Tuesday, September 29, 2009
That’s why city leaders, as part of their ongoing fight against the sex trade, are discussing making it illegal for a suspect to try and detect officers posing as Johns.
The proposed change in law would make it illegal for a person to try to avoid an arrest by exposing herself, touching someone sexually, asking someone to touch her or even asking the potential customer if he’s a police officer.
Lakewood Assistant Police Chief Michael Zaro said the proposal reflects the ways prostitutes have adapted to try to outwit police.
Often they will ask something like, “If you’re not a cop, touch my breast,” Zaro said.
“Tricks like that spread no matter what kind of crime it is,” he said. “It gets asked all the time.”
He told the City Council Monday that the intent of the change is so officers won’t have to touch a prostitute to make an arrest. He said doing so exposes officers to “virulent and bacterial contamination” as well as a “moral gray area” that can make them and family members uncomfortable.
The change could increase the number of officers willing to work undercover, Zaro said.
On the streets, a prostitute can often spot the difference between an undercover cop and a customer by asking for some kind of intimate physical contact.
More often than not, a refusal means the client isn’t legitimate, and the prostitute can stop talking to avoid an arrest.
The officer faces a dilemma: Should I refuse physical contact and risk blowing cover, or should I touch the prostitute against my morals?
The city proposal would allow an officer, after observing the suspected prostitute on the street, to arrest her once she asks the question.
The Lakewood City Council is scheduled to vote on it next Monday. Zaro says the changes are modeled after rules in Las Vegas.
Neither Tacoma nor Fife – which also have had prostitution problems — say they have been asked to take similar steps for their officers.
If Lakewood approves the proposal, it would be the city’s latest effort to curb prostitution, particularly in areas such as South Tacoma Way and Pacific Highway.
Police have made 55 prostitution arrests this year, 31 of which were forwarded to municipal court, officials said. Two cases of patronizing a prostitute have also gone to court this year.
City Attorney Heidi Wachter said those totals are less than in the past, as prostitution cases have generally decreased.
Part of that decrease may stem from sex sold on Web sites such as CraigsList, which has taken some transactions off the streets, Zaro said.
Part of it may owe to the city’s efforts over the last five years, which include stings and operating a “John School,” in which patrons arrested for soliciting prostitutes can get their charges dropped in exchange for learning about the ill effects of the sex trade.
The first class was held in 2005 with eight graduates, although the city hasn’t held a “John School” in a few years, Zaro said.
The city has also worked to tear down or clean up motels where prostitutes would take their clients.
“I think it’s come a long ways since the old days,” Wachter said.
The proposed changes raised some questions from the Lakewood City Council on Monday. Councilman Walter Neary asked about regulating speech instead of conduct.
“It just seems like asking a question is something someone ought to be able to do,” he said.
Councilman Ron Cronk expressed concern over whether arresting a suspect for trying to flush out an undercover cop was enough evidence for a conviction.
Wachter says the law states there has to be an agreement of sex for money. A court also would consider more than just touching, she said, such as whether a person is a known prostitute, regularly loiters in an area known for prostitution, and tries to stop or wave down passers-by.
Zaro said the issue of having to touch a customer has never been a problem for female officers posing as prostitutes.
“When it comes down to John stings, it’s a whole different situation,” he said, adding police are more concerned about undercover female officers being abducted.
The proposal that the City Council is considering would help cops minimize unclean conditions and stepping into a “moral gray area,” he said.
“They don’t have to take that physical and moral risk,” he said.
Brent Champaco: 253-597-8653
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Ryan and Erika Savage
Friends say 24-year-old Erika Savage, her brother Ryan Savage, 30, and her friend Matt Saunders, 31, died after their SUV hit two trees and a power pole before crashing into a building near the intersection of Eighth and 192nd.
And records indicate just hours before the crash, Erika Savage, 24, had been arrested under suspicion of driving under the influence.
A Des Moines police officer had arrested Erika Savage three hours earlier while she was driving in the vehicle that was involved in the crash, a Lincoln Navigator registered to her name.
"He noticed at the scene that she was extremely impaired," said Des Moines police spokesman Bob Collins.
Video from the patrol car shows Erika Savage inebriated to the point of struggling to stand up. But police say she refused to take a breathalyzer test or give a blood sample to test her alcohol level -- a driver's right in the state of Washington.
Collins says the department's policy is to hold a DUI suspect only if that person is involved in an accident or has an outstanding warrant. Neither exception applied to Erika Savage.
"And at that point in time, his investigation was over. He went ahead and requested her to be transported for medical care because of her extreme impairment," he said.
An ambulance took Erika Savage to Highline Hospital, and the officer gave the car keys to her friend, Matt Saunders.
"He said he had a driver's license. The officer asked him if he had been drinking. He said, "No." And (the officer) noticed no observation or odor of intoxicant, any slurred speech. And the vehicle was released to that occupant," Collins said.
Three hours after the arrest, Saunders and Ryan Savage picked up Erika Savage the hospital, where doctors had no obligation to keep her.
The King County Medical Examiner's Office said that neither Erika nor Ryan Savage was driving the SUV when it crashed. Consequently, sheriff's investigators said it appears Saunders was behind the wheel at the time.
"It's an extreme tragedy. But as far as our involvement in the case, it ended at 1:09 (a.m.) when she was no longer in our custody," said Collins.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
By LEVI PULKKINEN
Looking for leniency, Jon Pomeroy found little when he was sentenced Friday for his role in the starvation of his young daughter.
Pomeroy, 43, had previously admitted to standing idly by as his wife, Rebecca Arwen Long, spent years restricting the amount of food and water given to his daughter as punishment for imagined offenses. On Friday, Judge William Downing gave him the maximum sentence available, a 3 ½-year prison term on a single count of first-degree criminal mistreatment.
In sentencing Pomeroy, Downing reflected on the callousness necessary to fail to act as a young girl -- Pomeroy's flesh and blood -- was denied sustenance to the degree that she lost weight between age 9 and 14.
"In this case, (the abuse) went on month after month, year after year," Downing told Pomeroy. "She looked like a prisoner of war because she was, in fact, treated like a prisoner of war."
Long, who contends she suffered from multiple personality disorder at the time the abuse occurred, is scheduled to be sentenced in November. Her attorney said previously that he will ask that she not receive any jail time, though she entered a modified guilty plea to similar charges earlier this month.
Authorities were called to Pomeroy and Long's Carnation home in August 2008 after a neighbor heard the girl screaming for help. When rescue arrived, the girl weighed 48 pounds and stood 4-foot, 6-inches tall.
The teen told detectives she was allowed only about 6 ounces of water each day and was monitored by Long when she bathed to keep her from "sneaking" extra water. Pomeroy, she told police, was aware that she was being starved but did nothing to stop it.
Addressing the court, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Zachary Wagnild recalled an earlier attempt the girl had made to get help in the fall of 2005.
At the time, Wagnild said, Pomeroy and Long still allowed their daughter to leave the home for school. The girl reported the abuse, he said, and her father and stepmother were contacted by authorities, but no action was taken.
In response, Wagnild said, Pomeroy and Long took greater pains to hide the then 11-year-old girl's suffering.
"She used her last life line, and she got nothing for it," Wagnild said. "She was stashed away, and it wasn't for three years that help came barging through the door."
The girl, 15, is doing better in the year since she was pulled from the home.
Her teeth, damaged by malnutrition, have been in part repaired, and her weight has nearly doubled, her foster father Dwight Thompson said Friday. She has shot up six inches since her ordeal ended.
"She's a resilient young lady, and I believe that's what has kept (her) alive," said Thompson, who is caring for the girl and her brother with his wife. "They're loving and sweet kids."
For his part, Pomeroy could do little but apologize for his actions and ask that Downing impose the minimum sentence.
"Nothing I can say is going to change any of this or make it better, but I want to tell (my children) I am deeply sorry for my actions," Pomeroy said. "I would change it if I could, but I can't and I'm sorry."
Anticipating Pomeroy's apology, Wagnild had warned that the man's words would do little to make up for his actions, or lack thereof.
"I have to say, that I don't know what it is about someone like Mr. Pomeroy that allows him to stand by as his wife tortures his daughter," Wagnild said. "I don't know whether it's malice. I don't know whether it's indifference. I don't know whether it's cowardice. …
"The words of sorrow and remorse we are about to hear will have as much an effect on our outrage as they do on his daughter's injuries."
Pomeroy, who had been free on bail, was taken into custody immediately after the hearing and escorted from the court. Downing is scheduled to take up Long's sentencing Nov. 6.
Levi Pulkkinen can be reached at 206-448-8348 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
A Lummi Nation Police Department officer witnessed a motorist on the reservation driving at night with high beams and drifting across the center divider. He began following the vehicle and activated his emergency lights. After traveling a quarter mile the car pulled into a gas station located off the reservation. The police officer witnessed the driver, Loretta Eriksen, hop over the car’s center console and into the passenger’s seat. The officer detained Eriksen until a Whatcom County police deputy arrived, who arrested her for DUI.
Ms. Eriksen was convicted for DUI. The trial court said Lummi Nation’s inherent sovereign power authorizes tribal police to continue in “fresh pursuit” of offenders who drive off the reservation. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case to resolve this issue of first impression.
The Supreme Court said that the Lummi Nation is a sovereign nation with inherent authority to enforce its laws and detain Indians or non-Indians who violate those laws. While courts have long recognized the right of law enforcement officers to cross jurisdictional lines when in hot pursuit of a violator, this doctrine had not previously been applied to sovereign tribal nations as well.
Justice Richard Sanders wrote the unanimous opinion of the court.