Stories about law and politics in the Pacific Northwest, with many from KPLU's Law and Justice reporter, Paula Wissel.

Paula Wissel/KPLU

Police in Seattle and King County will soon be trained in the importance of talking.  They’ll learn to treat people with respect as a way of diffusing tense situations.  Law enforcement officials hope the new approach helps build trust with the community.

SuperFantastic (Bruce) /

Why were "bath salts" for sale in head shops? Because they contained stimulants known as substituted cathinones that can affect user behavior and judgment. They've been growing in popularity as a legal alternative to cocaine or methamphetamine.

As of April 15th, they're no longer legal in Washington; the state Board of Pharmacy has approved emergency rules classifying the salts as Class I controlled substances, banning their manufacture, sale, delivery and possession.

The Washington legislature is headed for an overtime session. The Senate late Monday approved its plan to close a 5-billion dollar budget shortfall. But it is unlikely differences between the House and Senate can be reconciled by this Sunday’s Easter deadline.

U.S. Embassy, Afghanistan

Former Seattle Police Chief and current White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske is reportedly in the running for Chicago’s police superintendent.

A new law that would legalize medical-marijuana dispensaries and growers in Washington has already passed both chambers of the legislature in Olympia.  But it looks like it won't ever take effect.

That's because the state's top federal prosecutors have threatened to crack down if it goes forward.

In a letter to Governor Chris Gregoire, U.S. Attorneys Jenny Durkan of Seattle and Michael Ormsby of Spokane write that the bill would undermine drug enforcement

Lynn Aa'isha

It could be two decades before Seattle needs more jail beds for its misdemeanor inmates. City and King County leaders say that’s the expected result of a new agreement.

The deal extends an arrangement the city and county struck last year to house some of Seattle’s jail population in the county’s downtown facility. That brought an end to a controversial search for a new city jail site.

Mayor Mike McGinn says he’s glad that’s off the table for now:

Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

This week we're taking a look at what police say is a resurgence of gang activity - especially in rural areas. In part four of our series "Living In Gangland" we learned how one Idaho man got out of a gang - and stayed out.

Paula Wissel

For the first time, the Seattle Public Library was the venue for a naturalization ceremony.  Eighty-six people from twenty-eight countries were sworn in as American citizens.

Austin Jenkins / N3

Teachers and other public school employees in Washington could face a 3% pay cut. That’s one of the key cost-saving measures contained in the State Senate’s two-year budget proposal. It was unveiled late Tuesday.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

This week we're taking a look at what police say is a resurgence of gang activity - especially in rural areas. In part three of "Living In Gangland," we profile a mother and daughter and their struggle with gangs.

Across the nation there are an estimated 750,000 gang members. That's according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Some of them are women, but more often, women are impacted as the mothers, sisters and girlfriends of gang memgers. They may not actively choose the gang life, but its perils affect them nonetheless.

When to call 9-1-1

Apr 12, 2011
Al Pavangkanan /

The Washington State Patrol is reminding people they should call 9-1-1 only when they need police, fire, or emergency medical services. It may seem like simple common sense advice that everyone knows, but dispatchers frequently get calls asking for road conditions or driving directions. Frivolous calls like that can delay someone from getting the emergency help they need.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

This week we're taking a look at what police say is a resurgence of gang activity - especially in rural areas. In part two of "Living in Gangland," we bring you the story of the unincorporated town of Outlook, in Eastern Washington - and one woman who is fighting to get the town back.

When "Maria" gets off Interstate 82 and heads down the off ramp for Outlook – she starts praying -  that she’ll get home safe today.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

This week we're taking a look at what police say is a resurgence of gang activity - especially in rural areas. In part one of our series “Living In Gangland," we go on patrol with a Washington Fish and Wildlife cop. 

Gang violence is mostly a big city problem. But in parts of the rural Northwest, police are grappling with gang rivalries, graffiti and even drive-by shootings.

Just ask Darin Smith, chief of police in Royal City, Washington, population 2,000.

Still image courtesy of Anzamarch (Junko) / YouTube

Clean it up or close it down – that's the choice for the new owner of a vacant property in South Seattle that's become notorious for noisy raves. 

Police have declared The Citadel a chronic nuisance. The boxy warehouse building was turned into a music venue by owner Steve Rauf, who says the dance parties have brought in much-needed revenue. 

Court fines issued to felons in Washington vary according to the criminal’s ethnicity and location. That’s the conclusion of a University of Washington study published online in American Sociological Review.

Flickr user Gexydaf /

A little more than a year after 36 members and associates of the Hilltop Crips were arrested and prosecuted, Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist is declaring "a victory for the community". Lindquist says the sweep has dramatically reduced incidents of gang violence. 

Photo by Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU News

"We have nothing to hide" – those were the words of Seattle's chief of police yesterday.  The department is under fire. 

The questions stem from a federal review of the fatal shooting of a first nation's wood carver last August, as well as what many people perceive as a prior pattern of  abusive violence against minority groups.

Ted S. Warren / AP

Update 2:55 p.m.

The federal Department of Justice is launching a full-scale investigation into possible discrimination and excessive use of force in the Seattle Police Department. The probe will review the department’s policies, practices and behavior.

The investigation will look for what’s called a “pattern or practice” of civil rights violations in how the Seattle police use force, especially against minorities.

Same-sex marriages performed in other states will be recognized as domestic partnerships in Washington State under a bill now awaiting Gov. Chris Gregoire's signature. 

House Bill 1649 passed the state senate Wednesday 28-19. It was already approved by the House of Representatives.

Five peace activists who broke into Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor have been sentenced to prison.  The group cut through fences at the Trident submarine base on November 2, 2009 to reach an area near where nuclear warheads are stored.  Bangor is the largest nuclear weapons storehouse in the United States.

At a trial in Tacoma in December, the Bangor trespassers, also known as the "Bangor Five," were found guilty of conspiracy and destruction of federal  property. 

A follow up now to a story we brought you last fall on people who are sent to jail for failing to pay their debts, like a medical bill. A proposal moving through the legislature would toughen standards for debt collection agencies. It wouldn’t ban the practice of jailing people who owe money.

Last September, we introduced you to Janelle Leslie of Newport near Spokane. She described the night she called the police for help and ended up getting arrested for a warrant she didn’t know about.

Updated 3:17 p.m., Friday, Mar. 25th

Northwest Jesuits have agreed to pay $166.1 million 450 American Indians and Alaska Natives who were abused at the Catholic order's schools around the region.

The Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus runs schools in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska. The claims are from victims who were students at schools in all five states.

Austin Jenkins / N3

A Washington-based soldier has been sentenced to 24-years in prison for killing unarmed civilians in Afghanistan. Specialist Jeremy Morlock pleaded guilty to three counts of premeditated murder and other crimes.


The Colville man accused of planting a bomb along Spokane’s Martin Luther King Day parade route pleaded not guilty today.

It was Kevin Harpham’s second appearance in federal court. The 36 year old wore a tan Spokane County Jail uniform and ankle shackles. His plea means the case is now headed to trial.

The man charged with planting a bomb along the route of Spokane's Martin Luther King Day parade will appear in federal court today.


Drug courts have long been viewed as a success.  The courts give drug offenders charged with non-violent crimes the option of treatment rather than prison.

The courts, including those in Washington State, have proven effective in reducing repeat offenses. But some critics say too much money is being poured into drug courts.

State lawmakers have heard tearful pleas this legislative session from victims of child rape who advocate the statute of limitations be eliminated. A bill with that provision passed unanimously in the state House recently. But it appears destined for oblivion because a state Senate chairman won’t hear the bill.

Washington's budget shortfall has grown to more than $5 billion. That's after Thursday's state revenue forecast. Advocates on the left immediately intensified their calls for lawmakers to end corporate tax exemptions. The Governor warned the legislature to avoid budget gimmicks.

The debate over legalizing marijuana in Washington is producing some unusual alliances. At a legislative hearing Wednesday, lawmakers heard from the wife of Canada's so-called "Prince of Pot." And from the former federal prosecutor who indicted him.

The backpack bomb found along the route of Spokane’s Martin Luther King Day Parade was supposed to be triggered remotely using a car alarm receiver. That’s according to a newly uncovered FBI document.