocated in previous years. Ms Garrison is not shy about telling the Electeds that she follows the RCW rules stringently, and is not going to jail—for anyone.

What exactly does that mean? Does this mean we had non-competent and inefficient staff keeping our books for 10 years? When I served on the city council I openly acknowledged that finances were my weakness and I encouraged someone with those skills to emerge as an opposition candidate when I ran for re-election. So I find it interesting to learn that for ten years and under the eye of two different mayors, our records were not being kept properly. This statement raises the question whether this was typical of the city administration. So I ask again, what does that mean? 

Cy Sun is no superhero. But what I’m perceiving here is a possible celebration of how wonderful things are going to be now, without the slightest acknowledgement that without Cy Sun upsetting the applecart, this sloppy work would have continued.  The quotation about “not going to jail for anyone” represents a refreshing attitude that’s long overdue, because what the voters of Pacific have witnessed for some time is behavior by some public officials who probably should have spent some time in the slammer. And one of them is still on the payroll.

If Cy Sun gets recalled, it’s time. But maybe it’s also time to acknowledge that upsetting the applecart may be just what the doctor ordered—if Pacific can keep its nose clean from now on.