Tuesday, December 07, 2010

McCain: Kyron Kops: Confident Yet Clueless (and Raking in the OT)

It has now been six months since Kyron Horman was last seen alive on June 4, 2010. To mark this unfortunate anniversary, Multnomah County Sheriff Dan Staton finally broke his silence to speak with media over this weekend. Sunday’s Oregonian carried a large front-page “exclusive” interview that told us nothing new, while confirming what many have believed all along.
While Staton expressed his confidence that something will break in this case by his arbitrarily set February 1 deadline, he and his detectives acknowledge they have no idea what happened to Kyron, where Kyron is today or whether the boy is alive or dead. 

There is no discernable crime scene, though Skyline School has been dubbed “Ground Zero” for the investigation. Investigators admit there is no physical evidence relating to Kyron or linking anyone – including Terri Horman – to Kyron’s disappearance. No broken eyeglasses. No torn CSI shirt. No bloody handprint. To say MCSO detectives are clueless is not an insult; it’s their own description of the case. Yet some of these investigators have been well-compensated for their time so far.
Public payroll records show several MCSO employees working on the Kyron Horman case earned five-figures in overtime in the month of June alone, on top of six-figure compensation packages. The following is a list of employee overtime costs, which includes earnings, salary-related fringe and insurance, for June 4 through June 30, 2010
  • Sgt. Diana Olsen - $17, 390.00
  • Deputy Lee Gosson - $16,966.00
  • Deputy Kevin Jones - $15,784.50
  • Deputy Joshua Zwick - $14,949.50
  • Deputy Bobby O’Donnell - $14,035.00
  • Deputy Jonathan Zwick - $13,144.50
  • Deputy Sean Mallory - $11,263.00
  • Deputy Daniel Rendon - $10,930.00
  • Deputy Lars Snitker - $10, 190.00
  • Deputy Matthew Ferguson - $10,155.50
  • Deputy Timothy Wonacott - $10,013.00
But the grand prize for overtime in June 2010 goes to Sgt. Jan Kubic, who was paid $18,164.50 in total overtime compensation for the month, on top of a total annual compensation package of $146,842. These staggering numbers for June alone only list those earning more than $10,000 in overtime for the month of June 2010. The total Kyron Horman overtime costs to taxpayers for June alone was $335,908.98. And these figures are only for the Sheriff’s Office – they do not include the district attorney or other federal, state and local agencies who contributed resources to the search for Kyron.
Oregonian Photo
On Friday June 11, one week after Kyron disappeared, the pubic got it first glimpse of the four adults involved in Kyron’s strange family dynamic. Donning white tee shirts depicting Kyron, the media and public saw Kaine Horman and his current wife Terri Horman, Desiree Young and her current husband Tony Young standing in the background as stage props as MCSO spokespersons delivered the first in a series of press conferences many in the media felt were defensive and confrontational. That same day, Deputy Eric Gustafson was paid for 20 hours of overtime for June 11 at a total cost to taxpayers of $1,600.00. Gustafson followed his 20-hour OT days with a 16 hour overtime day on Saturday, June 12 to the tune of $1,280.00. Gustafson’s 36-hour OT binge on consecutive days came a full week after Kyron had disappeared, but was typical of how the Sheriff’s Office approached this case from the beginning.
Sheriff Staton has repeatedly expressed his regret that investigators lost a critical six hours on June 4 from the time Kyron was last seen and the time he was reported missing. Staton is correct in that no one can go back and reclaim those critical six hours during which Kyron could have been taken to California, Idaho or Canada before the initial 911 call was made. But now Staton acknowledges his agency could have and should have responded differently than it did on and immediately after June 4.
As most of the nation knows by now, the search for Kyron Horman was the most extensive and expensive search and rescue effort in Oregon history. But that’s because for the first several days the Sheriff’s Office viewed Kyron’s disappearance as a lost child who wandered off on his own rather than a possible or likely crime.
Staton told KGW, “At first, we thought it was a child who walked away from school.” Staton now says if somehow they could have figured out earlier that Kyron was abducted, they would have done things differently. Staton now admits that waiting days before beginning to interview teachers, students and parents hurt the investigation because, “Once the days passed, people began to lose their train of thought and what they did or didn’t see.”
So why did the Sheriff’s Office respond to Kyron’s disappearance by launching a massive Search & Rescue (SAR) effort and not considering this a crime? The answer lies in the nature and history of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office. Today MCSO is primarily a corrections agency with typically 80% of its budget going to run the county jail system. The law enforcement component of MCSO is a relatively small component of the agency responsible for patrol and investigative services for the unincorporated areas of the county, primarily Corbett, Sauvie Island and some parts of the West Hill. MCSO also provides contract services to the small cities of Wood Village and Maywood Park. But since the annexations of the late 1980’s and 1990’s MCSO’s law enforcement unit has struggled to justify its very existence nearly every budget cycle.
One thing MCSO does well is Search & Rescue. When media police scanners hear a call related to MCSO, it’s not uncommon the call relates to a lost or injured hiker in the Columbia River Gorge or a person or boat needing help on the Columbia or Willamette Rivers. So when Kyron was reported missing, MCSO defaulted to doing what it does best – looking for lost people in rough terrain. Yet few who knew the bespectacled Kyron Horman believed he would have voluntarily wandered away from Skyline School on his own. Yet MCSO spent the first week treating Kyron’s disappearance as a massive SAR effort, hoping for a Hollywood ending in which a dedicated searcher emerges from the blackberry brambles delivering a scuffed up, but relatively unharmed little boy into the arms of his waiting parents. But that ending never materialized. Instead MCSO was forced into a criminal investigative mode that took its small cadre of detectives into uncharted territory.
The Portland Police Bureau (PPB) is Oregon’s largest police department with 95 budgeted detectives. At PPB, the position of detective is actually a promotional position from police officer as opposed to a rotational assignment as in many smaller agencies. Portland’s 95 detectives are more than MCSO’s total number of law enforcement sergeants and deputy sheriffs combined and dwarf’s MCSO’s detective unit of six deputies. Yet Portland’s vastly more experienced detectives have been conspicuously absent from the Kyron Horman case as MCSO tried to solve this case mostly without Portland’s help, despite the recent announcement of the cost-shifting Task Force.
When MCSO’s investigative costs hit the $1,000,000 mark in September, the sheriff called a press conference to announce the formation of a new Kyron Horman task force. Staton initially billed the task force as a “more fiscally responsible” manner of running the investigation. Unfortunately, Staton committed a politician’s cardinal sin of overpromising but under delivering by committing some agencies to the task force before those agencies agreed to participate. While the task force was primarily a cost-shifting measure in which Staton sought to have other agencies pick up the ever-increasing costs associated with the Kyron Horman investigation, Staton also had another reason which he failed to disclose until this weekend.
At his September 15 press conference, Staton talked much about the task force as a responsible business model. On the six-month anniversary of Kyron’s disappearance Staton finally confessed to the Oregonian’s Maxine Bernstein what many in the public and media already suspected:
"I wanted to know what's going on because I lost confidence in the investigation," he said. "I felt the case was moving towards a cold case, and I was concerned. We had collected a ton of information, and nothing was being answered."
After watching Sgt. Jan Kubic and other detectives rack up tens of thousands of dollars each in Kyron-related overtime, the sheriff finally admits he had lost confidence in a million dollar investigation that has produced no arrests, no identified persons of interest, no indictments, no physical evidence related to Kyron or anyone else.
Today the sheriff continues to assume, as do Kaine Horman and Desiree Young, that Kyron Horman is still alive, even as his dive team searches zero visibility ponds on Sauvie Island. Terri Horman reportedly remains the focus of the investigation, though MCSO investigators believe more than one person is involved in Kyron’s disappearance. Yet there has been no apparent discussion of offering Terri Horman an immunity deal in exchange for leading investigators to the real kidnappers and bringing Kyron home. The likely reason for that is that the district attorney believes that Kyron is not alive or that Terri Horman has no information worth trading for. Otherwise, it’s unfathomable that the district attorney and investigators would allow Kyron to remain a kidnap victim this long hoping to catch Terri Horman in a mistake that leads to her arrest and indictment.
Sheriff Staton expressed an understandable concern that the Kyron Horman case was moving quickly toward cold case status. With his investigators blowing a $1.4 million hole in his budget to date, that is a legacy he would like to avoid. The answer will be known on June 4, 2011 when we either look back on the successful arrest and prosecution of Kyron’s abductors, or lament the fact that we are gathering for the one-year anniversary of the unsolved disappearance of Kyron Horman.
Bruce McCain is a former Multnomah County Sheriff's Captain and is an attorney in private practice. BruceMcCain.com 

12 comments:

  1. I got this comment from a fellow blogger (who shall remain nameless since I haven't asked them permission):
    I am going to refrain from commenting on this piece. Bruce brushes on some good tidbits but in the process throws a lot of junk against the wall.

    He should have focused more on the politics that has created the MC SO the way it now exists and less time blaming the investigating officers.

    It is tantamount to blaming our soldiers in Afghanistan for not finishing the job there when the blame lies with the politicians that created the situation. That is a reprehensible approach.

    I would be ashamed to have that on my blog.

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  2. While we all truly grieve for this child.., the truth is, with billions upon billions being printed and floated out by the Fed to keep Wall Street banks and many states afloat ( this looks to public employees as if it wouldn't make so much as a blip on the radar? )

    This is (1) gaping HOLE conservatives can't point the finger at Sherrif Joe on. By all appearances it seems perfectly legit. And ( yes ) if it were one of 'my' family members, I'd think every penny well spent.

    But that's the very emotional appeal they're banking on. If Roni Deutsch is on the TV telling tax cheats "they deserve a bailout 'too'!" ( then why not law officers? )

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  3. Though I understand the publics need for any new info whatsoever about this precious missing child.. I do not understand the media outlets/online bloggers exploiting the emotional attachment of the public to precious little Kyron's disappearance.. A case that the media,bloggers,etc unfortunately have turned into a circus of sorts atleast as far as the outrageous and desperate reporting and blogging done about the case.. It certainly is clear to many of us that this exploitation of the peoples emotional attachment to this case is being focused on... a case that is held extremely close to the vest and tight lipped on anything pertaining to this little boys abduction{which is exactly as it should be}.
    Good ol' Bruce has been using this case therefor using this innocent, little 7 yr old boy named Kyron to drum up publicity for this low lifes "private practice of law"{which we all know is essentially NON EXISTENT}..just as any inkling of a positive reputation is NON EXISTENT for Bruce.. Bruce is nothing more than a disgruntled former employee that is desperate enough to grasp at any straw that can be twisted, manipulated, or turned to shed a negative/bad light on MCSO..
    Is MCSO perfect? of course not, just as NO LE Agency IN THIS COUNTRY IS PERFECT{nor does MCSO claim to be perfect}.
    As I said this case is being handled extremely close to the vest as well as extremely tight lipped.. For those reasons media outlets, online bloggers, etc are desperate to continue using this little boy and his case to their advantage and that includes sucking every last drop they can manage to suck from it..including the above piece that is evidence of just how low and desperate they are to feed an emotionally attached public to this case by even giving a low life such as Bruce McCain the wasted space that was taken up by airing this BS.

    Sincerely,
    Jessica

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  4. You just had to include the photograph of the flyer with leaves and debris covering Kyron's face, didn't you?
    I have a suggestion: Use a copy of your blog, instead.
    But be sure to add a dog turd to the shot.
    Then wrap your blog around it and throw it down the Portland Loo where it belongs.

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  5. Wow, that's odd, I wonder why MCSO didn't work for free and go home at 5pm every night? I think we should get a tax refund. They didn't even find the kid in the bushes, so why did my tax dollars have to pay them? I only want to pay taxes when the police make an arrest. Half when they arrest someone, and the other half when the person is found guilty because that shows that the police did their job and don't just arrest someone so they could go back to the station and play solitaire. We should also give incentives like you kind of suggested in your article for pieces of evidence. I think a good price would be 1000 dollars for a shirt, 1300 if an officer finds pants, and then a sliding scale for other evidence like socks and things that are smaller. Unless you think socks should get more because they're harder to find. I couldn't tell from your article if you thought they should get paid for other kinds of evidence like bloody hand prints but it sounded like you did. And I also agree that those officers should not get paid for overtime - those guys should be home with their families, not out looking for some little lost boy in the woods.

    You know wolves often find lost children and raise them, and teach them wolf language and let them become part of the den after some initiation rights and gentle hazing by the younger males. So I agree with you that Staton probably should have had his men go home at their regular time so they didn't scare the wolf pack away before it got brave enough to approach the boy and take him into their pack. And it would have saved us all those thousands on overtime, and maybe we could have used that money for better nature trails or some new pavement.

    I'm glad you mentioned that they didn't call Portland police and have them come in and work on the case, because I thought that was weird too. Why would they call the FBI and let them come in and work on finding a lost boy when the FBI is in Washington DC and Portland is just up the highway? I bet the FBI officers plane tickets were expensive too, and Portland police would only have had to pay for discount police gasoline, or for a school bus or something to bring them to the crime scene. Probably the little lost boy's school would have let them borrow a school bus to get the Portland officers there to look in the bushes and the rivers. The FBI guys probably ate fancy lunches and charged it to the tax payers. In your next article I think you should include the FBI lunches in the cost. Also, I saw dog searches on the news and I think that the dogs probably got special treatment as well. And the dogs didn't find the boy either, so they shouldn't have gotten any special treatment either. Also I think the dogs could have scared away the wolves, which is probably why they haven't found the boy yet. Because of that I think you're right in everything you wrote about the police screwing up in trying to find the boy. Thanks for writing about it.

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  6. I think Bruce brings up several great points that other non law enforcement types might miss such as that PPB wasn't asked to come in and help earlier in the game, such as using search and rescue as the primary tactic, and, one not mentioned in this particular piece but which Bruce and Bernie Giusto have discussed quite a bit on my program, how the authorities were so quick to isolate Terri Horman for suspicion when they needed to flesh out what was going on with the other players in this sad, real life drama.
    On that picture I used--not Bruce--it's explained in a previous blog piece.
    As for the state of Bruce's law practice, I don't know what it is, but sometimes someone's best legal work takes place outside a courtroom. When you go right to ad hominem, however, it undercuts your argument and make it look weak.

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  7. Oh, and one more thing: I don't think Bruce was concluding that MCSO should have not been looking for Kyron. On the contrary, I believe he's pointing up the fact that it should have gone from SAR to very quickly a criminal investigation.
    I know MCSO is working its collective heart out looking for this kid.
    Bringing up the money angle is fair. Dan Staton himself now speaks of the task force in terms of saving money. He brought it up. It's fair.

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  8. How about some constructive suggestions on how to proceed now?

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  9. "I think Bruce brings up several great points that other non law enforcement types might miss such as that PPB wasn't asked to come in and help earlier in the game,"

    Bruce is wrong. MCSO had PPB in on July 5th, 2010, the day after Kyron disappeared. Your information is faulty. You might want to do some background research before quoting a source. Just a suggestion if you'd like to write using facts. It's easy enough to do when it's public information, as this is.

    Given the information that MCSO had at the time, Kyron Horman appeared to be a walk-away in need of SAR. Statistically, this is several orders of magnitude more likely an explanation for his absence than kidnap from within a school. Therefore, they directed their resources in the most logical direction while working to their strengths.

    The inclusion of LE from several states, the National Guard and the FBI CARD team showed a proactive, cross-agency effort. I'm impressed with the amount of manpower they directed from within and without so early in the investigation.

    Now it's appropriate to talk about directing financial resources in a targeted way. In the outset of the investigation when looking for a lost child in the wilderness, the SAR efforts and manpower necessitated the greatest financial effort. As the case continues, the financial effort focuses and narrows. This is the case in almost every missing person case I have ever studied. If you have figures that show differently, please post them. I'd be interested to see statistics for other missing child investigations in which LE was found to economize during a search effort.

    Finally, I wonder why you believe MCSO didn't fully investigate other "players" as you call them. Do you have inside information that describes the extent of their investigation into others besides Terri Horman for comparative purposes? My guess is that you don't, since that information hasn't been released. It's odd that you'd assume this is the case without information to inform you. Do you personally see any problems with drawing conclusions without information, or is this acceptable to you as a general rule?

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  10. "I think Bruce brings up several great points that other non law enforcement types might miss such as that PPB wasn't asked to come in and help earlier in the game..."

    Yep, non law enforcement types might instead go to the public databases and see the PPB was involved in Kyron's search as of June 5, the day after his disappearance. But then 'non LE types' are weird about wanting facts and stuff.

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  11. The case has gone nowhere because Schrunk has been told to sit on it, and the DA does as it is told.
    Who told him to do this?????

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  12. Both Bruce McCain and this blog did something important by reporting on the overtime. When a journalist asked the sheriff for information on overtime, he just said something like it was a full time investigation. Mr. McCain's report might not have been necessary if the sheriff's dept. had answered the question to begin with. This is obviously more than "full time."

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