Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story 8/1/03

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This week's corrupt cops story comes from Spokane, WA, self-described capital of the Pacific Northwest's "Inland Empire." (Some disillusioned locals refer to it as the "Ingrown Empire.")

In a case that has drawn considerable public attention in the area, former Spokane County sheriff's deputy James Crabtree is set to be sentenced this week on four counts of cocaine delivery, two counts of cocaine possession, and one count of aggravated vehicular assault. The charges stem in part from a December 2001 traffic accident in which Crabtree was found in possession of a crack pipe and a bag of cocaine. Ironically, the car he hit was driven by another Spokane County sheriff's deputy with whom Crabtree once worked. Then, in April, Crabtree was again arrested, this time for selling crack. Last month, he accepted an Alford plea, in which he conceded that there was sufficient evidence to convict him.

A cop gone bad in the drug war is hardly news. What has really stirred controversy is Spokane Police Chief Roger Bragdon's intervention on Crabtree's behalf before sentencing. Bragdon last week wrote a letter to the judge in the case asking for leniency for Crabtree, 42, whose career as a deputy stretched from 1982 to 1987. But Crabtree's connections run deeper than that brief stint. His father, Chuck Crabtree, was a longtime Spokane police captain who once supervised Bragdon.

Prosecutors asked for a five-year sentence, but Chief Bragdon asked the judge to temper justice with mercy. Citing his three decades of law enforcement experience, including three years as head of the department's drug unit, Bragdon wrote, "I have learned that it is not 'criminals' who are addicted. Addiction can capture anyone and destroy their lives and unfortunately, even the lives of family and friends who love them. We both know that strict enforcement efforts and incarceration have done nothing to affect the addicted individual."

While Bragdon did not mention Crabtree's time as a deputy in the letter, in public remarks defending the letter he told reporters Crabtree's years of service deserved some weight. He also added that Crabtree could be subject to violence from other inmates because he is a former officer. Bragdon's intervention did not sit well with the Spokane Police Guild, which issued its own statement on l'affaire Crabtree. "It is our desire that judgment be based on the facts, that no preferential treatment be given, and that punishment be fair and equal to similar cases," Guild president Cpl. Cliff Walker wrote.

That seems a reasonable standard. It could be maintained by Chief Bragdon sending similarly enlightened letters on behalf of all drug offenders his force arrests. Or, given his concession that busting and imprisoning drug users has "done nothing to affect the addicted individual," maybe he could just stop arresting those people.

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Issue #298, 8/1/03 Kansas City Drug Fighting Tax Encounters Organized Opposition | Prison Population Increase Accelerates, Up 2.6% Last Year | Brazil's Lula Backslides on Drug Reform, Grants Military Continued Control Over Anti-Drug Agency | This Week in History | Newsbrief: Mozambique, Swazi Farmers Find Dagga Crop Lucrative, But Have to Adjust to Market Trends | Newsbrief: Brazil Bans Viagra Ads | Newsbrief: British Young People Using More Hard Drugs, Health Department Says | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story | Newsbrief: Another Pain Doctor Charged With Murder | Newsbrief: Florida Ex-Cons to Get Voting Rights | Mini Briefs: Illinois Syringe Deregulation, James Geddes Released | Web Scan: OPN, HRC, Cultural Baggage, Salon.com | The Reformer's Calendar

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