Special Reports

Citizen’s critical remarks draw police union’s ire

The president of Tacoma’s police union this week sent a “letter of concern” to the mayor and City Council, denouncing a citizen volunteer on a police review panel who publicly chastised Chief Don Ramsdell last week for “lying” in his public statements about the Zina Linnik case.

In his letter dated May 10, Detective Terry Krause, the recently seated president of Tacoma Police Union Local 6, wrote that by his assessment, Citizen Review Panel member Trisha King Stargel “is not capable of performing her duties as a member of the panel.”

“If it was simply the fact that she exceeded her authority as a member of the panel, that would be one thing,” Krause’s letter states. “What Trisha King Stargel did however was arguably both unprofessional and unethical; and to be blunt, grandstanding. In my opinion, the use of the panel meeting as a bully pulpit was wholly inappropriate and calls her judgment or lack thereof into question.”

Krause’s letter about King Stargel was among three he sent to the council this week. The others included a letter of support for Ramsdell as chief, and an introduction letter for Krause as the union’s new president.

Krause’s letter stops short of requesting that the council remove King Stargel from the review panel. Instead, it asks council members to listen to the recording of the May 3 meeting and “decide for yourselves if Trisha King Stargel should be retained as a panel member.”

But the letter clearly implies the police union wants King Stargel off of the board.

“Based upon her actions and bias, I am not comfortable with her having input into any of the policy decisions affecting day to day activities of Local 6 members,” Krause wrote. Krause declined comment Thursday.

In a written response sent to The News Tribune, King Stargel, who is in the final year of her tenure on the board, said she believes Krause “is in error to state that I acted unprofessionally or ethically.”

“As a citizen of the City myself, I feel I have the privilege and right to speak out on the point,” she said. “As a member of the Citizen Review Panel, I felt it important to raise with Chief Ramsdell the narrow question of how do I trust his word going forward in the joint work the Panel does regarding police department policy.”

Krause’s letter came in reaction to public statements King Stargel made to Ramsdell and City Manager Eric Anderson at the May 3 meeting.

King Stargel, a retired 24-year police officer who now works as a Seattle University criminal justice lecturer and a private police consultant, told Ramsdell she believed he “lied to the citizens” due to his changing accounts about why an Amber Alert was delayed in the Zina abduction case in 2007.

King Stargel, who sits on a state board charged with revoking police licenses, suggested the chief’s actions amounted to the kind of misconduct that gets lower-ranking officers fired and their state police licenses yanked. Two other members of the citizen panel disagreed with King Stargel about the setting for her comments, saying the issue fell outside of the panel’s purview.

Mayor Marilyn Strickland and Councilman Marty Campbell said they appreciated hearing the union’s viewpoint, but said the council likely won’t take any action.

“In this situation, it was obviously a personal and very emotional issue to (King Stargel), and I understand that,” Strickland added, noting she has yet to listen to the recording of the May 3 meeting. “I do think it is outside of the purview of what the Citizen Review Panel was supposed to do, but it’s not going to result in any action to take her off the board or anything like that.”

Campbell said he also hadn’t fully listened to the meeting’s. recordings. “I appreciated the letter and I can see where they’re coming from,” Campbell said of the union’s letter. “But I think as a council, we need to be open and tolerant of criticisms and I wouldn’t want to censor someone’s opinions.”

Lewis Kamb: 253-597-8542 lewis.kamb@thenewstribune.com