Tuesday morning's headlines

Mar 22, 2011

Making headlines around the Northwest this morning:

  • Did Seattle Police Violate DUI Procedures?
  • Reforms at Monroe Prison After Guard's Killing
  • Electronic Billboard Fight Brews in Tacoma

DUI Prosecutions in Seattle on Hold

Some drunk driving cases have been suspended by City Attorney Pete Holmes while Seattle Police investigate how its DUI squad handled procedures.

On Monday, SPD admitted it is reviewing allegations procedures in the unit were not properly handled. according to The Seattle Times:

The investigation has forced the department to pull all but one member of its five-member DUI Squad from the street and assign them to desk duties, according to police.

Among the allegations being investigated: 

  • some DUI arrests were screened and approved by phone
  • some reports were (literally) rubber-stamped
  • reports may have been approved prior to any supervisor's review

The employees involved in these allegations, members of the DUI squad, have been temporarily reassigned during the review.

A spokeswoman for Holmes said numerous past and current DUI citations may be compromised. 


Reforms for the Reformatory

New procedures are needed at the Monroe Reformatory following guard Jayme Biendl's murder in January. That's the finding of a federal review of the facility. The Herald of Everett's Rikki King and Eric Stevik report the panel recommends fifteen procedural changes at the prison. They do not include hiring more guards:

The changes...include arming some officers with pepper spray, equipping officers with special body alarms and increasing surveillance camera coverage in the prison.

Regarding staffing, the review concludes the prison has adequate personnel in place.

Gov. Chris Gregoire and Corrections Secretary Eldon Vail were at Monroe to talk about the findings. Gregoire called for the federal review after Biendl's killing in the prison chapel. An inmate serving a life term is accused of killing her.


Tacomans, City Leaders and Electronic Billboards

Should the city of Tacoma allow Clear Channel Outdoor to erect digital billboards if they take down a greater number of existing, non-electronic signs?  The question before a planning commission has been drawing a clear answer from citizens, according to The News Tribune's Kathleen Cooper: "No." 

...more than 30 Tacomans made clear in public comment last week that they want no such compromise. Three neighborhood associations have written letters of complaint, and loosely organized protests have sprung up online.

Tacoma has a billboard ban, established in 1997. But a lawsuit challenging the ban was settled with the city last year, which resulted in a finding city leaders have called a compromise. Cooper reports many residents have wondered why the city didn't more aggressively defend its ban in the Clear Channel suit.

Mayor Marilyn Strickland and City Manager Eric Anderson say they have to consider the cost of potentially drawn-out lawsuits, which could leave the city liable for on-going costs. Both say it will be up to the city council to make a decision on how to proceed with settling the suit.