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Archive for the ‘Crime & Justice’ Category

Seen on the bulletin board at the Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery on Capitol Hill in Seattle. Thank you to whoever posted this and took the time to rightfully put the cemetery’s flag at half-staff. 

Scalia

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©2016 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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We Are Safe

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. What do you plan to do about it?

Here’s one option. Ask your church or faith-based community organization to take the pledge to become a Safe Faith Community. The team behind Document the Abuse has unveiled this new initiative at the start of Domestic Violence Awareness Month to encourage faith-based organizations to be a safe place for domestic violence victims.

For years I’ve said that the church should be the first place domestic violence victims should go for help, yet it is often the last place they’ll go because of the legalism, judgment, and condemnation they might face. Many churches don’t know how to connect victims with resources in their communities either. In addition, those in the ministry who don’t understand the dynamics of domestic violence can provide misinformed and even dangerous counsel.

Too often victims are told that if they would just improve their own behavior or be more attractive their abuser wouldn’t be so inclined to hurt them, be that physically, financially, sexually, or psychologically. Abuse takes many forms. I call this the “just put a bow in your hair, act like nothing’s wrong, and make a nice casserole” syndrome. Victims are frequently guilted into staying in unhealthy and unsafe situations with the Bible erroneously used as justification for why they should endure. Power and control is at the root of this evil. The victim is not causing it and they cannot make their abuser change.

The church’s first concern should be whether the victims are safe, not how to reconcile the relationship, not to treat the victim as an equally guilty party who needs marriage counseling, not telling them God will punish them if they get a divorce in order to keep themselves or their children safe. Churches can become havens for abusers and predators when more concern is given to the possibility that they might make things right with God than to the immediate and even life-threatening matters their victims are facing. Churches too have pathological personalities like narcissists and sociopaths who might have no interest in improving their behavior but have obsessive interests in controlling or stalking their victims.

Statistically, domestic violence is just as prevalent in the church as it is in the rest of the world. It’s probably the single biggest issue facing church families, but the least talked about. It’s high time for churches to start showing domestic violence victims the grace of God more generously and to speak out with one voice against this atrocity. It’s all around us. If we believe in a higher moral authority, why then are we not more interested in living according to that law rather than our own selfish and immature desires that cause others pain? What point is there in believing in Him if our behavior is no different than those without that hope?

Purple Ribbon DV

The Safe Faith Community Project is asking faith leaders to make these promises:

1. Learn to recognize the signs of domestic violence.

2. Stand with victims of domestic violence as they desire and seek healing and wholeness.

3. Never coerce or require a victim of domestic violence to reconcile with their abuser.

4. Share at least one sermon each October (Domestic Violence Awareness Month) about the epidemic of domestic violence and how the church can respond.

5. Connect with a domestic violence shelter in our city/town.

6. Show that our faith community is a designated safe place by prominently placing Safe Faith Community decal on your site or social media.

7. Offer the Evidentiary Affidavit of Abuse (training optional for staff or selected individuals), found at documenttheabuse.com or at the Apple Store, and a copy of the book, “Time’s Up,” to each victim of domestic violence we encounter.

This is going to challenge churches to get out of their comfort zone and walk the walk! I already sense that some will have a problem with #3. I’ve known people and churches who treat divorce as if it’s the unforgivable sin, so counsel victims to remain with dangerous and unstable people. I was so weighed down by such legalism (man-made rules on top of God’s) that I nearly waited too long to get out of a marriage rife with death threats. Some believers try to convince victims that they’ll go to hell if they marry again.

Really? God’s grace does not extend to victims of abuse? It is His will that they spend the rest of their lives in submission to godless individuals who do the enemy’s work instead of His? That’s like having a curse put on you that supposedly not even God Himself can lift. It’s like being in a macabre fairy tale where someone is changed into a beast or put into a deep sleep, but the prince or rescuer never comes.

Note a tool mentioned in this pledge called the Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit, or EAA. It is a way of documenting abuse so that the victim can speak for themselves in court if they are missing, incapacitated, or dead. By gathering certain documents and photos and using templates in the Time’s Up book, the victim can videotape their testimony and have it notarized and stored in the cloud where their abuser can’t get to it. This is intended to get around the hearsay rule in court—this is unaltered testimony coming straight from the victim. See Document the Abuse for more information.

Join the movement. Share this website with your church leadership and dare them to step out in faith on behalf of those affected by domestic violence. This is not a partisan or a denominational issue; domestic violence affects people of all faiths and creeds.

This will become a nationwide, if not worldwide, movement. Faith communities need to focus on eliminating domestic violence rather than enabling it. This is a great first step. Will you pass it on?

Safefaithcommunity.com. See also the Document the Abuse Facebook page.

From http://beckerimpact.blogspot.com/2012/10/joining-million-voices.html*************************************************************************************

Change starts when someone sees the next step. –William Drayton

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©2015 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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Bergen Church by Conor MacNeill

Bergen Church by Conor MacNeill

Be protective of your sheep because the wolves are coming.

-Jimmy Meeks, police officer, minister, and owner of Sheepdog Seminars

Five days ago a 21 year-old walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina and murdered nine people. He reloaded his weapon five times during his killing spree. Friends say Dylan Roof wanted to shoot up a nearby university but couldn’t get past security, so he decided on the likely gun-free church instead, taking advantage of their warm welcome and inclusiveness.

As is always the case when a mass shooting happens, there were red flags ahead of time. Roof had told friends of his hatred toward black Americans and about some of his plans at least a week before. He posed in pictures highlighting his bigoted interests that were shared online. His aspirations were not a secret. In a move that is atypical of related acts of violence, he spent an hour in the church before opening fire, which could be another indication of advance planning.

Is America a free country? Yes. So reporting everyone who has biases or passionate opinions to the authorities isn’t called for. We are a land of diverse beliefs and freedom of speech is protected by our Constitution. But if someone you know is threatening to go kill others, discuss it with the authorities. Who knows what horrors you might prevent if they take it seriously. See how this killing spree was averted by an alert father, Father Tips Off Police to Son’s Alleged ISIS Sympathies, Authorities Say.

A common response to this tragedy has been, “I can’t believe something like this could happen!” I understand the feelings of shock, horror, and disbelief. No one wants to believe this could happen to them, or their family, or in their church. Start believing it. This is the world we live in.

Hundreds of people have lost their lives in church violence in America and Christian persecution is rampant around the world. This is not by any means the first time this has happened, and it is far from being the last. Given the volatile state of our planet, and increasing animosity towards Christians and Jews, I expect to see more of the same and worse.

For some graphic examples of what is happening to Christians in other countries, see the Gatestone Institute’s recent report Jihad on Christians. Some will protest that I’m drawing a parallel to Islamic terrorism, but reality is that this rabid intolerance of other belief systems is universal. There are millions upon millions of human beings today who think they are justified in violating and killing others because they’re different.

Going back to, “I can’t believe something like this could happen!”, this is a wake up call to all churches in America. You should have a security committee. You should have a security plan. You should be ready for natural disasters and emergencies. The church should be the most prepared private entity in any given community as community members will look to you in times of crisis. You’re also responsible for the well-being of a lot of those same people. Stop worrying about being nice and start thinking of how to save lives.

Jimmy Meeks again, from Church security: need highlighted by S.C. shooting:

“The biggest obstacle for churches is just not believing that [a violent attack] could happen at their churches,” said Jimmy Meeks, a Southern Baptist police officer in Hurst, Texas, who presents church security seminars across America. People “don’t listen to what needs to be done until they believe it needs to be done.”

The popular WWJD campaign years ago always depicted Jesus as doing “something sweet” and often overlooked Christ’s cautious or protective actions, Meeks said. “What about John 2:24b-25 — Jesus ‘knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man’? What’s wrong with not trusting people you don’t know? Be watchful of them.”

Some church leaders say, “we don’t have the money!” You can increase security and be better prepared without money. You just need to start with a few good men and women willing to sit down and develop some standard operating procedures. Ask the obvious questions–what if there’s a fire? Active shooter? Earthquake? Tornado? Controversial guest speaker? Bomb threat? Kidnapping? Domestic abuser who keeps showing up at the church threatening his ex-wife?

Discuss how you would ideally handle such events and draw up a plan. Consider that some of the biggest threats might come from or have to do with your church family itself. Domestic violence often becomes workplace violence– similarly, an abuser usually knows where their ex goes to church and might want to take her out among others in a blaze of glory. A noncustodial parent might try to remove their child from a nursery. Protesters could show up and try to disrupt an event.

Brainstorm. Take notes. Don’t consider any question or scenario too outrageous or unlikely. Consider all events at the church, not just large services. Involve your local law enforcement agency to get their insights. They will often do security assessments or consultations. Some offer security training for churches. There are also private security firms who provide these services. Obtain copies of plans other congregations or agencies have written up and work from them. Train your staff members and volunteers in basic emergency protocols. Got CERTs? Got parishioners who carry firearms? Got first responders? Know your assets. Don’t require people to disclose, just ask for volunteers.

This mass murder has caused the age-old debate about firearms to flare up again. I’ve reviewed countless news articles about this story and people are either saying, “This is why we should ban firearms!” or “We need to increase armed security in church.” If your church already has one or more uniformed police officers on hand during Sunday services, then you already know the value of meeting any threat with an appropriate level of force. You acknowledge the value of having someone with certain training and skills standing by.

The fastest way to take down an active shooter and keep him from reloading five times can be an armed good guy. The use of firearms in a crowded room is obviously risky, but chances are not many people, on zero notice, are going to want to rush a gunman even though statistical chances of surviving such an incident are greater the more quickly the threat can be neutralized. Let’s not forget what one armed off duty cop was able to do in Colorado, Colorado Springs vs. Charleston: The Church Massacre That Ended Differently.

There is intense interest in church security right now, particularly in the presence of guns in churches. Time just featured Why Some Pastors Bring Their Guns to the Pulpit. This church in Colorado has 100 volunteers trained as security guards. In North Carolina, one pastor had good reason to assemble an armed volunteer security team known as the Watchmen (a nod to the story of Nehemiah). Pulse O2DA Firearms Training, Inc. is hosting a free webinar, Five Immediate Steps To Enhance Church Security, on Thursday, June 25, 2015 at 12:00 CDT.

How each church protects itself is up to its leaders. Some leaders are not anti-gun but are concerned about what might happen if uniformed police officers run into a building and see “regular” people with guns drawn– they don’t know who the criminal is. No matter how you feel about guns, now is the time to learn, to prepare, to train. A storm is coming and there is no reason to be caught unprepared. Churches, unfortunately, are for the most part soft targets, or to put it another way, sitting ducks. They have all sorts of unsecured entrances and exits and windows and activities, and most people present will have their backs to the myriad ingress and egress points. Those who don’t, like priests, rabbis, and pastors, will be absorbed in their duties. People often have their eyes closed. Consider limiting ways into the building once services start.

From First Coast News, Pastors consider beefing up church security:

“There are lot of critics that feel that pastors or even parishioners don’t need to have certain protection in places,” said Jefferson. “That is totally wrong.”

The former Jacksonville Sheriff’s officer is a member of the security detail at Impact church. He said he has served in that capacity 13 years.

“You have to have eyes that are watching people as the come in,” he said. “Watching their body language, watching what they’re carrying.”

Jefferson alludes to a practice that has kept the Israelis safe for years, behavioral profiling. Ushers, greeters, and others can be trained to watch for and report suspicious behavior. The sergeant quoted here says that everybody’s responsible for church security– “We train our members that if something looks suspicious, it is.” At his church they have an aptly-named Ministry of Defense. 

As I told callers to the police department for many years, we’d rather have you report something and have it turn out to be nothing than not do anything and have it be something. Everyone at church should be comfortable reporting things and should know who to report those to. People also need to know it’s okay to call 911 in emergencies– you’d be amazed at how many people call places other than police and fire dispatch because they “didn’t think it was important enough.” Then they’ll call 911 to ask what time it is.

In today’s world, it’s madness not to prepare for acts of violence and other emergencies. They happen to someone, somewhere, every day, and the more we talk about what could possibly happen, the more likely it is that we will be able to respond to these events rather than react. So have an emergency plan like school districts do. Take advantage of Community Emergency Response Team training. FEMA recently had a webinar titled Preparing Houses of Worship for Emergencies. They have other relevant webinars archived, and other great material about preparedness. You can have code words to put the church on lockdown, install security cameras and alarm systems, change your cash-handling procedures– there are many actions you can take to improve security right now.

This video was recommended to me by a trusted friend in law enforcement, Run. Hide. Fight. You can easily find other online videos and resources, like church security expert Carl Chinn’s website. It’s packed with useful information. In western Washington, the ADTA, Armed Defense Training Association, is an excellent place to learn practical self-defense and firearms skills. Again, tap your local police and fire departments for pointers and plans.

As an aside, please do not limit your security committees and security team members to uniformed personnel. There are members with other valuable skills and insights, and women in particular can often contribute a different perspective than the sometimes black and white thinking of professionally trained men. Psychologists and teachers and nurses are just some of the people who can enhance your committees and teams.

Again, a storm is coming. Around the world, terrorists and zealots and criminals and bigots are storming the house of God. We can and should pray for peace and divine protection, but God also requires us to do the best we can with what we have to protect our brothers and sisters. Last March in Pakistan, suicide bombers attempted to murder Christians in church but were stopped by volunteer security guards who were killed in the explosions.There would have been many more deaths if it weren’t for their preparedness. As I regularly review reports of Christian persecution and church security issues from around the world, I become increasingly impressed that the churches usually doing the most to protect their people are the ones with the fewest resources.

As a survivor of domestic violence that involved specific firearms threats, for years I considered that I might be endangering others simply by going to church. In that time I learned to consider all the angles of how a possible attack would take place and have become passionate about teaching others to– and please listen to my words carefully here– be prepared, not paranoid. We are not given a spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). We should not be “nice” about looming threats against the church and human life and be overly concerned about what the rest of the world thinks. We should take a bold stand knowing an infinite power is behind us, and by protecting each other we are fully in line with His principles and character.

There is something each of us can do to improve church security. The “I can’t believe this could happen to us” and “we hadn’t really thought about security” mentalities have to go. Watch. Pray. Volunteer. Give. We are a body. We should function as a body. It’s time for that body to put on the armor of God and take a stand against the forces that come to rob and destroy. We need some literal armor too, whatever form that takes. Don’t be caught naked and helpless when the wolves come to your church. They might already be inside.

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The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it. –Albert Einstein

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This is a hot topic right now so I want to add some more thoughts:

-Some churches say “we have a security guard outside.” Okay, so who do you have inside? Having a visible off-duty officer is great, but it’s time to think about recruiting and training some not so obvious church members who will be in the services. There might be no communication between the person outside and the people inside. Something bad could happen inside before the person outside would ever know or be able to respond. Security should not only be roaming the perimeter, but mingling.

-An interesting suggestion from a few articles I’ve perused: Once the service begins, limit the number of doors that can be opened from the outside so you can keep a definite eye on the one or few doors still open. The point is limiting access to the building once people are inside, absorbed in the service, with their backs to the door.

FEMA Webinar Library – someone needs to update the page’s content in places, but you will some both older and newer material on here

-Some pastors are being very open that their churches won’t be messed with and trying to harm others there would be a very dumb thing to do. Don’t be a soft target. While you don’t want to show all your cards, it’s not a bad idea to brief the congregation on what to do in an emergency (like don’t all run out the same door) and make it known your church takes security seriously.

-In Fiji, they include churches in their National Security Strategy.

-As an aside, it’s offensive to me that being from the South or being at all associated with the Confederacy means you’re racist. There is an overreaction going on when those energies would be better focused on healing rifts rather than hammering on generalizations that will only widen them. Millions still believe that the Civil War was fought over slavery and therefore everyone who fought for the South was a racist in favor of slavery or a slave owner.

There were a number of issues driving the Civil War, namely the role of the federal government, states’ rights, preserving the Union, and economic issues. Ultimately the South believed it should have the right to break away. Slavery was certainly tied to all of these issues, but many people didn’t take up arms to end or defend slavery. I also resent the suggestion that my Confederate ancestor was racist when he wasn’t all white.

-Don’t forget about all the other events that go on during the week besides your main services– Bible studies, classes, kids’ events, piano lessons, weddings, the average workdays for the pastoral staff. Be prepared all the time, not just for your big services or events. Some criminals or terrorists strike when they’re least expected or will meet the least resistance. They might want to target a specific individual and attempt to harm them when there’s few to no one else around.

-There are security systems that can be viewed from smartphones at all times and other useful technology. It’s not a substitute for a security team, but it can be a major asset.

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©2015 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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Pet Tracker

Unfortunately, when a pet goes missing, the perception that it’s a bona fide family member doesn’t hold up. When a child disappears, the community throws all its resources into bringing him or her safely home. When a beloved dog or cat disappears, it’s just that: LOST DOG, two words on a poster that most people won’t even notice.

Somebody ought to train a search dog to find lost pets, I thought.

Guess which somebody it turned out to be . . .

-Kat Albrecht, Pet Tracker: The Amazing Story of Rachel the K-9 Pet Detective

Do you love animals? Are you a dog parent/owner? Do you work in the criminal justice or psychology fields? Have you ever wondered what your dog or cat is truly capable of? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are among the many who will be blessed by this fascinating foray into the life of a woman whose dogged determination– pun intended– led her to a career as a pet detective.

Kat Albrecht is one woman you should never say “that can’t be done” to. Years ago I became aware of Kat’s work finding missing pets and have referred concerned pet owners to her Missing Pet Partnership website and Pet Detective Blog. Kat offers Lost Pet Recovery training on her website at Katalbrecht.com and has an informative Facebook page.

Additionally, Kat’s Mercy Paws ministry trains teens in her field of expertise and helps them discover their life’s purpose through service and love for God’s creatures. Her journey from disillusioned dispatcher to passionate police officer to preeminent pet detective can and should inspire others to fight for their dreams. A major theme in Pet Tracker is finding your true calling and leaving behind the soul-sucking jobs that cage your talents and authentic self.

So how does a woman named Kat become an expert on search dogs? Kat began her career as a law enforcement employee in the not too distant past. Simply by virtue of her gender she ran smack into the brick wall of sexism so prominent in policing at the time (and still present in all too many agencies today). As a young, female go-getter, the male-dominated culture in her agency found her work ethic, innovative methods, and intelligence threatening. She was told to do menial “female” tasks and harassed, like when trying to build rapport with victims and suspects. Kat was forced to confront pervasive stereotypes and bias in the policing profession as she worked hard to show that she was not only a capable cop, but one with particular gifts.

On this point, as a former civilian law enforcement employee, I identify with Kat’s struggles. I joined policing later that same decade and was appalled that female employees, particularly civilian ones, were more highly regarded when they acted perky, giggled a lot, and made coffee, in my words at the time. Being sexually available to certain figures was sure to score major prom queen points and a prominent place on the popularity ladder as well.

I also remember the department-wide shock wave caused when I used the words “crappy report writing” about an officer’s narrative and it was overheard; you’d think I’d threatened the life of the president. It became clear that as a female– and a civilian– I was stepping outside my tiny culturally-defined box. They could say it, but I didn’t have the same freedoms. I learned, as Kat did, that being an intelligent female who challenges the status quo by trying to improve processes and procedures was often met with hate and derision. This was especially true for Kat as a sworn police officer because she was working in a traditionally male role alongside men who didn’t want her there.

Furthermore, Kat stepped WAY out of her box when she suggested that her agency utilize trained search dogs for their work. Kat wanted to be a K9 officer but again– gasp– she was female, and police dogs weren’t trained to perform the tasks she had started teaching her own dogs to do. Her department told her not to use a trained bloodhound to search for a missing girl. Even in a volunteer capacity, police departments were not receptive to the idea of using trained dogs to save lives, enhance public safety, and recover victims. Full-fledged Officer Albrecht was actually told to go work elsewhere if she wanted to work with a bloodhound!

This barrier is also familiar to me– law enforcement agencies sometimes feel threatened by outside help. They might believe they’ll do better without a pet detective or forensic psychologist or behavioral expert even though cops don’t usually have such training. Some also tend to do things the way they’ve always been done rather than act in the best interest of the public they’re sworn to protect. While I know many open-minded, intelligent, and creative minds in the business, there are also those, particularly those in charge, who are set in their ways and feel that change undermines their authority. They may seem attempts at positive change as insubordination or subversion.

In retrospect, Kat realized that “my passion for working search dogs was viewed as arrogance.” She just wanted to help. So she began to plan how she could develop her passion for working with her dogs instead of how to adapt to a police department that was never going to let her– or her dogs– do what they were best at. The time and effort she put into discovering her dogs’ individual gifts– aided by a very gifted and patient cat– is nothing short of remarkable.

With her dogs at her side she took what she learned in law enforcement and translated that into pet detective work– while continuing her career as a law enforcement officer at another agency who welcomed their skills (having had people at the same agency, I appreciate its open-mindedness). This much-needed positive change came about as she renewed her relationship with God and started seeking His way instead of her own. Woven into Pet Tracker is the discipline of learning to hear from God and trusting Him. As Kat can attest to, even when your own plans seem perfect, He sometimes has a better way. And literally stop her in her tracks a couple of times He did.

It was when her own police bloodhound went missing that Kat realized just how much of a need there is for canines trained to find pets. A volunteer dog located her beloved partner but that dog was one of very few conditioned to do so. As she points out, police dogs are trained to ignore other animals, not find them, so the average K9 officer can’t do this. She noted striking similarities between lost people and lost pet cases and built upon that, founding the National Center for Missing Pets on the way. Then life threw her another curve ball with a life-changing freak injury suffered as a cop but even then she found ways to continue and expand her mission.

Besides being a refreshingly honest look at the barriers she had to break in policing in order to use dogs in this line of work, Pet Tracker offers a very realistic look at certain dog breeds and also delves into the priceless value of rescue pets. It gives proper credit to the uniqueness of each dog and the depths of their intelligence. I was fascinated to learn how Kat determines what makes a good search dog and allows the dog’s natural gifts determine what type of search dog they will be. Like people, they can be trained for different purposes. As she won over law enforcement officials with her methods and victories, one detective noted, “I’ve yet to see a police dog around here that could find a simple hole in the ground… but your dog has made a believer out of me.”

Pet Tracker also runs the gamut of emotions and it details Kat’s relationships with her original search dogs and feline assistants including their aging and loss. I felt the latter deeply because I read the book less than a week before unexpectedly losing my own copilot of 15 years, my faithful hound who went through hell and back with me and his kitties. Kat’s descriptions of hound dog behavior and the endearing quirks they can develop rang true. If you’ve ever had a hound, you know that they will follow their nose even if it leads to pronounced peril or it means dragging you along behind them. They follow their noses, point blank, period.

There are other laugh out loud funny moments in Pet Tracker like when you meet characters such as Barry the Boa Constrictor and Bret the Bearded Dragon, a real life rock star. There are also invaluable tips on how to properly search for missing pets. I am convinced that many feline lives could be saved if shelter workers understood how lost cats behave and shared that information with the public. It’s from Kat’s blog that I learned how cats, when sick or injured, usually hide nearby in familiar places, even inside the house they’re thought to have escaped from. She also offers wonderful pointers about the types of posters you should create when looking for a lost pet and how to conduct outreach. I feel even more strongly that cats should not be allowed to roam freely outside after reading this, for their own sake as well as that of other pets and wildlife.

Our nation euthanizes millions of adoptable pets each year because no one claims or adopts them. This is abhorrent. I’m sickened by thinking of how terrified those innocent, loving dogs, cats, rabbits, and other pets are when placed in a stark gas chamber to die. Others are given lethal injections like serial killers just because their owner didn’t properly contain them, come looking for them, abandoned them, or cared enough to spay and neuter, creating thousands more like them. Or because they sat in a cage for a few days with people passing by and not giving them a second thought. This is particularly true for older pets, who are, ironically, usually house trained and more calm and disciplined than puppies and kittens. Every year King County, where Seattle is, puts several thousand adoptable pets to death. And this in a county of more than two million people.

Kat emphasized the importance of finding missing pets and the horrific outcomes for many of them:

Animal shelters, for example, would hold a “stray” dog or cat for seventy-two hours, after which time they either adopted the animal out to a new family or destroyed it. So if a pet owner was not able to get to the shelter within seventy-two hours, their chances of a happy reunion were slim to none. The national “Return to Owner” (RTO) rate for lost dogs reclaimed by their families at animal shelters was sixteen percent. For cats, the rate is much worse—just two percent of stray cats held at shelters have someone show up to reclaim them.

Ultimately Pet Tracker was many things to me:

-An honest look at policing and the challenges women, canines, and innovators face in that profession

-A deeply emotional story about the bonds between pets and their people

-A journey through Kat’s relationships with her own four-legged family members

-The development of each pet’s individual gifts and traits

-A testimony to the power of perseverance and going forward no matter what the odds

-An eye-opening look into the importance of search dogs and their various functions

-The importance of volunteer search dog handlers (the next one could be you!)

-A call to treat our pets and other animals humanely and lovingly

-An insider’s view of missing people and pet cases

-A sobering look at the realities of shelter pets and the fate of many missing or abandoned animals

Pet Tracker is available on Amazon and as an ebook. More information about Pet Tracker and her training manual Dog Detectives are available on the Books page of her blog.

Thank you, Kat Albrecht, and your amazing animals, for never giving up and making the world a brighter and safer place for so many people and their furry loved ones. I highly encourage others to become familiar with Kat’s work and to share her knowledge and expertise liberally.

Who knows? You might be the next great pet detective, and it’s clear that those skills are sorely needed.

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Nobody can fully understand the meaning of love unless he’s owned a dog. He can show you more honest affection with a flick of his tail than a man can gather through a lifetime of handshakes. -Gene Hill

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©2015 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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Purple Candle 2

This week the trial of Alan Smith began in Snohomish County Superior Court. Smith is accused of murdering his children’s mother and estranged spouse Susann Smith in February of 2013. News coverage has been sparse so far, but the Bothell-Kenmore Reporter  has followed the case all along and will continue to post updates. Matt Phelps and crew– thank you for keeping this in the public eye.

Murder trial begins for Bothell man accused of killing estranged wife

In May of 2013 I wrote the post below, Murdering Susann Smith, which has hundreds of comments attached. I didn’t know when I penned it that it would become a gathering spot for people wanting more information about the case and to share what they knew. The neighborhood where this happened was concerned about their safety and disgusted by what went on at the Smith house after her murder.

For a long time, the primary suspect in the case was free and making a very public affair of his relationship with his new girlfriend, who later committed suicide after giving birth to their child. I still have trouble typing that, especially in light of what he allegedly did to Susann. He treated both women as disposable, as if he was God and had every right to hurt them and then get rid of them. Eventually the police had enough evidence and arrested him.

The brutality of Susann’s death does not resemble a burglary gone wrong as the defense claims. It was targeted, personal, and intended to inflict maximum damage. It shows wicked rage and a deep, seething hatred that had built up like a volcano. I’m surprised that the defense is going with that, that a burglar did it and Alan was at home asleep with his kids when this happened. My knee jerk reaction was, “you’re kidding me.” That is not the angle I thought they’d take, especially in light of the advance planning the police said went on and the evidence.

Returning to what I said in the first paragraph, the media hasn’t taken much of an interest in Susann’s murder. Stories about Alan having sex in his front yard after her murder were read around the world, so the original horror got lost in mankind’s voyeuristic attraction to the sleaze of it all. Imagine if every person who read the public sex story or commented on it in a public forum gave just one dollar to an agency that helps domestic violence victims. Millions of dollars could have been raised.

I’d like to provoke some coverage in the interest of raising awareness of domestic violence and related homicide. Susann Smith was one of 29 victims of domestic violence homicide in Washington State in 2013 and one of two in Snohomish County. This is not rare; it has happened many times before and will happen again. But there is a lot we can do to stop it, and I encourage you to visit some of the domestic violence-related links on the right sidebar to learn more about what you can do to help.

Susann was a beautiful woman who was devoted to her children and I suspect that I would have really liked Susann if I’d met her. But news outlets go for the money making stories, and this case didn’t involve a 21 year-old with perfectly curled hair extensions, false lashes, selfies of her drinking with her girlfriends on Facebook, and a bunch of sordid sexual drama in the marriage. Despite Susann originally being from Germany, I didn’t see this murder case get much international coverage until Alan Smith made sure everyone was seeing how cool he thinks he is by exploiting a woman with mental illness.

Perhaps Susann’s family hasn’t wanted the coverage and just wants to make life as normal for her children as they can. This has undoubtedly been traumatic for both sides of the children’s family and more media coverage might twist all sorts of facts and sensationalize particular elements of the case. But I want people to know that there are many more out there like the man who killed Susann, narcissists who think they’re too smart to get caught and who present a life-threatening danger to their victims. I’ve said it many times before, but men and women alike should be intimately familiar with Sandra L. Brown‘s books How to Spot a Dangerous Man and Women Who Love Psychopaths.

Within a few weeks, a female judge will be deciding Alan Smith’s fate, and I expect that any conviction will be followed by appeals. If you’re a praying person, now is the time to pray. Pray for the Susann’s family. Pray for her children. Pray for the suspect’s family and for Love Thai’s family and little boy, that he would grow up unaffected by all of this sorrow.

Prayer opens windows, inviting God in to comfort the grieving and achieve justice. A trial like this can be like putting the victim’s family through her murder all over again, and this time it might be even worse because some have traveled from another country to be in the courtroom. It might be the first time they’ve been that close to the evidence.

Many people are murdered every year. The utter brutality in this case, which is so blatantly personal, is what’s stood out to me all along. It doesn’t surprise me that the Reporter has noted that Alan Smith has looked blank much of the time. If I am correct about his psychological inclinations, he’s a human shark. He won’t feel remorse or regret over Susann’s death except to the extent that it affects him. He’s not beyond God’s reach or redemption, but that’s between him and God and not something anyone else can work out for him.

Whatever comes of this trial– and I pray that justice would come crashing down like fire from heaven so that no one else can be hurt by this guy– I am reminded that the Creator is keeping score. Yes, Alan is innocent until proven guilty. But his outrageous behavior after Susann’s death, including moving back into the house where her blood had soaked the floors and walls– and planning to move his children in there– has not shouted “shaken father trying to normalize his life.” It’s been more like a chest-beating victory cry to the world, and he only has himself to blame for that. No one did this to him. No one did this for him. No one made him do it. And if he’s guilty, he will have to live– or, if the judge sees fit– die knowing that.

This might come across as judgmental. Perhaps. But I’m a woman who’s spent a lifetime up close and personal with narcissists and sociopaths who are willing to badger, belittle, abuse, exploit, and even want to kill women who stand up for themselves. I have experienced various levels of this in my personal life and in the workplace and have two related degrees. There are elements of this case that resonate with me, and ultimately I don’t see “awesome” or “criminal mastermind.” I see cowardice. I see someone who couldn’t own their feelings or actions and robbed two beautiful children of their mother in some sort of demonic act of vengeance.

It’s in God’s hands. And if I were an abuser, or someone who exploits others, or a killer, I’d be at least a little concerned about what He’s going to say when He asks for an account of my life. Who will have the guts to say, “she deserved it” or “it was coming to her?” In light of my belief that what we do in this life determines our station in eternity, that this is the testing ground for what comes next, “oh God, what have I done?” is a much more realistic answer. And the sooner those words are spoken, the more likely it will be that the person saying them won’t choose a forever separate from God’s love.

I can’t provide up to the minute news coverage of this trial but will post things as they’re sent to me or as I come across them. I will approve comments as soon as I can. I don’t make a dime from blogging so you know this isn’t financially motivated. This is about keeping the spotlight on domestic violence, achieving justice for those involved, and remembering a woman who was put through the worst kind of hell for having the courage to move on.

The next Susann Smith could be in the same room with you– what are you doing to help them to safety?

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Please take the time to become familiar with the Document the Abuse website and the Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit featured there. If you are affected by domestic violence, make it impossible for your abuser to get away with it no matter what happens.

Also, check out Susan Murphy Milano’s Times Up! A Guide on How to Leave and Survive Abusive and Stalking Relationships. Susan was our fearless leader at the Time’s Up crime victims advocacy blog until she passed away a couple of years ago. We continue our crusade for justice in her memory.

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©2015 H. Hiatt/wildninja.wordpress.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninja.wordpress.com.

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From Acacia Memorial Park's Dignity Memorial site

Susann Smith. From Acacia Memorial Park’s Dignity Memorial site.

Originally posted May 12th, 2013.

On February 12th of this year, Bothell, Washington resident Susann Smith didn’t show up for work. She was found bludgeoned to death–and stabbed– in the bathtub of her home. This murder set the community on edge and to date a suspect has not been arrested.

Smith had primary custody of her three and six year-old children. Her estranged husband, Allan Smith, saw them on evenings and weekends. They were getting a divorce and Susann had allegedly threatened to take the children back to her native Germany.

Allan has been named as a person of interest and the media has reported that he’d done an online search about countries without extradition treaties. The police are also investigating purchases he made including a bicycle that might have been used in the murder. To put it bluntly, all signs are pointing to the estranged ex-husband, who lived just two miles away. (more…)

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Peachtree City

On New Year’s Day just after 4 A.M., the police chief of Peachtree City, Georgia called 911 to say he’d accidentally shot his wife.

Admittedly, the first thing I thought of was the Brame homicide from 2003. Domestic violence occurs at a higher rate in law enforcement families than the general population, twenty to fifty percent of them depending on which study you’re referencing.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has released the 911 tape, and while I don’t think the public should be listening to the victim’s cries of agony, comments all over the web are addressing the chief’s rather detached demeanor as he speaks to the dispatcher.

How law enforcement agencies in Georgia respond to this incident is critical at a time when cops are being executed in America’s streets. This is a time at which objectivity must prevail and there can be no hint of the wagons circling to protect a member of the law enforcement profession. To preserve or restore people’s faith in policing, this police chief should not get any special treatment.

This what I sincerely wish the unions that back officers no matter how dark their deeds and government officials would keep in mind– if you make exceptions for your uniformed personnel, you are stirring up public distrust and endangering the lives of your officers, including your decent ones. Murderous thugs and terrorists do not differentiate; they just see a faceless body in a uniform. They don’t see a dad or a brother or a daughter or fellow human being– they see a target.

Do we know what happened on January 1st in the McCollums’ bedroom? No. We can’t instantly condemn this man as the next David Brame or Drew Peterson. That’s not right. But do I understand why so many people were instantly suspicious that the shooting was not accidental? Yes. As a survivor of police officer-involved domestic violence that involved repeated firearms threats, including in bed, who went on to study OIDV as the focus of my M.A., I get it.

According to some unverified information I found, Chief McCollum has been married four times and twice to his current wife. He’s been a police officer for about 30 years and is or has been a firearms instructor. I do not know if there are any previous allegations of domestic violence, and it’s not unusual for cops to be married multiple times. He’d only been the chief of police in his town for a short time. Please correct me if you’ve heard otherwise.

Given his professional qualifications, I have a hard time with the claim that he accidentally shot his wife in the back in bed while he was moving the gun. That violates basic firearms safety rules that he was well-acquainted with. Even if this is determined to be an accident, he could still face charges for his negligence, especially if there was alcohol or drugs involved.

Listening to the 911 call, initial information seems to indicate that the victim was shot twice, which was widely reported in the media. McCollum does say, “yes” when the dispatcher asks him if the victim was shot twice. Later the record was set straight– Margaret McCollum was shot once.

While he claims they were asleep when this happened and said, “the gun went off in the middle of the night,” he tells the dispatcher his wife is alert after first asking, “are you having trouble breathing, dear?” (My knee jerk reaction when I heard that was, “dude, who asks someone gasping and crying that after they’ve just been shot, and calls them dear instead of by their first name?”)

McCollum had to be told by the dispatcher to put direct pressure on the wound, something he should already know. He could be in shock and not thinking– many of us are quick to criticize until we’re in that situation. Trauma can easily stun us. Also, people respond to emergencies in different ways, especially when it involves family members. I’ve been in a family situation in which I immediately called 911 and began first aid before a first responder present acted.

On that note, if this were me I hope my first aid training would kick in and I’d already be applying direct pressure to that wound as I’m on the phone with 911. Personally I tend to slip into Army general mode in certain emergencies as well– you do this, you do that, do it now. Again, we’re all different, yet I find the chief’s robotic responses odd, like he’s just standing there looking at his wife instead of helping her. It could be shock. I also considered that it could be satisfaction or gloating over her suffering.

Here’s where the public is going to need assurance that GBI is doing their best– it would be very easy for a well-liked, high ranking police official to claim that this was an accident. This wouldn’t by any means be the first time that a law enforcement officer has claimed his spouse was shot accidentally, or with his/her service weapon. Cops, unfortunately, do sometimes try to hide behind their badges when committing acts of violence against family members.This makes conditions arguably more dangerous for the victims of OIDV than other victims.

Reports say that Chief McCollum has been at his wife’s bedside as she lies in critical condition. Some citizens are asking whether, if he were just a regular guy, he’d be locked up. I don’t know how they do that in Georgia. As for me, I’m thinking that if this was domestic violence and/or attempted murder, how utterly horrific for Margaret McCollum that he’s right there with her, monitoring everything she might be able to say.

I think back to another situation in which the victim was doped up after the alleged accident and passed away without being able to communicate. It happened at an extremely questionable time and was one of a string of incidents with a Munchausen syndome by proxy (technically Factitious disorder imposed on another) flavor. In that case I’d told others for years that their life was in danger, but so far, it’s still considered an accident. It can be difficult to prove otherwise.

Any investigator worth their salt will look into not only the suspect’s history but also the victim’s. Had there been hints of abuse before, in any form? Abuse escalates; it might start as verbal or financial and in time become physical. What’s the victim’s relationship history? Was he/she attracted to a certain type? Had their been other accidents in their life and the lives of others associated with the suspect? In this case, why was this the second time they’ve been married and why were they divorced before? That one’s a red flag. 

Had there been any recent financial or insurance changes? Do they make more money or have a higher paying job than the suspect? Were they considering a breakup or divorce? Had they ever tried to tell anyone that things weren’t right in the relationship? Did they feel marginalized or controlled? You have to build a complete picture of everyone involved in order to prove guilt or innocence.

Too often in cases that involve public figures we focus on whether the general perception of people in their world consider them “a great guy.” Many are quick to rush to defend those with fame or titles, acting like there’s no way that person could be capable of a crime because of their fame or title. Others want to instantly blame the victim for being “crazy” or provoking the incident.This is thinking with emotion rather than reason.

Instead, I would ask who involved in any given case had something to gain and something to lose, and ask who benefits. I also harp on the concept of “start by believing,” in which you take an allegation of abuse, sexual assault, stalking, etc. seriously and investigate objectively. You must always think beyond the obvious and consider all angles, whether or not they jive with your education and experiences.

It also helps, in incidents involving LEOs, to pay attention to those who aren’t so high-ranking or in the limelight. Rank and file officers, as well as civilian employees, often know a great deal about their department’s inner workings, politics, and secrets, yet aren’t called upon for their input. Investigators often go right to those at the top for information and leave it at that. This only allows those proverbial wagons to circle even tighter if it’s the type of agency that has wagons. And the faith of lower ranking officers in their agency’s leadership can falter mightily when the higher ups take care of their own.

So what really happened here? The GBI will have to find out. They have some notable talent, and it is prudent and necessary to have an agency at that level investigate. Too often departments get to investigate their own employees or themselves, or have a neighboring agency with a circle the wagons culture do it. I don’t know if this is SOP in Georgia but it was a good call. It’s also good that they’re not giving opinions one way or the other about what happened. They did not instantly defend Chief McCollum or talk about what a notable relationship he has with their agency that I’ve seen.

Was this just a terrible accident, a duty weapon “going off” in the middle of the night when being moved? Or was it someone who’s high on the power they’ve been entrusted with showing the victim of their wrath who’s boss? There are other possibilities as well, but my initial observations are that I won’t be surprised at all if it is domestic violence-related. We’ve seen it happen too many times before not to consider that might be the case (like in this case involving a former officer whose department wisely cut him loose long before). If it is a reckless accident, then the professionals will deal with it accordingly. Either way, us praying people should be praying for everyone involved.

Additionally, many of us have strong suspicions about accidental shootings that anyone commits. Yes, sometimes they happen, but generally not in bed during the high stress holiday season when domestic violence tends to peak. I used to do ride alongs on holidays, and inevitably there would be domestic violence call after domestic violence call. Family politics, finances, future plans, football loyalties, and more can work their way into a furious froth around Christmas and New Year’s.

Ultimately, this is an opportunity for this department and the GBI to show the public how just such an investigation is done. If the man is guilty, he needs to be held to the same standards as anyone else. Period. He is subject to the same laws. If he is innocent, then damage control needs to be done so that the anarchists and angry mobs with pitchforks don’t unjustly take their ire out on him and his family. The media already put their house and address on the news. No matter what he is, his wife should be afforded all the precautions, protections, and advocates necessary. No one should be assuming that she’s safe.

Frankly stated, the police in general need to be transparent when investigating members of their profession. This does not mean releasing all information on the victim. It does mean communicating with the outside world in bullet points while the investigation is going on and not being secretive about the rationale behind the findings. It does mean that department leadership must conduct itself in a way that commands respect from its officers and other employees. It does mean that the public should be confident that everything possible was done to protect the victim and seek justice. After all, the police are public servants.

Without increased doses of this transparency, integrity, and impartiality, widespread hatred of cops will continue to grow. Millions see them as a secretive brotherhood who always protect their own and believe they’re exempt from the rules everyone else is expected to live by. Not all are like this, but this is the lens many people see them through. Even a few bad apples can make the whole bunch appear rotten when they’re not.

This has to change. Officers are being painted with a broad brush even when they don’t deserve it. I’ll say it again– leaders who allow otherwise are putting their officers in danger. They are also making it very difficult for honest cops to stay safe and employed. I have people in that line of work– please do not make it more difficult for my people. One already lost his job when the wagons circled to protect a buddy of the higher ups. Years later some modicum of justice was achieved in court, but the costs to him and his family were catastrophic.

This is not the time or place in history to be causing your officers to face more threats than they already do. We have a world filled with terrorists and nut jobs and criminals who’d gladly take out an officer if it means not getting caught. It seems like we hear about another officer down every day. Leaders also must be accountable to the public. This is not optional. This is where many departments need help, and why I invite the participation of much-dreaded public review boards.

As I was writing this I thought about Frank Serpico, a former New York officer who paid a terrible price for speaking out against corruption in that department in the early 1970s. More than 40 years later, he still gets hate mail and death threats. In October he penned a piece for Politico called The Police Are Still Out of Control: I should know.

Whether or not you agree with his assertions– I value his insights and candid take even when I don’t see eye to eye on certain incidents or issues– he has a list of what the police should be doing towards the end of the article. Numbers four, five, and six are as follows, and I heartily agree with all six:

4. Enforce the laws against everyone, including police officers. When police officers do wrong, use those individuals as examples of what not to do – so that others know that this behavior will not be tolerated. And tell the police unions and detective endowment associations they need to keep their noses out of the justice system;

5. Support the good guys. Honest cops who tell the truth and behave in exemplary fashion should be honored, promoted and held up as strong positive examples of what it means to be a cop;

6. Last but not least, police cannot police themselves. Develop permanent, independent boards to review incidents of police corruption and brutality—and then fund them well and support them publicly. Only this can change a culture that has existed since the beginnings of the modern police department.

Number four is obviously relevant to this situation in Peachtree City, Georgia. Now is the time for investigators in this incident to shine and so far they seem to be doing a great job. Even if this turns out to be a terrible and embarrassing accident, they can do a fantastic job proving it and cause others to be confident in their findings.

Overall, the curious case of Chief William McCollum is somewhat of a litmus test in police response during a very dangerous time for cops. If ever there was a time for the law enforcement profession to sincerely improve its image– regardless of how good a certain agency already is, and I know some good ones along with some amazing officers– it’s now.

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Seek not greatness, but seek truth and you will find both. -Horace Mann

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©2015 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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