LETTER: ‘Disappointed in incompetence and laziness … by Des Moines PD’

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a Reader. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Waterland Blog nor its staff:]

Good Afternoon,

I am writing to share with you pictures and our story from a drunk driving accident that occurred on our property last night.  Last night, 8/10/2014, around 11:30 pm a Chevrolet Camaro (pictured) spun out driving up hill on 14th Ave South (just south of the corner of S 232nd St and 14th Ave S).  My wife and I witnessed two white men in the vehicle, both are pictured in the first picture.  The man in the red shirt was driving and the man in the green shirt was a passenger.  The passenger got out of the vehicle and attempted to push the car out of the ditch while the driver accelerated.  In their attempt they moved the car less than 10 feet to the north until hitting our driveway and knocking over but somehow not running over the man trying to push the car. The driver got out of the car and threw something into the ditch (We found out this morning was a case of beer that is pictured below). MPO J West with Des Moines PD and another officer responded to the scene. The second officer left shortly after. We went outside and spoke with the two men who smelled strongly of alcohol and where stumbling. The man in red admitted to us to driving, that they were drinking and said he didn’t “know what happened.” He then proceeded to tell us that MPO J. West was the “best fucking cop ever” for not taking him to jell and that MPO J West told them he had too much else to deal with and would just call a tow truck.  CPO J. West was on the scene for around one and a half hours until the car was towed and he let the men walk home two blocks away. During this time MPO J West sat in his car, my wife took photos and we continued to have conversation with the men who were clearly and admittedly to us were drunk. My wife took photos of MPO J West’s car and asked him for his business card.  MPO J West then called in another officer (we did not get his name) to come talk with us.  He asked us if we had any questions.  When we asked if they were going to do a sobriety test he told us they couldn’t give one or arrest the driver because they couldn’t put him behind the wheel. We then told him that we saw the driver get out of the car, heard both men admit who the driver was to MPO J West and that they also told us he was driving and admitted to drinking “a lot” at the Sounders match.  The officer then told us it was none of our business. Last we asked if the trash and debris would be cleaned out of our yard, he said the tow truck driver would take care of it. The officers never took statements from us as witnesses and the trash and debris (including their case of beer and license plate from the Camaro) are still in our yard.

I’m disappointed in the incompetence and laziness I have witnessed by Des Moines PD during this and other crimes over the past two years.  While an arrest may not have been the easiest to prosecute, drunk drivers are often charged after an accident where the police did not witness the driver behind the wheel.  And yes, maybe a savvy lawyer could get the charges dropped or convince reasonable doubt, but we could at least make it difficult for an obvious drunk driver to get back on the road. This only sends the message to these young men that they can get away with drunk driving and they unfortunately will likely do it again.  If Des Moines PD would have put a little effort into doing their job in this situation they could prevent future drunk driving deaths.

– Joe Armes, MSF
Chief Solutions Designer & Founder
Analytically Correct

Here are some photos Mr. Armes sent to us



We forwarded this letter onto Doug Jenkins of the Des Moines Police Department, who sent us this response:

The Des Moines Police Department takes the crime of Driving Under the Influence very seriously. We appreciate the citizen bringing their concerns forward and we will look into the actions and behaviors of our officers. In addition, we will reach out to any witnesses to determine what information they may have that will assist us in this investigation.

[Have an opinion or concern you’d like to share with our Readers? Please send us your Letter to the Editor via email. Include your full name, please remain civil and, pending our review, we’ll most likely publish it.]


25 Responses to “LETTER: ‘Disappointed in incompetence and laziness … by Des Moines PD’”
  1. Dan Kennedy says:

    Stand by for lame excuses from Mayor Kaplan or former Mayor (current Councilman) Bob Sheckler…

  2. Joe A says:

    I am the reader who sent in this information. I’ve received a phone call and email back from the Chief Delgado and an email back from Mayor Kaplan. Chief Delgado said it is unacceptable and that contacted his command staff requesting all information be sent to his desk for review. I commend Chief Delgado and Mayor Kaplan for their professionalism and quick response. However, my experience with DMPD in this situation as well as recent burglary and identity theft cases does not leave me feeling safe in this community.

  3. Greg says:

    Thanks for the update, Joe!

    • Marge says:

      I am embarrassed for this writer and sincerely hope Officer West knows how much we trust and love the men and women of our Des Moines police force! They aren’t making headlines for stealing or brutality, but for working within the law. Hurray Des Moines Police, keep up the good work.

      • Aubrey says:

        Marge, I am not sure why you are “embarrassed for this writer?” A citizen that makes a stand for what they feel is correct is perfectly acceptable. I do not believe that the intention here was to put hate out, but more to highlight some of the issues with the current system and the frustrations that are inevitable as part of a flawed system. There is no question that there is more crime than there are police officers on the force to handle.

        Until we start having the conversation about this, little is likely to change. It is time to start having bold conversations and begin to pull together as a community to come up with solutions. Being a catalyst for change is nothing to be embarrassed about or for.


      • Joe A says:

        Please own your embarrassment, I don’t need you to have it for me. I’m not embarrassed for exercising my freedom of speech by sharing facts and an opinion with the public. Just because DMPD has not done ‘as bad’ of acts as other law enforcement in the region doesn’t make these actions justified and I do not cheer for allowing an obvious drunk driver who wrecked his car to walk home and be able to immediately get back behind the wheel.

  4. Cindy B. says:

    MPO J West told them he had too much else to deal with…No Kidding, like the daily shoot outs near Pacific Highway. Plz get your priorities straight, and free our officers up to deal with the real problems of the city. Des Moines Police and Officer MPO West, we support you!

    • Joe A says:

      Cindy, please use facts to back your opinion. There are not daily shoot-outs near Pacific Highway and by chance, if true, it is not being reported and the city and FBI crime data does not show it. I disagree and believe driving under the influence is a “real problem” and should be a priority.

  5. Dan Kennedy says:

    This is what happens when there are not enough police officers on the force to do the proper job.

    A DUI takes an officer off the street about 4 hours to process the drunk/stoner. Meanwhile, the criminals can ravage the town with one less person with authority to find/arrest. The other officers working the shift are in even MORE danger because there is less backup quickly available. It puts the officer into a moral hazard: Do the policing job at hand PROPERLY, despite the amount of time off the street needed to process and tend to victim needs. Or do a PASSABLE job, potentially letting a real criminal go so that the officer is available to help when their fellow officers are dealing with the high rate of violent and property crime here in Des Moines. Ask yourself: what Should their priorities actually be and how would you fix it? Now that pot is legal, situations like this will continue to occur and our cops are stuck in the middle. It only gets worse from here…

    Mayor Kaplan, Ex-mayor Sheckler and their council-cronies (including City Manager Piasecki who sets the budget) have been spending incredible amounts of money on silly things (like the never-to-be used Beach-park “Dining Hall”) INSTEAD OF providing for the industry-standard quantity of police officers. Look it up for yourselves. The number of sworn officers on the DMPD has dwindled from like 43 to 35 in the past decade. What is that, like a 19% DECREASE in cops while our crime has been RISING between 2002 & 2012? Maybe they missed it when they went to City Councilman School, but public safety is the paramount duty of government. And despite the lip service these guys provide to the subject of public safety, they simply don’t put their money where their mouths are.

    In the end, Des Moines citizens and their property are less safe and the cops, are left with a HUGE moral (and physical) hazard. Please stand with me to denounce Mayor Kaplan and Ex-mayor Sheckler’s decade of public safety malfeasance. LIKE this post below.

    • Lynda says:

      Are you saying that taking a drunk driver off our streets should not be a priority? If this happened to you would you tell the LEO to go take care of other business? And what is your attitude about our elected officials all about? Who are you? Is Dan Kennedy your real name? Do you vote in this city? Do you pay taxes here? I for one am tired of your constant attacks on my city and the people I elected to represent me. If anyone out there agrees with me, please “like”.

      P.S. I’m just a regular voting citizen.

    • Dave Kaplan says:

      “Mr. Kennedy”,

      Get your facts straight. Money for capital projects cannot be used for operating expenses (such as for police.) You’ve been told this many times, but it obviously hasn’t sunk in yet.

      Councilmembers have already been having discussions about increasing police staffing. To do that will require our operating revenue growth to continue, additional expense reduction, and some important decisions regarding what to do with one-time revenues. Those decisions will be made in the coming weeks.

      No one disagrees with the need for additional officers. But money doesn’t grow on trees, and we have to be able to sustain those positions into the future and not be put in the same position that resulted in positions being cut (nearly 5 years ago) after our property tax revenues dropped precipitously.

      Dave Kaplan
      Mayor & Councilmember
      City of Des Moines, WA

  6. DM Res says:

    Joe, you keep telling readers to stick to facts, well what are they? Was this officer going on vacation? Where were the other 10 officers, coffee? You said Chief Delgado said this was unacceptable, why? Or was there circumstances out of this officers control you don’t have the FACTS on?! We stand up and behind our officers who have a tremendous responsibility most of us could never comprehend.

  7. dumb moines says:

    This blows me away. Some people actually think the police are too busy handling more important crimes?? There are typically only 4 officers on duty at any time with the cities shoe string budget and one of them is always parked on the hill coming from Redondo writing speeding tickets all day. Not an affective use of police officers in a city that is crippled with crime every day. Drunk drivers should NOT be let off the hook. This person will absolutley drive under the influence again since. I just hope I’m not on the road when they do it again. I can’t wait for the day that Des Moines gets annexed in to Kent or Federal Way so we can gain coverage from well run police departments that get things done.

  8. Dave Mataftin says:

    This looks to be a hot topic here on the blog, as is often the case our public servants are under scrutiny. I in no way will attempt to sway anyone off his or her opinion of the events that night involving Officer West. I will however state my opinion in more than a few areas that might help some of you dig into some of the facts. So as to save you the time I live here in Des Moines (have all my life) and yes I pay taxes to the City oh and by the way…work in Emergency Services.

    I have come to know the Officers of the DMPD both in the professional setting as well as many in a personal way-ALL are my friends and Hero’s, I know they don’t hear that enough. I will be the first to say that I was not there the night of the incident in question and in no way know the facts. I do not agree with the statement that ANY DMPD officer is lazy or incompetent. Truth is they are too busy to be lazy and far too challenged to be incompetent.

    For those of you who might be new to our city or otherwise unaware of its crime issues let me point out a few items. DMPD operates “Teams” of officers with a Sergeant as their boss, if you will. Many times those teams run with a staffing of 4 on-duty and in some cases it drops as low as 3, yes, 3 officers to protect the entire city. I don’t often agree with Mr. Kennedy in his positions but this time I do, we are understaffed when it comes to police. The FBI while useful doesn’t tell the entire story.

    Someone mentioned that, as I recall, the police said the night of the incident they had shootings (I think) to deal with? This is a hard truth about Des Moines that nobody likes to hear. The area known as Pacific Ridge is FULL of thugs, gang members and less than upstanding citizens. There are good people that live in the area I have no doubt they would agree. Drive by the neighborhood (just do so early) and look at all the bared windows. There are what have become almost daily weapon’s discharges in the area. Drug deals, shootings, robberies and assaults are all on the menu. North Hill has been plagued with residential burglaries, how do I know that? I live very near several that have recently occurred.

    Funding for police is an issue in my estimation police staffing should be a high priority…but is it? Just a few years ago the city chose to fund parks over the police. That to be sets a very bad precedent, but its not all bad news, if you ever get shot in a city park, the grass will be cut for you to lay on while the short staffed police respond. Here is something I have heard many times from may people, the May 16th 2006 Police Levy that was passed by voters was to fund cops and it did (for awhile) then as I have been told the general police budget was cut by nearly the same dollar amount-if true, that by the way is illegal, it called Supplanting of Funds. As is destruction of public records, so how do we find out? Stand-by…

    As for the Council, I think that there are for the most part truly caring people on our council with some pretty good ideas. Council person Pennington is a personal friend and I know public safety is a true concern, our Mayor (Kaplin) I feel is doing a good job at trying to repair damage done by the last self serving moron mayor. He by the way needs to just go away so that a more in tune concerned citizen can TAKE his seat. Could be a colorful election for Bobby pretty soon. If the council ever wanted to really see results (in my view) they need to send Piasecki down the road in other words FIRE HIM! Okay so I tossed out some items that should be more closely looked at so for my part I intend to file a Public Records Request dealing with the Levy/Budget issue to see what the truth is. ANY of you can do the same on any matter and I encourage you to do just that, perhaps start with how many officers were on duty the night of this crash, and how many calls the had pending-that by the way can be filed with their dispatch center Valley Communications. Remember, be very specific in your request on any topic, dates, times and subject matter (like radio traffic) are very important.

    In the end these cops are people who care about those they serve, I have no idea what happened that night, but you now know how to find out, if you care to. I don’t, because I will forever trust these officers who serve us.

    Dave Mataftin

    • dumb moines says:

      Dave, your comments are spot on! Thank you for confirming my statement about having only 4 officers on duty. My criticism is certainly not aimed at the individual officers on the front lines. My criticism is of the Des Moines council and manager who have over spent tax payer dollars and done nothing to encourage growth in the city. This is why the polilce don’t have enough support to do their jobs. The city doesn’t have enough money to prosecute criminials so its easier and cheaper to let them go. I bet a lot of folks don’t know this fact..when the SCORE jail was built,Federal Way had to sign as a creditor for Des Moines since they didn’t have the money or the credit rating to help fund the jail. The only way things will ever change is when the council finally turns over and city manager moves on. The only two council members I would keep are VIc and Jeanette. They are the only two that listen to the citizens and openly express their individual untainted opinions. It’s pretty dissapointing that few people in the community step forward to run for office.

    • Joe A says:

      Dave, I appreciate your thoughtful and informative response. Thank you. You are the first person who has provided me with something logical for the reasons this and other problems with have experienced may be occurring. As to DMPD having a shooting to respond to I believe that was someone fabricating and speculating reasons in their response. The only things the other DMPD officer that came to the scene would tell us is the accident was none of our business and he needed to leave to respond to a domestic. I’ll give you that “incompetent and lazy” may not be an accurate description DMPD officers but after witnessing this and getting no information from DMPD on investigations of 3 crimes committed against me or on my property over the past 11 months I was left with no other conclusion. Whatever the causes (I believe there are multiple) DMPD appears to not be following procedure in handling these investigations. My intention is to raise awareness and hopefully it becomes a priority. Thank you again for the great information.

    • Bobbie olson says:

      Right on everything Dave! Soooo agree!

  9. D says:

    I too have had issues with the Des Moines police department in the last 7 years since I purchased my home there. I’ve called for a suspected burglar and they never showed up. Mind you I am a single female at home inside my home with a guy meandering around the lower windows and then dissapeared to the back.. I went out the front to my car and called again.. They never came to check out the situation. The other major issue I encountered was somebody threatening to shoot myself and a friend from a window. When they did arrive and went to the neighbors house who denied having a make in the house they said there was nothing they could do. I later spoke to the SPD and they said there should have been a report. I ran into the officer at 7/11 late night one evening an confronted the officer asking if I could get a report. He said that again their hands are tied and that what he recommended was for me to get a gun.. Ok! Those two incidents among others made me feel unsafe in my own community. This behavior is not acceptable and it really doesn’t surprise me. I hope this does not go unnoticed!

    • Commander Barry Sellers says:

      I’ve read your comments posted above and your two allegations concern me. Can you please contact me so that I can check into the information you posted. My contact info is:

      Tel: 206-870-7604
      email: [email protected]

      I look forward to speaking with you.

  10. Dave Mataftin says:

    Sorry for the typographical errors (quite distracted while typing). After thinking about this a bit, I do need to apologize for my name calling of Sheckler that really serves no purpose. I do feel that the city council is on the right track, the police department needs a funding fix. At any rate, take it upon yourself to look into matters, I stand by the our police department and its officers.

  11. Jim Liebowitz says:

    My spouse and I moved here from another state to be closer to my family. I hate to say it but Des Moines has certainly gone down hill in the last 12 years. Neither of us feels safe anymore and we keep our doors locked and alarm set at all times whether we are home or away. The caliber of people we see walking around our neighborhood late at night and during the day has completely changed. Knock on wood, we have not been robbed yet, but a good amount of neighbors have. We figured that we would retire here, but now are being advised not to by our financial planner. Des Moines is going to the dumps we look forward to leaving.

  12. Bobbie olson says:

    Right on Dave ! Intirely true

  13. Todd says:

    Hiring more officers is not always the solution. Most of time these officers are assigned to hide out between 5AM and 9AM and issue citations to TAX paying, hardworking Des Moines residents doing five miles over limit trying to get to work on time. These are people that have money to pay the fines imposed by the system. The criminals are not working , have no money and are consider by the police a thorn in their side to deal with. These criminals are consider petty to the police and just mean a lot of paper work and hassle. It’s not a case of too much crime, It’s case of what is the police department priorities. Ask yourself just how often that you see a police cruiser patrol past your house and through your neighborhood? Ask the chief how often the officers are on patrol and the answer is “we need more officers”. I say nonsense. Stop the constant every sunny day speeding patrol from 5AM to 9AM and patrol the streets from 10AM to 3PM and 1AM to 4AM, this is when criminals are out causing turmoil on the residents. Tony Piasecki is our “non-elected” city manager who is totally responsible for the police department reporting to him. Tony needs to be FIRED he has had his chance running the city for well over 15 years!
    Consider the pros and cons of making the police chief an elected official not reporting to anyone but the people who voted the chief into office. It just may be time that Des Moines residents become the entity that Police Chief reports to, and not to Tony. Residents of Des Moines the Police Department does not report to you! The Police Department does not report to city council! The Police Department reports to Tony Piasecki (a non-elected bureaucrat). Ask yourself when you go to work who do you pay attention too? The person you report to or some taxpaying individual on the street? The Police report to Tony and Tony is the boss and Tony tells Police Department what to do. Tony is in charge! You the Taxpaying citizen of Des Moines, you are so removed from being in charge it’s laughable. The pundits answer is VOTE on new council representation. YA – That is like “Take Number” . TONY NEEDS TO GO!
    My last thought is that I much rather hire officers that live in Des Moines, I would much rather subsidize our officers to live within the city limits rather than hire more officers that have no personal connection to our city. Our officers need to be our neighbors and have more skin in the city, rather than a job they just come to and go home from. Make Des Moines a police officer home, put the money to help them live in the community and see how officer performs when he or she connected to community. People who live in Des Moines care about Des Moines. Officers who live in Des Moines attend church in Des Moines, their kids go school in Des Moines, they play and coach kids baseball in Des Moines, they shop in Des Moines, they go for walks at marina in Des Moines, so on so forth. If we really want change, then lets subsidize these officers to live in Des Moines. That will make a BIG difference, not hiring some person from Orting or Tacoma because that is where the officer can afford to raise a family. We are their family and sometimes you just have help in different ways.
    Tony Piasecki – Go back home to Arizona or wherever you came from we are so tired of YOU!

  14. Dave in Virginia says:

    first, I am not a resident of Des Moines therefore am not intimately familiar with the city nor it’s problems. I was introduced to this article through CNN’s linking to a headline on ‘Street Legal TV’ reading “Drunks Put 5th Gen Into a Ditch; Police Allegedly Don’t Care” It was a good head lining title that drew me in. but the comments and replies are what has me composing this post.

    First, I do not agree with drunk driving. I don’t drink and drive – EVER. But there was most likely very little Officer West could do once he arrived.

    The key fact making it impossible for him to take action for a DUI/DWI was that he, the arresting officer, did not WITNESS the suspects in the ACT of driving while intoxicated. Additionally, he could not positively identify which knucklehead was actually driving the vehicle – he did not see the driver behind the wheel and get out of the vehicle. Certainly, they self-incriminated, but that could easily be argued in court by any decent attorney. And remember, in the US Justice System one must prove guilt ‘beyond a shadow of a doubt.’ So ANY amount of doubt or potential discrepancy would be just cause for dismissal of charges.

    The officer was not being lazy – he simply knew, through experience and the ‘letter of the law,’ that a DUI/DWI charge was unwinnable in this situation. And I would be willing to bet that the officer was TRYING to figure out how to make a charge stick while he was sitting there, watching these fool’s actions for an hour and half.

    It’s unfortunate that these knuckleheads got away with DUI/DWI but fortunately, they did not cause any significant damage, injury or even death to any of their neighbors. May they be not so-lucky next time and face the wrath of an angry judge!! And, most hopefully, they don’t take someone else out as part of their next DUI/DWI episode…

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