Hendo’s Corner: Yakima Can End The Violence
First and foremost, to the officers of the Yakima Police Department, thank you so much for doing the hard work that you do and making the choice to get up and put on a uniform that a lot of us take for granted.
I thank you.
I worry for you and worry about mission creep and the direction that the city's crime statistics are going. We were having a really good run there for awhile. Now, people across the city are exhausted by the frequent convenience-store robberies, shootings and uncertainty that has gripped the city in recent weeks.
Any criticism that I or anyone else may have is not of you, but for you.
We are simply concerned our officers are not being given the tools to succeed or the right strategies to combat what is actually happening on the streets at night. We are talking about management and allocation of resources and whether we can improve those areas now and see results. That's short-term, not long-term.
This week I ruffled a few feathers across the city by putting a voice to those concerns.
We had several consecutive days with shootings, homicides and found bodies. I thought a few questions that were left unanswered by press releases and newspaper articles were warranted and said as much on the air for several days.
In addition, in my opinion, a lot of other actual news sources were just regurgitating press releases instead of asking follow-up questions.
Even before this weekend and aside from convenience stores, this city has been dealing with crimes as unacceptable as a boy of 14 walking home from school being shot dead on the street.
The current situation is simply not sustainable.
In light of that frustration facing the city, I was armchair quarterbacking from the safe confines of the studio. That's what morning shows do, whether it's sports -- or especially if it comes to issues that affect our community.
With any topic, I welcome feedback and prefer folks call the studio at 972-KATS and say as much on the air. Still, my contact info is firstname.lastname@example.org for those who can offer some relevant insight or thoughts you want shared on the situation. Keep in mind I have corresponded with dozens since this interview aired, with some very heated words thrown at me, along with some personal stories and thank-yous for asking questions. I have spoken with law enforcement officers and families and everyday people who heard the interview.
This issue has passion behind every heart in the game. That's how I know Yakima is better than this wave of violence. Many of them were worried they might be seen as being critical of the police department as a whole, which is understandable, and they asked I not share their names. I will respect those requests.
I think adults are smart enough that given a chance they will see that debate is good in the long run. We can chew bubble gum and walk at the same time. We can investigate DUI cases and gun robbery cases and elect judges who will keep those responsible behind bars. We can also stop robberies and gang violence at the same time.
Last week, I first ruffled feathers at YPD when I asked why more than a dozen officers were down in the Tri-Cities when we usually only have so many on patrol during the day. We have a lot of robberies and shootings going on I said, ..."Why are we down there in such large numbers?" In response, the Yakima Police Department's public information officer, Mike Bastinelli, sent a note to my partner rather than address me directly.
"Your partner has upset a lot of people here at YPD," was the response Bastinelli sent the station. "He was bitching about our officers going to training last week. Once a year it is required for all officers to go through the Emergency Vehicle Operations training course. it is a course/track at Hanford where officers are able to learn the best techniques for high speed maneuvering. Every officer who your partner saw last week was on one of their off days. He showed complete ignorance in bashing YPD without knowing the facts. Does he want every officer to work seven days a week and not have any days off? I would appreciate you passing this email on to misinformed partner."
I responded just as snarkily, because I am a snarky guy.
"I am glad they are listening, Mike. I will keep complaining until I see the YPD get a handle on the shootings. We have so many high speed chases plaguing the city these days, I am glad to see we are on top of that at least," I wrote. "Please come by and talk about it on the air at any time, I am only putting a mouth to the community's thoughts."
Then the weekend's crazy shootings and dumped body happened.
Bastinelli responded to my invitation.
"How about tomorrow?" he suggested.
I accepted, mainly because I was like many in Yakima who would like to hear more about the decision not to pursue charges in the case of the 18-year-old female whose body was left behind and dumped like a scene from "I Know What You Did Last Summer." Surely it is OK to ask why no investigation or charges for the stolen weapon, manslaughter for whomever owned the home that held the party providing alcohol to minors, and the charges for the kids who moved the body. Perhaps, at the very least, some community service might leave a sense of actual community on those kids.
I thought it would be great for the YPD to ease minds.
During the interview we asked about the latest shooting and another question. While Bastinelli was speaking, I was reminded of the press conference the previous week and wondered why, after such a distressing weekend of events, we hadn't heard from the police chief like we do in every other normal city when a crisis is unfolding.
I think Bastinelli made some very valid points on long-term solutions during our on-air discussion. I also think that we need to find short-term solutions to fix whatever stopped working at the department.
Either way, the YPD and any changes they make are not going to be the only solutions. That much is clear and with that at least, Mr. Bastinelli and I can agree.
I also believe that we can reclaim the title the city just recently earned as an "All American City" and end this onslaught of violence. I believe we can do it sooner rather than later, but it starts with asking questions and debating the answers.
Radio stations are not here just to give you music and teach you about products and services. We are here as a public service, to serve a public interest. We are mandated by license to take into consideration the audience's best interest and take an active role in providing the community with more than just entertainment. At the very least that includes a look at the headlines in our local newspaper and discussing what is happening without blinders -- to ask hard questions and help find ways to make our community better.
Yakima is in one of the most beautiful areas of the state. We have an interstate that makes us an easy hub for business, and there are so many directions this city can move into the future. We can regress or we can act.
Any of the amazing possible futures for Yakima start with an end to the violence. The gangs made their choice. It's our move, Yakima.