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Seattle Police Department Finally Free

“Seattle Police Finally Free” by John F Hays, a Seattle Private Investigator.

Now that Mayor McGinn is on the way out, the Seattle Police Department has been freed up to deal with the bad boys and girls hanging out and causing serious trouble in Westlake Park. With the lame and irrelevant excuse that we can’t criminalize being poor and homeless, the SPD was constrained from dealing with the criminal and anti-social behavior that’s been causing problems for downtown businesses and visitors. I guess McGinn forgot the admonition “Love the child (person); hate the behavior”. It’s about time!

 

Gun Free Zones-An Oxymoron in the Gun Control Debate

“Gun Free Zones-An Oxymoron in the Gun Control Debate” by John F Hays, a Seattle Private Investigator.

The only real gun free zones are closed and secured locations with controlled access, staffed by armed guards and requiring inspection of persons entering, including anything they are wearing and carrying. Areas marked with gun free zone signs, either required by law or policy, are a fraud on the public and are, in fact, a threat to public safety.

If a licensed citizen carries a gun into such an area, that person commits a crime even though the only crime is violating the law or policy establishing that zone.

If a person with criminal intent wants to go into that zone to actually use that gun to shoot one or more people, what makes anyone think that the sign would deter that person with that intent from that behavior? And, if an otherwise lawful citizen were to violate the law or policy and deploy a prohibited weapon to stop the person with murderous intent, why should that citizen be declared a criminal? Since when is exercising the right to self-defense, a Constitutional and Human Right, a crime?

Irrational, feel-good measures, such as gun free zones do not stop criminals or the insane. Such laws and policies only disarm those who are no threat to anyone. Gun free zones create an illusion of safety only to those deluded enough to believe they work.

Public officials who promote such ideas are either deluded themselves or are acting in a calculated and cynical manner in pandering to the fears of the public they work for. Do you hear me, Seattle Mayor McGinn? And Mayor Bloomberg of NYC and all the other mayors in this country who have joined your club.

 

A Seattle Shootout: Some Lessons for Citizens, the Police and Mayor McGinn

“A Seattle Shootout: Some Lessons for Citizens, the Police and Mayor McGinn” by John F Hays, a Seattle Private Investigator.

The shootout

At about noon on a Saturday in July, my wife and I were standing, talking, on the SE corner of an intersection in the business district of a popular Seattle neighborhood. We were with friends and were on our way to a day of fun at a festival in the International District. We had stopped at a coffee shop so our friends could go inside to get coffees-to-go. It was a beautiful morning with lots of people out strolling and going in and out of restaurants and shops.

My attention was attracted to yelling coming from the north side of the cross-street we were on, mid-block and east of our position. I looked to see a stocky black male, 30-something, in a green shirt, yelling while facing west towards our location on the arterial street. I couldn’t make out what he was saying; but his voice had an angry tone.

While making these observations, I became aware of a 30-something, tall, slim black male and a short, slender black female crossing from a restaurant on the NE corner of the intersection, toward a point just east of us on the cross-street. These two people were obviously together and would have been unremarkable but for three things. One: She was paying a lot of attention to the yelling man up the street and seemed to be reluctant to follow the man she was with. Two: He gave a couple of sharp and abrupt hand signals to her, indicating that she should come along with him and quit lagging behind. Three: When he made these gestures, he pulled up his gray t-shirt and exposed what appeared to be a gun tucked in his dark colored pants. The view I had was so brief in duration that I couldn’t be sure I had seen a gun. She continued to hold back as he headed east on the sidewalk, moving closer to the yelling man. When she finally speeded up to catch up with her companion, I turned my attention back to my wife. Then the shooting started.

I pulled my wife to me and took cover behind a metal utility pole. Simultaneously, our friends came out of the coffee shop. I ordered them and the people at the tables in front of the shop to get down and stay down. Thankfully, they complied.

The shooting lasted only seconds. When it stopped, I looked east up the street and saw the woman who had been with the guy in the gray t-shirt coming out of a hairdressing salon behind the coffee shop. I saw a black SUV leaving the scene headed east. People flooded out onto the street. The woman headed east and away from me; I followed her.

When the police started to flood into the area, I directed the attention of one officer to the woman, an associate of one of the shooters and a material witness. When I tried to explain why he should talk to her, he asked me if I was a cop. When I told him no, he said “Then be quiet”. Not wanting to risk arrest for interfering, I stood and waited, listening to her lie about not being involved. I expected him to next turn to me. Instead he turned and walked away. A second attempt to get the same officer’s attention resulted in another rebuff when he directed another officer to talk to me. At that point all I could tell this officer was that the woman had already left the scene but that she had been in the salon and the folks in there might be able to ID her. Having done all I could, I rejoined my wife and friends. We went on to have a great day.

I was left angry and frustrated by the way I was treated by the officer who rebuffed me twice, allowing a material witness to leave a crime scene, unidentified. Rather than forgetting the matter, I sought out a meeting. I wanted to talk to the officer, his boss and the watch commander for the unit involved. The watch commander set up a meeting at the precinct.

Without going into the details, I’ve got to say that I left the meeting pleased that we had been able to talk openly about the situation. They listened actively and attentively to my concerns and were able to explain to my satisfaction how officers responding to such situations can be, or can appear to be, a bit rude. The safety of the public and the responding officers and securing the scene of the crime takes precedence over everything else.

They also informed me that the woman had been ID’d by the folks in the salon and that she and the shooters were gang associated.

The lessons for the public? Chill; it’s not about you. Oh, and get out of the line of fire.

Don’t expect polite and respectful behavior from police officers at active crime scenes, especially when the crime is violent and the scene is still chaotic. They are under a lot of pressure and are trying their best to re-establish safety and order.

Do demand answers when you have not been treated with respect; but do it after the situation is over.

When the shooting starts, don’t stand up and gawk. Don’t move closer to the action. Take cover or escape safely. Stay out of the fight unless it comes to you. Then fight as if your life depended on it, because it might.

For those who legally carry concealed firearms, the situation I describe did not warrant drawing a weapon. None of us standing or crouching behind cover on the corner were being directly threatened. We were within range of the bullets being fired; so cover and/or escape were our best defense.

Lessons for the police? Lighten up.

Command and control doesn’t require rudeness. Polite but firm will work for most otherwise good citizens who want nothing more than to help you do your job, if they can.

Unnecessary use of authority can be a barrier to getting the cooperation and information from the public necessary to do your work. Use your authority only as much as you have to in getting the job done.

Lessons for Mayor McGinn? It’s the gangs, not the guns.

Rather than trying to constrain our Second Amendment rights, strictly enforce existing gun laws. They are more than adequate, if enforced.

Aggressively go after the gangs that are the cause of the vast majority of gun violence in Seattle. And to help you accomplish that…

Go to Olympia and ask legislators to introduce mandatory, minimum sentences for those convicted of crimes where guns are used in crime or where persons committing violent and non-violent crimes are found possessing guns.

There should be no compromise with violent felons who endanger the public as well as each other. Ask the legislature to change the law to disallow plea bargaining on gun charges associated with any other felonies.

 

McGinn’s Oxymoron: Common Sense Gun Control Laws in Seattle

“McGinn’s Oxymoron: Common Sense Gun Control Laws in Seattle” by John F. Hays, a Seattle Private Investigator.

Mayor McGinn wants “common sense” gun control laws in Seattle. And he wants to define the term. Common sense should focus on root causes, not empty, feel good measures that create the illusion of  safety in the city. He should listen to Danny Westneat, a columnist for the Seattle Times.

Common sense is enforcing the laws on the books. Common sense is focusing on the criminals, in this case, gangs, not legal gun owners and inanimate objects.

Instead of going to Olympia demanding that Seattle be allowed to draft its own, stricter gun-control rules, he might want to consider demanding that the Legislature pass laws that make the punishment for illegal gun possession and crimes committed while in possession of a gun much more severe than they are. Punishment should be mandatory. Plea bargaining should be strictly limited or eliminated entirely for gun crimes.

It’s time for the police to be allowed to declare war on gangs; and it’s time for severe minimum sentencing for illegal gun possession and use.

But I don’t expect our short-timer Major to do anything that makes “common sense”.

 

Seattle Mayor finds scapegoating guns easier than going after root causes of violence

Seattle Mayor finds scapegoating guns easier than going after root causes by John F Hays, a Seattle Private Investigator.

It’s really disappointing, but not unexpected, that Mayor McGinn’s gun control response to recent shootings in Seattle is to blame inanimate objects for the violence, rather than the complex social problems that drive the behavior of people who respond to life with violent acts.

Violence is an ever-present problem that has root causes that have nothing to do with the tools used to act out in violence. The tools reflect the technological level of society. Violent behavior reflects the social conditions of society from the national level down to the level of local communities and individual families.

Blaming guns is what you do when you don’t have the ability or the will to tackle root causes and want a scapegoat to deflect attention from your impotence. Deputy Police Chief Nick Metz and Assistant Chief for Operations Paul McDonagh blame the gun, as well (seattletimes.nwso…); but this is just politically expedient, coded speech to deflect citizen ire from the Mayor and the police.

The Mayor and the Seattle Police Department are no more at fault for the recent violence than are the rest of us. Since they don’t seem to be able to lead, where are the leaders who can direct our attention and efforts away from useless, easy-answer, non-solutions and towards addressing the underlying social issues that create violent people?

See my earlier blog posts on the topic:

Guns, Violence and Society – Family and Community Level Solutions

The Gun Violence Fantasies of Seattle Mayor

Guns, Violence and Society – Causes

Guns, Violence and Society – Addiction

Guns, Violence and Society

Domestic Violence – Protection Orders Useless?

I have two more posts coming on the same topic. The last in the string (the second to come) will specifically address guns.

 

Guns, Violence and Society – Causes

Guns, Violence and Society – Causes by John F Hays, a Seattle Private Investigator

I think we already know at least some of the causes of violence in our society; but we’re too diverted and divided to look closely at the problem and take it on.

Aside from a limited number of cases where brain damage, drugs (Phencyclidine or PCP, et al.), or psychosis (schizophrenia, paranoia, et al.) contribute to violent behavior, most people, including researchers, believe that violent behavior arises from conditions that might be labeled as environmental. While the scientific community seems unwilling to say that they know the exact causes of violence in society, or in the case of any individual violent person, they do acknowledge a number of conditions or factors that appear to make individual violence more likely. They also point out that sometimes these factors show a “which came first” complexity.

It’s a nature versus nurture question. We are all born with the potential for violence. However, civilizing factors make most of us much less violent than that potential. I believe that most of us can be brought to violence by certain situations or conditions that threaten the life and safety of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities.

The factors cited that contribute to, if not cause, violent behavior are numerous and often interrelated. It is clear that some people survive the adverse influence of these same factors and never act out violently. The following is only illustrative and is not an exhaustive treatment of the subject.

Causes within the family

Being born into a dysfunctional family, including some combination of

    poor or nonexistent parenting
    intra-family violence
    drug abuse
    unemployment and poverty

Causes within the larger society

Being raised in a society

    that glorifies violence and distorts its true nature and consequences
    that feeds us violence as entertainment
    that engages in a violent domestic war, labeled The Drug War, which enables violent gang culture and police corruption
    that engages in perpetual war against domestic and foreign terrorists as a substitute for The Cold War, in order to feed the Military Industrial Complex at the expense of our warriors, our domestic needs, and our economy
    that has turned our prisons into advanced training bases that fail to rehabilitate while enabling the incarcerated to learn more criminal skills.

 

Guns, Violence and Society – Addiction

Guns, Violence and Society – Addiction By: John F Hays, a Seattle Private Investigator

In spite of the best efforts of my history and civics instructors, I eventually found out that they lied and distorted many things about the history and government of my country of birth. They didn’t do this out of malice. They were doing no more than unconsciously engaging in the propaganda and indoctrination that they were subjected to in their own educations. It’s what the political classes do in every country. The victors not only get the spoils; they get to write or rewrite history, the revisionist history that glorifies the winners and ignores or justifies all the less than glorious truths behind their “victories”.

I’ve been around for more than 66 years and I’ve been paying attention for most of that time. I credit my political awakening to the Jesuits who ran my high school and the first university I attended. Though I am no longer a Catholic or a Christian, I greatly appreciate Jesuit involvement in my intellectual development, such as it is. They taught me two things that inform my way of thinking to this day. They taught me how to think, as opposed to what to think; and they taught me to question authority. These are dangerous traits, but are, in fact, essential to citizenship in a democracy. How can we learn and advance as a nation if we don’t know the truth about our past and the current machinations of those in power? How can we aspire to match the potential espoused in our high and mighty principles if we aren’t willing to look at our failures at living by those principles?

Our history starts with an invasion and the forceful taking of land belonging to indigenous peoples. By violent revolution, we broke away from an onerous overseas government. We continued our violent subjugation of the indigenous people, an effort that continues, in a somewhat less overt way, to this day. We fought wars to establish our northern and southern borders. We fought an internal war over the economic and human rights issue of slavery. We’ve had labor wars. We’ve had outbreaks of violence directed against voluntary and involuntary immigrants (Africans, Chinese, Japanese, Hispanics, Irish etc). We’ve experienced political assassinations and attempts at assassination. We’ve fought numerous foreign wars, some seemingly justified, some not. Violent crime, domestic violence, sexual violence, gang violence, road rage, highway carnage fueled by alcohol and drugs, the Drug War, the list goes on.

Modern culture is rife with violence and we wallow in it willingly. Movies, TV, music, games, sports, all glory in violence. Billions are spent producing and consuming violence. We honor and pay handsomely the actors, singers and athletes who feed our blood lust.

We are a product of violence…and we love it.

The debate continues over the effect of media depictions of violence on human behavior, especially that of our children. Now we are debating whether violent and hateful political speech can influence or cause violent behavior. We love to debate. We hate to actually engage collectively in defining problems that can be solved, finding real solutions and doing the hard work to attain them.

We are like alcoholics; and like alcoholics, we must admit to our addiction to violence before we can begin the journey to a cure. As a citizen, I have a stake in this situation. As a Seattle private investigator, working mostly in criminal defense, the stake I have has become more clear and tangible.

 

Domestic Violence – Protection Orders Useless?

Domestic Violence – Protection Orders Useless? by John F. Hays, a Seattle Private Investigator.

Having worked on a number of domestic violence cases over the years and being an avid reader of crime related news, it is quite obvious that the whole behavioral and crime category of domestic violence is very complex. As a practical matter, it seems to be beyond the ability of law enforcement and the courts to effectively deal with the problem or, more correctly, the complex of problems associated with the issue. Two things stand out to me as particularly problematic.

First: A protection or no-contact order is a very tenuous form of protection against future violence by a perpetrator against the same victim. My experience as a private investigator is that the orders are frequently violated by both parties, in collusion. From all the cases we’ve read or heard about over the years, it is sadly obvious that a violent person, intent on injuring or killing his or her victim, is not deterred by fear of legal consequences based on a bit of dead tree with some words printed on it.

Second: Victims of domestic violence are not easy to categorize. Some are mentally healthy, normal people who make the mistake of hooking up with people who later turn out to be violent. In spite of all their efforts to deal with the problem, these people sometimes fall prey to more harassment and violence from the same person. Some domestic violence victims have complex, personal psychological issues that result in their choosing to have co-dependent relationships with violent people. Too often they either return to the same relationship or find another person with whom to form another co-dependent relationship.

There is an old adage that goes something like this. If what you’re doing isn’t working, do something/anything else. The behavioral issues, including their roots, get a lot of attention from the mental health community. Both perpetrators and their victims need better access to counseling. The legal community needs to start from scratch in reforming its response to the crime of domestic violence. What they’re doing isn’t working.

Seattle Times Article

 

Eyewitnesses Can’t Be Trusted.

Eyewitnesses Can’t Be Trusted by John F. Hays, a Seattle Private Investigator.

Eyewitnesses helped send an innocent man to prison. He ended up spending 30 years in prison for a rape he didn’t commit. Seattle Times article. Because of cases like this, this Seattle criminal defense investigator is against the death penalty. Because of cases like this, this investigator is strongly motivated in my criminal defense and personal injury cases to get the best information from witnesses that I can and to expose unreliable witnesses when I find them.

Eyewitness identification is unreliable. We’ve known that for a very long time. An eyewitness can be honest, but wrong. An eyewitness can be confused by a variety of factors. An eyewitness can lie for a variety of reasons. An eyewitness can be manipulated by careless or unscrupulous law enforcement officers. In the absence of substantial collaborating evidence, why do we continue to accept eyewitness testimony as sufficient to convict anybody of anything?

 

Mock Juries for Mock Trials

Mock Juries for Mock Trials by John F. Hays, a Seattle Private Investigator.

Serve on mock juries for mock trials; and no one has to go to jail.

Whether or not you have ever been on a jury, if you wish to have some experience and education on the matter, you might try what my wife and I have done and thoroughly enjoyed on a summer weekend for each of the last two years. We plan on doing it again next summer.

We act as jurors in mock civil and criminal trials argued by practicing lawyers in front of practicing judges.

The National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA) trains practicing lawyers to be more effective trial lawyers.

A bit about NITA from their website at http://www.nita.org/:

“NITA’s Mission Statement

“NITA, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, is a dedicated team of professors, judges and practicing lawyers who believe that skilled and ethical advocacy is a critical component of legal professionalism and all systems of dispute resolution that seek justice.

“NITA’s mission is to:

* Promote justice through effective and ethical advocacy;
* Train and mentor lawyers to be competent and ethical advocates in pursuit of justice; and
* Develop and teach trial advocacy skills to support and promote the effective and fair administration of justice.

“NITA’s Mission Statement defines NITA and articulates its Mission. We will fulfill our Mission through NITA’s Goals and Objectives to be carried out through a Strategic Plan outlining NITA’s programs and publications.

“NITA Long-Range Goals and Objectives

“NITA’s Goals and Objectives are to:

* Enable and encourage lawyers to become effective, ethical and professional advocates.
* Create and promote the highest quality professional and ethical advocacy training and educational materials.
* Support and assist the Judicial System in providing the important, effective administration and resolution of disputes.
* Encourage, support and assist advocacy training for and dedication to public service.”

You can participate for both days or either day. If you do both days, you hear a civil case on one day and a criminal case on the other.

You sit in court, listen to the arguments, select a jury foreman, weigh the evidence and present your verdict to the court.

One thing that happens in these mock trials that doesn’t happen in real life is the post-trial discussion involving the judge, the attorneys and the jurors. The trial experience and the post-trial discussion provide an incredibly educational and entertaining way to spend a day or two.

They give you a small stipend and a box lunch each day. You meet and spend the day with some really nice people.

Go to the NITA website at http://www.nita.org/and explore.

Find out where the programs entitled “Building Trial Skills” are being held and contact them about your interest in participating as a juror in the mock trials. If they haven’t already filled the juror pool, volunteer. I believe you will find the experience (plus the stipend and the lunch) to be well worth your time.

 
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