From Narco-Creeper to Police Chief

by William Norman Grigg

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Craig Kingsbury, the veteran bureaucrat who was recently appointed to head the Nampa Police Department, began his law enforcement career by hanging out near schools and buying drugs in what should be seen as an attempt to stimulate the local narco-economy.

As a 23-year-old who "looked about 15," Kingsbury would change into "school-type clothes" and "hang out at the Maverick across from Nampa High School and attempt to purchase narcotics from kids," the chief proudly recalls in a recent front-page profile published by the local statist stenography sheet.

Kingsbury's assignment as a government-licensed Narco-Creeper only lasted a couple of weeks, and yielded very little in terms of arrests. Obviously, it did nothing to protect the persons and property of Nampa residents. However, it offered the future chief a suitable initiation into a municipal police department that — like practically every other in the country — is a predatory armed clique disguised as a public service agency. 

Nampa has a population of roughly 81,000 and a slightly higher-than-average crime rate. The city takes its name from a physically imposing man of mixed Cherokee and African ancestry called Nampuh, who came to be known as "Chief Bigfoot." Indifferently sourced but plausible legend informs us that Nampuh — a man who stood more than 6'8" tall – joined an Oregon-bound wagon train in 1856 and fell in love with a young woman who later jilted him in favor of young artist named Hart. 

When Nampuh confronted his romantic rival, Hart taunted him by saying that the object of their mutual desires would never "marry a big-footed n*gger like you." Infuriated, Nampuh charged at the young man, who drew a pistol and shot him in the side. This proved to be little more than an annoyance to the huge Indian, who grabbed Hart by the neck, crushed his windpipe, and threw him into the Snake River. 

Nampuh helped himself to Hart's weapons and headed to the hills, where — in the company of a French trapper-turned-criminal named Joe Louis — he formed a gang that spent the next decade staging raids on settlers, miners, and wagon trains. Since they were in the business of extracting money from travelers at gunpoint, it's tempting to think that the outlaw band created by Nampuh and Louis was the Treasure Valley's first police department.

Craig Kingsbury's new appointment as police chief follows a career in which he has distinguished himself only by his sycophancy. He displayed that trait to greatest effect by joining in the official persecution of a small group of whistle-blowers in the department who protested official corruption and criminal behavior therein. 

A little less than a year ago, Nampa tax victims were handed a bill of $189,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by three police officers against the Nampa Police Department. The plaintiffs claimed that former Chief William Augsburger when he engaged in "retaliatory conduct … because of Plaintiffs' protected speech and whistleblowing activities," in the words of the civil complaint.

In 2009, the officers were assigned to the department's internal affairs division, where they discovered that waste and fraud were widespread, and criminal misconduct by officers who used excessive force went unpunished. They were not the first investigators to discover financial improprieties in the department. 

Between 1995 and 2002, the Nampa PD received more than $2 million from the "Justice" Department's Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program to hire 23 full-time police officers and purchase new equipment. A federal audit in 2004 found that the department couldn't properly account for the funds. The amounts mentioned in that report — which was based on a less-than-rigorous review of the department — were trivial. The 2009 probe conducted by the internal affairs division learned that the problems were deep and systemic. 

The investigating officers — Leonard Claunts, Joseph Huff, and Curtis Shankel — learned that "the Chief of Police and other command staff (including a Deputy Chief) golfed during working hours," recounts the lawsuit. "And they learned that certain supervisors (Lieutenants and Deputy Chiefs) were performing school related tasks (homework and studying) while on duty."

While the brass was golfing at public expense, one officer was running a personal business while on duty, using his police vehicle to make deliveries and run errands. Another would routinely disconnect the GPS unit on his patrol car and spend his shift time at home, where he would either sleep or beat his wife: The internal affairs investigators noted that the officer "had been involved in multiple domestic violence reports and 911 calls."

"Another officer, who had use-of-force issues in the past, used excessive force when dealing with a suspect, which was witnessed and reported by a fellow officer," according to the investigators. Another was in the habit of "showing up for work under the influence of alcohol yet the safety officer and trainer failed to take action." 

The pervasive "waste of taxpayer dollars" greatly concerned the officers, but the more urgent problem was the fact that "police officers were left either unsupervised and without proper supervisory support" and no effort was made "to take appropriate disciplinary action against police officers who had misused their authority on repeated occasions." As a result of that dereliction, "dangerous police officers were being allowed to continue to do police work even though they posed a threat to the public and to other officers." (Emphasis added.) 

Chief Augsberger, who ordered the officers to conduct the investigation, pointedly ignored their report. This prompted Sgt. Shankel to write an unsigned letter to the Mayor and City Council in November 2010 describing what the inquiry had uncovered. At about the same time, Investigator Claunts's wife, Ginger Claunts, independently sent an e-mail to Nampa Director of Human Resources Ed Simmerman that expressed the same concerns. Simmerman replied that he and the mayor would "look into matters … in a very discrete [sic] manner."

Simmerman's spelling error suggests that he is a stranger to the concept of discretion, and that impression was fortified by his subsequent actions. Rather than looking into the merit of the complaints lodged by the officers, he simply forwarded Mrs. Claunts's e-mail to Chief Augsburger, with predictable results.

"I was slandered this weekend and I'm going to fire two people today," Augsburger groused to the dispatch supervisor following his discussions with Simmerman. "People are going to get fired over this one."

A few days later, Chief Augsburger strode angrily into a staff meeting and demanded that everybody leave except Shankel and Claunts. After the other employees had left the room, the Chief informed the internal affairs investigators that he was planning on suing them for defamation — and "that their home owners insurance would have to kick in and pay $100,000." 

Soon thereafter, Claunts and his wife received a letter from an attorney representing Chief Augsburger and then-Deputy Chief Kingsbury threatening them with a lawsuit if they didn't retract the complaints made in her letter to the Human Resources Department. The letter also demanded that the Claunts reimburse the fees of the attorney who had composed the extortion note.

Within a few weeks, all three of the officers had been subjected to punitive demotions and negative performance reviews. Chief Augsburger dropped several pregnant hints that in the event of cutbacks, the whistleblowers would be the first to lose their jobs — and that three others who had expressed support for them might be the next to go. The chief and his allies began to refer to that group of principled non-conformists as the "Satan Six."

When the officers sought help from Simmerman, the Human Resources Director shrugged his shoulders, said that his "hands are tied," and that "everything is in the Chief's hands per the Mayor." For his part, Chief Augsburger ignored the investigators' report and hired an outside consulting firm called Weaver & Associates to conduct an internal audit. 

That report, which was compiled without any input from the internal affairs investigators, validated their most important findings. Yet it concluded with a non-sequitur that could easily have been ghost-written by the chief himself: The consulting firm concluded that the Nampa PD's most urgent problem was "the disruption" caused by the earlier investigation, and recommended that the whistleblowers be "moved and/or terminated or disciplined." 

The chief commissioned a second "independent" review to determine if a "hostile work environment" existed in the department. Since the investigation consisted of interviews with the command and supervisory personnel who had been criticized in the original internal affairs inquiry, its findings were never in doubt.

"Most [of those] interviewed thought that the complaints were a distraction and caused upheaval in the NPD," observed a section of the report entitled "Comments on What to Do With Those Causing the `Tension.'" "One said: `I'm angry that these allegations were raised. They have been a distraction.'… A number of people said, `Fire the complainers. Let them go to Boise if they want.' Another: `There will always be whiners. Let the whiners go; get rid of them.'"

The "whiners" in question, recall, were internal affairs investigators who had documented widespread abuse of money extracted from tax victims, and a culture of impunity in which officers who had committed criminal offenses were free to continue preying on the public. The department's highest priority was to preserve its profitable "public service" façade.

While Augusburger and his henchmen — including future Chief Kingsbury — were seeking to be rid of the whistleblowers in their ranks, the Nampa PD was one of several cities selected for a federally subsidized pilot program involving forced blood tests for people accused of DUI. Officer Darryll Dowell, who was part of a "select cadre" of Nampa police assigned to act as "officer phlebotomists," described to the New York Times how he would find himself "looking at people's arms and hands, thinking, `I could draw from that….'"

The prospect of being pinned down and jabbed with a syringe by a policeman is intended to extort cooperation with breath tests, a less invasive (and less infection-prone) method of forcing a citizen to submit to a warrantless search of his person and provide potentially self-incriminating evidence. This kind of thing is explicitly forbidden by the Bill of Rights — as if that fact matters anymore. 

Vampire cops aren't the only tax-subsidized predators at large in Nampa. The Nampa Police Department has also provided cover for sexual predators who are exploiting child detainees at the state Juvenile Corrections Center located in that city.

Last June, seven employees at the Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections facility in Nampa filed a whistleblower lawsuit alleging that their supervisors had permitted female staffers to engage in sexual misconduct with male detainees. The suit also complained that the IDJC's "cronyist, incompetent, corrupt, and unresponsive administration" had permitted widespread "fraud and waste of public resources," promoted unqualified personnel and made them exempt from scrutiny, and retaliated against employees who expressed concerns to supervisors. 

To those aware of the Nampa PD whistleblower case, some of the complaints made in that lawsuit will have a familiar flavor.

"People have been playing golf while clocked in," relates attorney Andrew Schoppe, who filed the suit on behalf of the dissident staffers. "Juveniles are having sex with each other" and staffers are having sex with their prisoners. They are also grooming successors from within the inmate population, according to one IDJC employee.

"One staff member was [sexually] involved with a juvenile," Shane Penrod told the Boise Weekly. "That juvenile became a staff member and now they are involved with another juvenile."

The allegations weren't limited to a tiny knot of malcontents: A total of 47 current and former employees eventually lodged complaints against the agency. The lawsuit claims that the Nampa Police Department was made aware of the widespread problems — including sexual misconduct — at the jail, but did nothing about it.

The IDJC filed an official response denying all of the allegations. Sharon Harrigfeld, director of the Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections, issued a statement reassuring the public "that our facilities are safe" and thanking "all staff for the public service provided each day to community safety."

That statement was issued on July 31. At that time, the group Harrigfeld described as "all staff" included 31-year-old IDJC employee Julie McCormick, who was arrested several months later and charged with sexual assault on a 15-year-old boy. 

 IDJC staffer Rhonda Ledford, one of the original plaintiffs in the whistleblower suit, recalls that employees who saw evidence of McCormick’s criminal conduct expressed concerns to supervisors the previous April, but were required to sign confidentiality statements about the situation." 

At exactly the same time the IDJC was trying to tamp down its scandal, the Nampa PD was successfully burying its own: On April 27, U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale authorized the $189,000 settlement and dismissed the whistleblower suit so that the department could begin the "healing process."

By that time, Chief Augsburger – who joined the Nampa PD at age 19 and never spent a subsequent hour earning an honest living — was certainly feeling no pain. In May 2011, he was able to retire and begin collecting his pension at age 50. His retirement ceremony included "presentations from local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, as well as stories from friends," according to a notice from the Mayor's office. 

None of those “stories” dealt with issues that were raised in the whistleblowers’ lawsuit, which was still active at the time of Augsburger’s retirement. Time-server LeRoy Forsman was appointed to keep Augsburger's chair warm until his dutiful apprentice, Craig Kingsbury, could be sworn in. 

This crowns the resume of a public functionary who began his career trying to lure children into committing acts that would send them to the local juvenile jail — where they were likely to be sexually exploited by staffers protected by the same police department that had arrested them. 

While it's unlikely that anybody who lives outside of Nampa would be concerned about the squalid condition of its municipal police department, consider this: It's quite likely, dear reader, that your local police department is just as bad, if not significantly worse.