Departing Attorney Shares Thoughts On Okanogan County

I always like to hear what someone has to say when they are leaving a job.  Leaving a job definitely allows people to be pretty candid about their experience. When I stepped down from my position as the GMA lawyer for Ferry County, I took the opportunity to criticize the groups Riparian Owners of Ferry County and the Stevens County Farm Bureau for their frivolous suits against Ferry County.  See post. Well this week was Michael Haas’ turn to tell us what he thinks.  The Omak-Chronicle reporter Al Camp interviewed Haas about his departure and his planned move back to Port Townsend.  At first the article explained that he was leaving for family reasons, and then Haas went on to lavish compliments on many of the court house staff. He is quoted as saying:  “Overall, your judicial system works well. Your judges are thoughtful, respectful and take their jobs seriously… The same is true for your prosecutor’s office and the county commissioners.”  Just when I was getting ready to think this was a fluff piece that Al Camp wrote, I saw what Haas had to say about law enforcement in Okanogan County.  “…[T]he overall quality of investigations in Okanogan County is abysmal.”   Al Camp explains that Haas said that part of the problem is all the small police departments, though he said the sheriff’s office left much to be desired as well.  Haas questioned the decision of every municipality to set up their own police force, and added that the police could benefit by better and regular training.

So what sort of letters to the editor is this article going to provoke?   I guess we will see when the new paper comes out tomorrow.  Though Haas would certainly know better than me about Okanogan, I am not sure Okanogan police investigations are really that much worse than other rural areas.    In all rural areas, it seems like unproductive officers are allowed to stay on working because it is too hard to get rid of them.  Then you have some inexperienced officers who are totally gung-ho, but really don’t know what they are doing and don’t have the patience to listen and learn from the prosecutors.  A lot of the really good cops end up getting lured away by bigger departments that can afford to pay more.  When I used to work as a prosecutor, the police definitely used to drive me crazy.  Some of the police I worked with often turned in lackluster work, but would expect superhuman results from me as a prosecutor.

Although I didn’t get to know him real well, I always liked Michael Haas.  He knew a lot of about the law, kept up-to-date with new changes in the law, and was always pretty collegial.  I blogged about case he was involved in when he first came to town.  See post.

What do you think?  Is Haas right that there is room for improvement in Okanogan County law enforcement?  Is he simply saying what others are too timid to mention?  In the article Haas mentions that more funding should be spent on drug recovery programs than drug enforcement?  What do you think of that?

4 Responses to “Departing Attorney Shares Thoughts On Okanogan County”

  • B.Quill:

    I agree with Mr. Haas, as a former L.E. officer within the boundries of Okanogan County there was a lack of training, whether it be the Sheriff’s office or a small town department. Officers are too dependant on Prosecutors to do their jobs for them. If officers took more time and actually investigated a crime to it’s fullest, they would find that it makes it easier for them as well as the Prosecutors office to proceed with cases. Instead, the lack of work on the officers part slows the process, interviews and or field work have to be re-conducted, follow-up, etc. I could go on and on here , however like I stated I totally agree with you Mr. Haas and congrats on your future endevours!

  • Wendy:

    Well the police must be doing something right, they are not involved in a rash of killings like the Seattle PD. LOL Blog about that why don’t you?

  • Dave yarnell:

    I can see Mr Haas’ point. Over the years, especially the last eight the quality of training received by certain law enforcement officers in Okanogan County has been reduced from 40 hrs a year to 20 hrs. Training used to consist of Domestic Violence investigations updates, Law updates, crime scene investigative techniques and updates, etc. Now these same officers receive 5-8 hrs of Firearms and Defensive tactics training every other month. See a problem there? It might also make a difference if more attention was placed on investigations and not who stops the most cars and writes the most tickets. I’m sorry Mr Haas is leaving, but he’s right.

    • Steve Graham:

      That is interesting to hear the insights from you guys who are familiar with the system in Okanogan. Thanks for your comments. Looks like it may be time for more training.

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Steve Graham is a criminal defense lawyer, and he splits his time between Spokane and Seattle, Washington. Visit his website by clicking:
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