Monday, June 30, 2008

Ain't it Grand part 2 (police, jails and Martin)

Posted By on Mon, Jun 30, 2008 at 9:28 PM

Some law enforcement factoids courtesy of the 2007-'08 Grand Jury Report:

The Fortuna Police Dept. is housed in a "well maintained" city building. "It has a well-stocked first aid kit," and "three fire exits are clearly marked and accessible."

The Hoopa Station "does not have adequate janitorial services," and their garage is a mess.

The Trinidad Police Dept. is housed in a remodeled home, which is "spacious and suitable for police operations," but they have no holding cells, so perps are locked in police cars until taken to jail.

The building housing the Eureka Police Dept. is showing its age and needs to expand.

Inmates housed in the Eel River #31 and High Rock #32 Conservation Camps earn $1.45 a day until they are "skilled," and potentially get a raise to $3.90 a day. When they risk their lives fighting fires that get $1 an hour. Half of that money is earmarked for "any required restitution."
It costs $14,000-$16,000 a year to keep an inmate at a camp, as opposed to around $45,000 a year for prison.
The inmates provide around $500,000 a year in community service. Public agencies including schools, citys, the county and the state can hire crews for $160-$200 bucks a day, but sometimes they work for nothing.

Major findings re: the County Jail: "Video images of sobering cells may not always be clear." Camera housings should be cleaned more often. Also: "There is no procedure to routinely monitor computer use of on-duty correctional officers." Periodic and random monitoring is recommended.

The 18 kids in the well run juvenile hall ( aged 12 to 18 ) get points for "positive behavior," and can earn "extra privileges." "The staff expressed that the point system is very effective in behavior modification." (I wonder if they ring a bell at mealitime.)

Would you be surprised to hear that citizen complaints at the Blue Lake Police Dept. weren't handled all that well? Probably not since it's been disbanded and the former chief is in the slammer, so that's not exactly a revelation. The GJ notes that, "The city manager apparently has not fulfilled his responsibilities concerning the police," particularly in supervising the chief.  Hmm, maybe he should be dismissed. Oh, he was? The chief too? Well, nevermind.

OK. let's get serious for a minute. The Grand Jury looked into the death of Martin Frederick Cotton II, who died while in police custody, and, according to a tox screen, under the influence of LSD.

While they could not say for sure how he died, their investigation "uncovered possible police procedural violations," specifically witnesses reported that police punched Cotton in the head and kicked him in the lower back and/or kidney area.

Cotton later reportedly banged his head against the wall in his cell. Police were cleared in a Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) investigation and the D.A. did not file charges.

The GJ findings/recommendations:

No. 1: Two out of three agencies in the CIRT were involved in the Cotton incident and had conflicts of interest. Someone else should have handled the investigation, the FBI for example.

No. 2: The mentally ill population of the county often has contact with local law enforcement. "Law enforcement should make an effort to maximize their effectiveness in dealing with the mentally ill."

No. 3: The videotape system in the sobering cell where Cotton was housed did not produce a clear image. (See above.)

No. 4: The holding cell should be properly padded.

No. 5: HumCo Sheriff's Dept. policy and procedures, while "well-written,"  "may not have been followed" re: what they call chillingly, "Cotton's last incarceration."

No. 6: Same with EPD policy and procedures.

Regarding Nos. 5 & 6, the report recommends better training for staff when it comes to "subjects exhibiting bizarre behavior and/or a potential threat to self and/or others." That's it?

For more on "Cotton's last incarceration" check these Journal stories by Japhet Weeks:

A Broken Vessel

Who Killed Martin Cotton?

and this Open Letter to county counsel from our Town Dandy Hank Sims

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Ain't it Grand?

Posted By on Mon, Jun 30, 2008 at 9:12 PM

It's here! Yes, the 2007-2008 Final Report from the Humboldt County Grand Jury is out. Not that you'll find it on their website. And no, you can't ask them for one until tomorrow morning when they present the 44 page document to the Supes. However, since it's on the Board agenda, the county posted it on their website .
What is it? Well, kind of like a report card for various county agencies, and about as exciting. Sorry, but we're mostly underwhelmed.

Highlights? Well, it starts with something tantalizing: "Board of Supervisors Settlement with Tamara Falor," and you're thinking, wow, that mystery is finally solved, but guess what, the Supes were as tight-lipped about the terms with the Grand Jury as they have been with everyone else, once again citing the old personnel issue dodge, so we learn zip from them. The grand conclusion? The Supes "may have settled with Falor to avoid more costly and time consuming litigation," um, then again maybe it was something else. With that they throw up their hands.

Next they tackle the pressing issue of County Dept. head evaluations. Turns out they're pretty much non-existent. Improvement needed.

Sewers are examined (who volunteered for that committee?) and it was found that shit happens, and escapes various systems. Again, improvement needed.

It's too bad Hank isn't around to read the scintillating GJ report on his beloved North Coast Railroad Authority. The grand conclusion: "The principal objection to the restoration of the rail line is the enormous cost likely to be incurred. Any benefits from such a project would be other than monetary and limited in scope in the foreseeable future." (Have they perhaps been following our Town Dandy?)

They took some time investigating a citizen complaint of wrongdoing by Big Lagoon School District regarding the Big Lagoon Charter School, but found no substantiation. Hmmm.

The GJ also looked into fencing at Murray Field Airport, which apparently is needed to keep out deer who get in the way of emergency medical flights. Pending environmental review, a $600,000 fence should be built in spring/summer of next year

The G. Jury looked at Public Transit and the Humboldt Transit Authority and offered a fairly detailed explanation of transit financing that we will not go into at this time. Overall the GJ commends the HTA and associated agencies for doing what they can, but with some provisos regarding a couple of points that turned up:
One is that a fair amount to the Transportation Development Act (TDA) funding we receive is not used for public transit at all -- in Rio Dell and Fortuna the money goes toward road maintenance.
The report noted something that might seem obvious: "Ridership is higher in the main transportation corridors and reduced on the periphery," especially those areas (Garberville for example) that no longer have bus service.
The county figures that 32 percent of those in incorporated areas live outside the reach of public transit and/or have no access to specialized services like Dial-a-Ride.
And, to sum up a bunch of findings, considering gas prices, insurance, and emissions standards, it's going to be increasingly expensive to move people around.
The GJ "encourages" improvement in meeting unmet needs and suggests using more TDA funds for public transit. However, no response is required.

The report includes a frequency chart showing how often the GJ investigates various subjects. Since the turn of the century (and perhaps earlier) they've looked at our jails and juvie every year. They did so again this time around. And they checked in on the police. We'll address those in Part 2.

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

"I'll have the salmon, please."

Posted By on Sat, Jun 28, 2008 at 9:29 PM

warren buffett\'s lunch

The juicy news today from kabazabagazillionaire-land is that a Chinese investor has made the winning bid -- $2.1 million -- in a charity auction for a lunch date with Warren Buffett, head honcho of Berkshire Hathaway Inc . which owns PacifiCorp which operates certain dams on the Klamath River that cause quite a few salmon to have a major, major headache.

OK, it is for charity. Still, good taste might suggest that Zhao Danyang of Pureheart China Growth Investment Fund order something other than the anadromous entree.

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Friday, June 27, 2008


Posted By on Fri, Jun 27, 2008 at 5:24 PM

Destiny Young shot this photo last Friday night in Boonville.

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Eureka declared one of the best

Posted By on Fri, Jun 27, 2008 at 4:21 PM

The folks over at the Humboldt County Convention and Visitors Bureau want you to know that Outside Magazine selected Eureka as one of the best towns in the America, ranking it No. 8 on a list of 20. The blurb incudes shout-outs to the Accident Gallery ,  the Boardwalk, the Arkley Center (identified as the Sweasey Theater)  and Humboldt Baykeeper . Not sure why they chose to illustrate a piece on Eureka with a photo of the mouth of th Mattole, but that's what they did. (Click on images to enlarge.)

Another interesting note: the list of largest employers, topped by the city of Eureka , also includes the Times Standard .

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Dear Mr. President, Help!

Posted By on Fri, Jun 27, 2008 at 3:02 PM

Word from Rep. Mike Thompson's office that the California Congressional Delegation has worked with Senators Feinstein and Boxer to craft a letter  to President Bush requesting a disaster declaration for the California wildfires,  which will help release federal resources to areas in need of assistance. (See attached.)


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Truckin' Kissin' Cuzins

Posted By on Fri, Jun 27, 2008 at 11:03 AM

Every once in a while a press release falls through the cracks. This event should have been in this week's calendar, but it wasn't.

How about something completely off the wall this weekend?

Music, entertainment, food and drink on the theme of truckers and kissing. Not your obvious combination but surely a recipe for good times. 5 girls from four different countries are hosting a Truck ‘n’ Kiss Fest at Arcata Playhouse.
The musical line up includes:
The funk-tastic Bump Foundation
Blue Lake bad boys Tainted Zucchini
Solo grooves from The Lojko
Flirty favorites The Brendas
The cover charge of 10 bucks also includes Trucker style eats and a PBR. There will be a kissing booth and sequinned trucker caps for sale. Proceeds from the event go towards the creation of a new trucker inspired theatre piece, details of which will be on display at the Truck’n’Kiss Fest.

Saturday,  June 28
Doors open at 11 pm for late night action
Arcata Playhouse: 1251 9th St
Cover: $10
Picture shows: (left to right) Suzanne Bakker (The Netherlands), Lisa Rudenhed (Sweden), Helga Rosenfeldt-Olsen (Denmark), Elizabeth Klinger (US), Betsy Cross (US)

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

The "Joint" News Release and unanswered questions

Posted By on Thu, Jun 26, 2008 at 11:03 AM

To quote the much heralded Heraldo, there was " Little new info on pot busts ," yesterday, and as a result (and because Hank was not around to man the front lines), the Blogthing was quiet. The couple of dozen or so agencies involved in the big sweep issued a "joint" statement, which you'll find below. It leaves a lot of questions unanswered. The KHUM/K-Slug news team was on the story all day, and asked a bunch of questions of their own, but one must accept the simple reality that government flaks thrive on obfuscation and are not in the business of spilling the beans.Today KMUD is on the story nonstop, with some of those raided talking anonymously about what they're going through.

You'll find all sorts of guess work bubbling on various blogs regarding what happened and how (Heraldo's afternoon post on the "Joint news" has received over 130 comments). Some of the chatter there and on Craiglist is seemingly informed, some paranoid, some is completely wrong-headed. Mostly you find people with questions about how the big bust came together,  who's to blame, and what happens next. The feds have said repeatedly that they're not after medical grows, but as the spokesman explained to the Times Standard (and I paraphrase) 215 ain't federal law.

A personal observation: A lot of manpower (and tax money) went into this operation, which according to the p.r. folks netted something like 10,000 plants. Is that a lot? Not really. Humboldt County Sheriff stats for last year showed, "a total of 355,122 marijuana plants were seized from both indoor and outdoor marijuana grow sites." Law enforcment officials consistantly admit that the pot they grab is just the tip of the iceburg.

How much money does marijuana pour into the local economy? Your guess is as good as mine.

What do you think?

Joint News Release
June 25, 2008 4:20 p.m.
Operation ‘Southern Sweep’ Targets Commercial Marijuana Growers
Around 7 a.m. Tuesday approximately 450 local, state, and federal law enforcement personnel
executed 29 search warrants in Humboldt and Mendocino Counties. The warrants stemmed from
a nearly two-year investigation targeting a large commercial marijuana cultivation and distribution
Law enforcement officers raided grow houses and residences in Shelter Cove, Whitethorn, Redway, Ettersburg, Garberville, Miranda, Phillipsville, Arcata, and McKinleyville. They also secured and are searching almost 2000 acres in southern Humboldt County and northern Mendocino County belonging to the targets of the investigation.

Over the course of Tuesday’s activity, officers located around ten thousand marijuana plants estimated to be worth between $25 and $60 million on the street. They seized 30 firearms, including fully automatic weapons, one vehicle, and over $160 thousand in cash. No charges have been filed and none of the targets of the investigation were arrested during yesterday’s raids. However, FBI agents arrested one man for assault on a federal agent during the execution of the search warrants.

"This is not a medical marijuana operation or a group of people growing for personal use," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Charlene B. Thornton. "It’s a large-scale, for-profit, commercial business. The targets of our investigation are reaping huge profits while contributing to the crime and violence oppressing communities across the state."

California Department of Justice Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement Special Agent in Charge Sara Marie Simpson said, "Californians voted for reasonable personal use of medicinal marijuana for qualified patients—not massive wholesale growing operations. When large quantities of cash start changing hands, crime and violence soon follow and that will not be tolerated by law enforcement."

Beginning in early 2006, members of BNE’s Redding regional office initiated an investigation into a California-based organization which had purchased a large parcel of mountainous land in the southern Humboldt and northern Mendocino County areas, and was suspected of growing large amounts of marijuana on the land and selling it for profit. Due to the large scale and scope of the investigation, BNE invited the FBI to participate.

Upon checking the area, agents located numerous buildings and greenhouses on the properties. No building permits had been issued for any of the structures on the properties. A review of aerial photos showed construction and grading in the area had increased year to year. Investigators believed the subjects were working together on the rural properties to grow marijuana to be sold for profit.

This investigation has been a cooperative effort between the FBI, BNE, Internal Revenue Service, United States Postal Inspection Service, United States Drug Enforcement Administration, California Highway Patrol, California National Guard Counter Drug Task Force, United States Forest Service, Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, California Department of Fish and Game, Eureka Police Department, Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, and the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office.

CA DOJ/BNE task forces included the North and South Butte Interagency Narcotic Task Force, Tehama Interagency Drug Enforcement, Glenn Interagency Narcotic Task Force, Shasta Interagency Narcotic Task Force, Siskiyou County Interagency Narcotic Task Force, Humboldt County Drug Task Force, Mendocino County Major Crimes Task Force, San Jose Unified Narcotic Enforcement Team, and the Madera County Narcotic Enforcement Team.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Order Up!

Posted By on Tue, Jun 24, 2008 at 7:03 PM

A quarter of crow

First of all, it must be said: Massive props to our new info-overlord, Heraldo , for scooping everyone with the tip that a massive federal drug bust was coming to town this week. Respect is due.

However, let me take a moment to play the boring old-school pedant, here. A massive federal drug bust came to town. Was it the DEA? It was not. Is the bust targeting 300 homes? We'll know for sure by the end of the week, but the answer now is fairly clear: It is not. There's a total of 29 warrants being served, unless someone is serving up some spectacular lies. Was the list of homes to be targeted gathered by looking at people's PG&E records? Clearly: No.

The editor in me sees: Awesome scoop, mixed up inseparably with a great big pile of off-the-top rumor and speculation. And generally speaking, rumor and speculation, promulgated as fact, can affect harm people and fuck up society in all kinds of awful ways.

However, I come not to bury Heraldo but to praise him/her. This time. Luckily, the T-shirt currently on sale in the North Coast Journal's online Cafepress store works as both ridicule and tribute, whichever way you want to take it. Buy now.

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In Other News...

Posted By on Tue, Jun 24, 2008 at 4:05 PM

Final election results are in.

No big news, really -- Mark Lovelace slipped a bit in the Third District, but he still won the election outright. In the second, the late Roger Rodoni increased his lead a bit against close second-place challenger Clif Clendenen.

The only real change is that Journal favorite Jake Pickering actually slipped into last place in his race for a place on the Humboldt County Democratic Central Committee, which means he doesn't get a seat after all. Bad luck? Or ...?

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