Category Archives: crime news

Speaking ill of the dead

I am sure you’ve heard it said one shouldn’t speak ill of the dead.

Well, I am about to speak ill of someone who’s just croaked.

Mary Kay Letourneau has died of cancer. This individual will go down in history as a principal player in one of the 20th century’s most bizarre and ghastly sex scandals. She used to teach school in a Seattle suburb. She was married and the mother of four children when one of her students — a 12-year-old sixth-grader — caught her attention.

Letourneau then decided to seduce the boy. They had sex. She was convicted of rape and sentenced to prison. She and her husband divorced.

After she got out of prison, Letourneau married the boy. They produced two children before that marriage ended.

As The Associated Press reported: Seattle attorney Anne Bremner represented the police in that lawsuit, and befriended Letourneau, visiting her in prison and meeting her for lunch after her release.

“She accepted that it was a crime and that she had to serve her time, but when she got out she didn’t dwell,” Bremner said. “She moved forward in a very positive way and raised those girls. She was somebody I rooted for. I really wanted her to do well, and she did.”

That’s the lawyer’s call. It isn’t mine. Mary Kay Letourneau was a sexual predator who should have served even more time in prison than she did. This world is a better place now that she has left it.

‘Defunding’ = ‘reform’

I dislike the phrase “defund the police,” which has become all the rage — pun intended, really — across the nation these days.

Individuals and groups of Americans are angry at police departments over the way many of them treat African-Americans. They contend that the cops are much rougher and tougher on black citizens than they are on white folks.

Indeed, the videos we have seen — such as the George Floyd video in Minneapolis, which has spawned so much of the anger — tell a grim tale of “systemic racism” that many folks believe runs rampant in police departments.

If “defund the police” means “reform the police,” then why not call it what it is … a move to enact fundamental reform of police departments?

I don’t believe these efforts to “defund the police” means that communities will go without police protection. Cities such as Minneapolis, though, are taking gigantic steps toward redirecting police funds to other programs intended to assist communities in need.

My hope for all this anger is to see police departments, even those that haven’t been caught up in the swirl of controversy, enact meaningful reform. By “reform,” I intend to mean that the reforms will produce dramatic improvement in community/police relationships.

Every department, given the tenor of the times and the extreme anger being expressed all across the nation, would do well in this moment to examine carefully how their officers are being trained to respond to incidents involving  everyone they serve. That means black citizens, white citizens, immigrants … you name it.

Are they ensuring even-handed treatment of everyone with whom they come in contact? That is where reforming the police can begin.

If we stop testing? What?

Donald Trump shot off his pie hole again today about the coronavirus pandemic, once more seeking to downplay the misery and mayhem it has caused in the United States of America.

“If we stop testing right now, we’d have very few cases, if any,” Trump said during a White House event highlighting administration actions to help senior citizens.

Good grief! That idiocy remains me of an earlier moronic statement from the late Marion Barry, once the mayor of Washington, D.C. Barry was asked to comment on the hideous crime rate in our nation’s capital city. He responded, and this is paraphrasing what he said:

If you take away the murder rate, we don’t have such a bad crime problem.

Cops under even more scrutiny

I never thought it possible that law enforcement officers would be put under the glare of national scrutiny in the manner that is now occurring all across the nation.

It has happened. It is happening right now.

During nearly four decades in journalism, I have covered law enforcement officers in two states. Those I have known professionally have been stand-up men and women. They have been devoted to the oaths they took to protect and serve the communities where they work and live.

Some of those officers became personal friends and I have sought to keep those relationships separate from the work I did as a reporter and later as an editor. I’ve always have told them: Don’t mess up.

We have entered a whole new era. Police have been seen via social media conducting themselves badly with regard to certain citizens who they swore to protect. These incidents have revealed an ugly and terrible racial divide.

Accordingly, the men and women who risk their lives each day simply by reporting for work are now being scrutinized in a way none of them possibly ever expected.

I live near a law enforcement officer. He works unusual hours and I often go several days without ever seeing him. I now intend, once I get the chance, to visit with him and to elicit — I hope — a candid response to what he is feeling as he interacts with the public he serves.

I long have believed the cops I have known back in Oregon, in the Golden Triangle region of Texas, in the Texas Panhandle and even now in North Texas (where my wife and I plan to spend the rest of our lives) to be men and women of high integrity. None of what we have witnessed in these terrible and troubling times will shake my belief in the honor of those I have known.

The intense scrutiny that has come upon these individuals — and the agencies that employ them — is likely deserved, based on what we have witnessed. I do not intend to impugn anyone’s integrity. I do intend to endorse the call for even greater accountability and transparency of those who work in arguably the most dangerous profession imaginable.

They have my gratitude for honoring the oath they take. I just want to ensure that they continue to earn it.

Trump fumbles chance to deal forthrightly with racial unrest

Donald J. Trump came to North Texas today ostensibly to talk about race relations, about police reform and about how to quell the suspicions of the African-American community about police protection in its neighborhoods.

Well, he didn’t come close to sealing the deal.

Trump spoke to mostly white folks. He snubbed three of Dallas County’s top law enforcement officials — all of whom are black — and talked mostly aloud about the demonstrations that turned riotous in response to George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis in late May.

Trump never mentioned George Floyd’s name in public. He talked about the beauty of seeing Minneapolis police use tear gas to disperse demonstrators.

Where was the public acknowledgement that there might, indeed, be a serious problem with police protection in African-American communities? I didn’t hear anything.

I continue to support police efforts to protect and serve the communities they patrol. I am not going to endorse the notion of “systemic racism” within all police departments. I do, though, acknowledge there needs to be serious examination of police practices and there should be a careful and thorough discussion of ways that police departments can ensure that they treat all citizens equally.

I wish Donald Trump would have spoken to all of that while he visited North Texas. He didn’t say a word publicly about police practices. He didn’t say a word about the man whose recent death has galvanized a movement.

Donald Trump failed once again.

Pass the Pepto; this mystery causes serious heartburn

Some ongoing mysteries at times cause me to think hard about one of the principles I hold dear, which happens to be my opposition to capital punishment.

One of them involves the hideous mystery involving Lori Vallow, the mother of two youngsters who have been missing for months. Vallow and her husband Chad Daybell are suspected of harming her two children: JJ and Tylee, who’ve been missing since September. Vallow hasn’t disclosed where the kids could be. Nor has Daybell.

I do not believe this story is going to end well. Idaho police, where Vallow and Daybell lived, now report finding human remains on property they own … and that the remains appear to be those of children. Are they JJ and Tylee? A DNA exam of the remains will make that determination.

Vallow belongs to some sort of cult. Her prior husband has died, along with Daybell’s previous wife. Others close to the couple have met mysterious deaths.

This is bizarre, ghastly and hideous … all of the above.

And now this individual, Lori Vallow, might be responsible for the deaths of her children?

I hope you understand my angst. My opposition to capital punishment is steeped in what I consider to be a principle that government shouldn’t kill criminals, even those who commit terrible crimes. The last time I felt this kind of angst happened when the madman opened fire in the church in Charleston, S.C., killing nine worshipers in a race-related hate crime.

Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell do not deserve to walk among us. The good news is that they are not. Both of them are locked up. It’s where they need to be for as long as they draw breath.

However, I will not mourn their deaths if that is how the government decides to punish them.

Trump to talk about ‘police reform’? Really? C’mon!

Donald Trump, the guy who famously encouraged police to get rougher with criminal suspects, now is going to talk to the nation about police reform.

To which I say, simply: You gotta be kidding!

Trump is responding to the outcry and uproar over the death of George Floyd and the calls to “defund police” around the nation. Floyd, a native of Houston, died when that rogue Minneapolis cop snuffed the life out of him by kneeling on the back of Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes, 46 seconds.

So now the president of the United States is going to offer his view on how to reform police procedures? Is that right?

Oh, my. Donald Trump has nothing constructive to add to this debate. How do I know that? Because his political record contains zero evidence of any commitment to the issues that have roiled the nation in the wake of Floyd’s death.

Trump doesn’t speak to the issue of police practices. He doesn’t reach deep into his gut to speak to the misery that so many Americans of color feel when they hear of these incidents. Trump doesn’t express a scintilla of empathy or genuine sorrow over the death of a man who was killed while lying on the ground with his hands cuffed behind his back. 

Trump has saved his public outrage — every bit of it — for the rioters who went berserk in cities across the nation.

What is so profoundly weird is the thought of Donald Trump reading a prepared text from a Teleprompter and trying to persuade us that he means what he is reading. You’ve seen Trump in these moments, yes? When he reads such text, I get the sense that he looks like someone reading a statement with a gun pointed at the back of his skull. Donald Trump simply is incapable of sounding sincere in that context.

What are we going to hear from Donald Trump. More tripe, I fear that it will demonstrate once again to us out here this clown’s fecklessness and recklessness.

Don’t do this, Minneapolis City Council

Talk about the Mother of Overreactions.

The Minneapolis City Council, which governs a city reeling from the death of George Floyd, the black man killed by an white police officer in an incident that has spawned an international protest movement, is considering disbanding the city police department.

Yep. Nine of 12 council members have signed on to a plan that would eliminate the police department and apparently start over. They want to build a new department from scratch, from the ground up.

Hold on here! I believe that would a monumental mistake.

Yes, George Floyd died because he was brutalized by four officers of the Minneapolis Police Department. One of them is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter; three others face charges of complicity in the actions of the one rogue cop. I hope they are convicted and are sent to prison.

I also believe the Minneapolis Police Department needs a top-to-bottom review of its policing strategies and tactics. But … disband the department? Remove it? Wipe it out? Is this what’s on the horizon?

PDs across the nation are undergoing intense public scrutiny. There is this “defund the police” movement developing in some communities, again as an extreme overreaction to what is without a doubt a hideous example of police brutality against an African-American citizen.

I want there to be reviews done within police departments. We need to end this terrible trend of cops treating racial and ethnic minority suspects differently — and more harshly — than they treat white folks. That has to stop! Now!

Disband departments while potentially leaving communities without police protection? This crisis can be resolved without such drastic overreaction.

This tragedy seems … different

Americans have witnessed so many tragedies that we have become numb — or so it seems — to their effects.

Politicians get assassinated. Buildings are blown up. Madmen open fire in schools, churches and movie theaters. And, yes, police officers kill citizens in acts of brutality.

However, this latest tragic event — the death of George Floyd more than a week ago on a Minneapolis street — seems sadly different. This one well might stick in our national consciousness for far longer than anything else we had have witnessed.

Why is that?

I want to posit a couple of theories.

One is the physical evidence we all have seen of a cop holding Floyd to the ground, with his knee pressing against the man’s neck. We watch the cop do nothing to respond to Floyd’s pleas for help, his cries for his mother, his crying out that “I can’t breathe.” The cop, Derek Chauvin, hold him down — while the suspect is handcuffed. Floyd loses consciousness. Chauvin still doesn’t lift his knee off of Floyd’s neck.

How in the name of human decency does one explain this away? How will this former police officer tell the world why he held down a man who offered no resistance until he no longer has a pulse? You’ve seen the video, yes? He looks at the young bystander who took the video as if to say, “So what are you looking at?”

This event calls out loudly and clearly to the issue of how police treat African-American men and whether they treat them differently than they do, say, white men or white women.

The second notion that might produce the seminal moment in police-black community relations has been the reaction of police agencies around the country. We are hearing other law enforcement officials condemning the actions of Derek Chauvin. They are standing — and kneeling — with peaceful protesters in cities from coast to coast to coast in solidarity with the concerns they are raising.

So, the dialogue has commenced. Americans are demanding justice be delivered to Chauvin and the three police colleagues who watched him kill George Floyd. They also are demanding that police cease demonizing American citizens simply because of their skin color.

This outrage should last for as long as it takes for there to be tangible evidence that we are slaying this deadly beast.

Still no outrage over police conduct

George Floyd’s death has sparked a national protest movement.

People are marching in streets calling for the police across the land to examine closely the practices they use to arrest and detain African-Americans. The concern is legitimate. Yes, many of these demonstrations have gotten out of hand.

Still, it is the “out of hand” element that has drawn the exclusive attention of Donald John Trump, who today made a public statement about the reaction to Floyd’s death while he was being arrested by Minneapolis police officers — for allegedly seeking to pass a counterfeit $20 bill.

The cops killed Floyd. They snuffed the life out of him by using tactics that other officers acknowledge are not part of the training manual section that describes arrest techniques.

Donald Trump instead took dead aim at the more violent reaction to this hideous event. The Numbskull in Chief didn’t say a single word today about the conduct of the officers. He offered nothing in the way of acknowledgement that the officer who crushed Floyd’s windpipe with knee has been charged correctly with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Trump has appealed yet again to the darker instincts of a riled-up nation. He said governors need to get tough … or else. Trump said he will mobilize the military. He bellowed about being the “law and order” president.

My goodness. We need someone in the Oval Office who can appeal to our better angels, not to our darker impulses.

This guy makes me sick.