Thursday, October 11, 2018

Response to Route 1 Reporter

Please note that this is no longer the official Blog of the MRPD Chief or the MRPD. The acting chief would have no clue how to use it and whoever is appointed the new chief will certainly want to create his/her own forms of communication about public safety in Mount Rainier. I created this Blog back in 2006 and contributed to it almost daily until my forced retirement last April. So, I consider it my property and will continue to use it to occasionally offer useful commentary.

Yesterday, October 10, 2018, Route 1 reporter Michael Theis requested my reaction or comment on the release of the report of the financial investigation into the Mount Rainier Police Department. I responded to him via e-mail today but it was too long to include in a Facebook post so I'll use this old Blog instead and post a link to it on Facebook. 

Also note that I reserve the right to respond to comments, or not. 

With that said, here is my response to Mr. Theis:

"My first reaction to the report is that there is a glaring omission - the reason(s) for the number of citation dismissals. There is no mention of the fact that there are a number of valid reasons that a parking citation would have to be voided or reduced. Warning tickets, tickets adjudicated by the District Court, tickets voided for missing critical information to name a few. The report and the City Manager's biased interpretive letter to residents would have the reader believe that members of the PD voided or reduced citations/tickets illegally or with the intent of defrauding the City of funds due. In fact, the report does not present even a shred of evidence that anything of the sort occurred. You, continue to perpetuate the idea that members of the PD were stealing money from the City without taking into consideration that these voided/reduced citations were done properly. Granted the report does not give you evidence that theft or impropriety occurred but it certainly does not present any evidence that would lead to unsubstantiated accusations of theft!  I also need to reiterate that I opposed the transfer of parking citation payments from City Hall to the police department. I believed at the time and continue to believe that it is unethical for the PD to accept payments on the citations they issue. It undermines the public's expectation that we enforce the City's civil code impartially and ultimately undermines our integrity. In my professional opinion, it's just bad policy and practice regardless of the fact that other jurisdictions do it. There was also a significant cost to the City as we had to pay over $1,300 to reprint our parking citations to have the new payment location and address on the back of the citation. ComPlus also had to re-configure the automatic citation printer used by the PEO to include this information, but I don't recall if there was a cost involved.

The report redacted the names of the persons involved in the voiding/reduction of citations, but it certainly focuses the responsibility of all failures on the PD and its leadership. It totally ignores the participation of the City Manager in the voiding/reduction of parking citations. She was directly involved in almost 40 cases, reducing in one instance over $4,000 in fines due to less than $1,200. She also reduced one $30 citation to 50 cents. That's right, 50 cents! If you want a list of the citations voided by the City Manager I believe the FOP president has that information. The report also does not address the City Manager's failure to resolve the coin issue, and it does not include the fact that the $2,000,000+ owed the City in unpaid citations and the need to upgrade the City's parking meters to accept credit card payments were identified by the PD staff. 

Now just a couple points on the parking meter coin controversy. The City Manager's interpretive letter quoted several emails between her and me mentioning the fact that she canceled the Dunbar contract because of a belief (primarily mine) that the PD had plenty of armed guards to transport coin revenue to Dunbar's facility for processing and delivery to the bank. What we learned was that Dunbar's policy didn't allow us to do that. We also learned that the City's bank would not accept uncounted coins from us directly. So, we accumulated and safeguarded literally thousands of dollars in coins while trying to come up with a solution. Considering the fact that only the City Manager, at the direction of the Mayor & Council, has the authority to enter into a binding contract and no one in the PD, including me as the Chief of Police, has the authority to contract with anyone to do anything, we had no choice but to store and safeguard those coins. We treated them like any other piece of evidence, found or seized property. Considering that we had no choice but to safeguard the coins, I'm still waiting for someone to tell me what we did wrong and what we should have done differently. I also need to again applaud the efforts of Kevin Greenville in getting SunTrust Bank to take the uncounted coins and get them out of our hair. Once that was accomplished I understand it took several more months to find a company to handle the loose coins for us during which time the PD stored and safeguarded those coins. I suppose that was the PD's fault, too! 

Lastly, you had previously reported that there was a possibility that someone in the PD skimmed 40 pounds of "quarters" per month over a 13-month period in order to account for a perceived drop in coin revenue. That assumption ignores the fact that our meters take dimes and nickles, too, so your theft estimate is not only unsubstantiated but also overblown. Nevertheless, I continue to believe that no one in the PD stole anything from anyone while taking citation payments over the counter or out of a sealed bag of coins, inside a locked cabinet, inside a locked office with card-restricted access."