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Kensington Election Clash over Crimes 'Solved'

One hotly disputed issue in the election for Kensington's governing board is the assertion by incumbent candidate Cathy Kosel that no crimes were solved in 2011. Police Chief Greg Harman called it a "malicious lie." Patch investigated.

For a township of 5,000, Kensington has generated an unusual amount of heat over the upcoming election for two seats on the five-member board of the Kensington Police Protection and Community Services District.

The vote has become in large part a referendum on several issues revolving around the performance of Police Chief Greg Harman, who is also the district's general manager, and the board's oversight of spending by Harman and the police department.

The leading critic is incumbent candidate Cathie Kosel, a former El Cerrito mayor who has been outspoken in her criticism of the performance of Harman and of the board majority allied with incumbent candidate Chuck Toombs, who is president of the board.

One of the charges leveled by Kosel – that no crimes were solved in 2011 – stands out in at least one respect. It not only sparked contention between Kosel's detractors and her supporters, but it also prompted a response from Harman in the form of a press release on Oct. 25 with details of crime statistics for 2011.

The press release concluded:

"To the rumor being spread, 'That no crimes were solved in 2011', this is false. The Kensington Police Department cleared 46 of the 188 crimes reported in 2011 for a clearance rate of 24%." A copy of the press release is attached to this article.

Kosel stood by her contention, which she had made in a mailer to Kensington voters that said in part, "No crimes were solved," referring to last year.

In response to Harman's press release – which was distributed by email and copied to the board members – Kosel said in a reply email to the original recipients:

"You yourself reported 'no crimes solved' for 2011, Mr. Harman. You are now cleverly manipulating the statistics and equating 'cleared' with 'solved.' Cleared, as you yourself explained at a KPPCSD meeting means that there are no longer any leads or new evidence so the crime is 'cleared' from your record BUT NOT SOLVED."

"These are not 'rumors'," she added. "Your report for 2011 said no crimes 'solved.' You are misleading the public and the press. How dishonest!"

Patch asked Kosel what "report for 2011" by Harman she was referring to, and she suggested asking Harman. Harman told Patch he presented a report to the board in January containing crime information for 2011. The report begins on page 25 of the agenda packet for the board meetng that month, he said. It is attached to this article.

Patch did not find a statement from Harman in that report saying that no crimes were solved in 2011. 

Patch again asked Kosel if she could identify the document that she is referring to, and she said she could not find "the data sheet I used."

Patch asked Harman what report Kosel may have been referring to, and he said he did not know.

Patch asked Kosel what she meant by crimes "solved," and she replied that it means that the perpetrator had been arrested and convicted.

So Patch asked Harman if the department has records of convictions, and he said conviction statistics are not tracked or reported by police since the case becomes the province of the district attorney's office (DA) once it is forwarded by police to the DA. He referred the question to the Contra Costa County DA's office

Patch asked the DA's office if it has a record of convictions for Kensington crimes in 2011, and Nanette Wellman of the DA's office said that data on convictions by jurisdiction is not readily available. She said the DA's office received 14 felony cases and 20 misdemeanor cases from Kensington in 2011 and that it filed 1 felony case and 6 misdemeanor cases for prosecution in 2011. She said some additional cases from 2011 could have been filed for prosecution this year.

Asked if the DA's office could confirm whether a conviction occurred if provided with a suspect name and case number, Wellman said yes.

Patch asked Kensington police for a case from 2011 that could be checked for a conviction. Corporal Detective Eric Stegman provided a case where he made the arrest last year, case number 11-1656, in which Tiffani Ann Webster was arrested for vehicle theft and burglary.

Stegman said Webster was convicted of being in possession of a stolen vehicle on Aug. 30, 2011, and sentenced to 90 days in jail plus two years probation. He said that although the department doesn't keep total conviction statistics, he was able to track the outcome of a particular case that he worked on.

Patch asked Wellman of the DA's office if she could confirm that Webster had been convicted. She confirmed both the conviction and the sentence.

Corporal Detective Stegman said approximately 80 percent of the crimes reported in Harman's press release as closed/cleared for 2011 "involved either an arrest or criminal complaint, and was submitted to the DA’s Office for prosecution."

"I can tell you with 100% certainty KPD (Kensington Police Department) is consistently solving crimes, making arrests, and submitting them for prosecution," he said in an email answer to Patch.

Kosel's assertion that no crimes were solved last year also prompted accusations from partisans for both sides in the election.

In a letter to the editor on Patch, Kensington resident Rodney Paul called Kosel's claim "patently false."

While in a guest column on Patch, Kensington resident Anna Shane echoed Kosel's assertion, writing, "On the Kensington police website, Chief Harman listed no crimes were solved in 2011."

Asked by Patch if she could identify what document on the Kensington police website lists no crimes solved, Shane said at first that she wasn't sure and later that evidence for her assertion was her belief that Kosel was not refuted. She also told Patch, "It’s like negative evidence, if he didn’t say any were solved, that means none were."

Related issue on number of crimes

Kosel, in another email response to Harman's Oct. 25 press release, questioned discrepancies in 2011 crime totals reported by Harman at various times, noting, for example, that his January report to the board lists a total of 77 crimes for that year, while his Oct. 25 press release shows 188 crimes for 2011.

"Are these simple mistakes?" she asked. "Manipulation? Lies? Election year funny business? Incompetence?"

A comparison of the January report and Oct. 25 press release shows that some crimes, like identity theft and vandalism, were included in the press release list but not in the January report to the board, which would explain part of the discrepancy.

But at the same time, there are discrepancies in the totals for some crimes that appear in both lists. The press release shows 0 auto burglaries, while the January report lists 10, for example. The press release shows 22 residential burglaries, while the January report shows 18. 

Patch asked Harman for an explanation, and he referred the question to Stegman, who named two main reasons for the discrepancies. First, he said, the January report was chiefly for serious crimes, or crimes categorized as Part 1 by the FBI UCR (Uniform Crime Reporting) standards.

Second, Stegman said, the reason for differing totals for crimes that appear on both lists is that the January report relied on Department of Justice totals that had been recorded by a computer program that turned out to have errors in it.

"We learned there were several coding problems which caused some cases and entries to be omitted from the DOJ report," he told Patch in an email. "Coding problems also contributed to the confusion over how many cases were categorized as cleared/closed."

He said the errors were confirmed by a case count in the police files and that the list contained in the Oct. 25 press release offers more accurate statistics.

Kosel is conducting her campaign with a runninng mate, Jim Hausken, while Toombs is campaigning on a slate with Patricia Gillette. A fifth candidate, Kim Zvik, is running as an independent.

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For more election-related news, check the Patch section on elections.

Rodney Paul November 03, 2012 at 03:05 PM
I have been quite vocal in my opposition to Kosel and this article explains why. She routinely promulgated false information in an effort to deceive voters. I could never support someone so unworthy of our trust. Her most serious falsehoods were the criminal accusations she made against Chief Harman and Master Sgt. Rickey Hull. This led to an expensive and time-consuming investigation by the County DA in which they were both completely exonerated. This has been fully documented in a recent Patch article. I have no problem with tough questions being asked about our finances. But Cathie Kosel is not the person to do so. She undermines her argument that the KPD is not well run by time and again resorting to deceit. I don't know why she consistently chooses the low road in her approach to governing Kensington. But I do know that it is something I cannot abide and must speak out against. Voters can reject Kosel's underhanded tactics by rejecting her this Tuesday. Please vote for badly needed change on the KPPCSD.
Leonard Schwartzburd, Ph.D. November 03, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Rodney, You mis-characterize Cathie's actions in the Hull affair. My understanding is that after she reported the matter to Harman and after 30 days of inaction she followed the advice of her brother, a retired judge, she reported the details to the DA and did not make a formal complaint of a criminal nature. The DA investigation apparently involved only other officers and relied on a log. If the information I have received from various parties, some of whom have been on the inside is accurate, the mishandling of records is rife in our PD at the administrative level. Some of the things I have heard from insiders were independently told to me and confirmed one another. The people who I spoke with struck me as very credible. Regarding the "log"one must have reservations about records that can be falsified. I trust my observations of the interaction between Cathie and Sgt. Hull at the Board meeting where she confronted him with having badly frightened her. The discrepancies with crime statistics, described in the report by the Patch editor is enough to confuse anyone. In my opinion it is part of a pattern of the flim flam that first drew my attention in the full page opportunity of the May 2012 Outlook given to Harman to explain the false crime statistics reported by him for the years 2008, 2009 and 2010. CONTINUED BELOW
Andrew Reed November 03, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Thank you Mr. Burress for an excellent article. This shows so well the pattern of dissembling and disinformation by Director Kosel and her supporters. The absence of intellectual rigor you elicited on the part Ms. Shane - so startling - exemplifies what we have seen from this very vocal minority of citizens for so long. I am confident that on Tuesday the voters of Kensington will bring this difficult period to an end by re-electing Chuck Toombs and electing Pat Gillette in place of Ms. Kosel.
Leonard Schwartzburd, Ph.D. November 03, 2012 at 06:18 PM
CONTINUED FROM ABOVE It is absolutely clear from what Harman wrote that he produced false statistics inflated by an average of 47% in his favor for those years. Anyone who takes the trouble to read Harman's mind numbing obsessively detailed explanation in the May Outlook of how and not why that happened should be able to see a pattern of obviation that should also be applied to the explanations of the crime statistic discrepancies uncovered by the Editor of the Patch. It is interesting that Harman passed the buck to a subordinate to explain the discrepancies, especially as Harman seems fond of saying "The buck stops with me." In my view that May 2012 explanation is an entirely disingenuous attempt to cover up a choice to present inaccurate figures. And in Harman assuming authority that he does not have, that is "buck stoppage", he is emulating Toombs in his own assumption of authority that according to the legal opinion of Mr. Behrsin is highly questionable. Thus Toombs way of operating appears to be illegitimate and the buck stops with the full KPPCSD Board, or more exactly with the 3 person majority running things, Toombs, Lipscombe and Lloyd who I hope to see leave their elected positions as soon as possible.
Leonard Schwartzburd, Ph.D. November 03, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Reed, I will take a genuine emotionally driven occasional lack of "intellectual rigor" over a consistent lack of intellectual rigor driven by ulterior motives involving a need to keep one's grasp on power. I guess power trippers are seeking the satisfaction of needs too, but that behavior disgusts me.
anna shane November 03, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Tony, just name one? In the Outlook arrests are listed as outstanding warrants, those aren't crimes committed here. Surely you must recall one crime in 2011 that our detectives investigated, gained evidence and identified a suspect, who was subsequently arrested (by anyone) and brought to trial and convicted based on our policing?
anna shane November 03, 2012 at 08:21 PM
tony, you must recall at least one arrest from 2011, that was investigated, and a suspect identified, and then an arrest and a trial and a conviction? Just one?
anna shane November 03, 2012 at 08:22 PM
tony, you must recall at least one arrest from 2011, that was investigated, and a suspect identified, and then an arrest and a trial and a conviction? Just one?
John Brorsen November 03, 2012 at 08:23 PM
please make it stop...
R. W. Lloyd November 03, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Mr. Burress Thank you for an accurate and fair assessment of the crimes management and reporting editorial of Kensington. Your facts are correct. This issue has been brought up by Ms. Kosel repeatedly and directly responded to by Chief Harman and members of his staff in writing and in testimony during board meetings. This can be corroborated by anyone’s review of the monthly minutes posted on the web. Earlier in the year Chief Harman, President Toombs, and I had a special discussion to re assure ourselves of the validity of the information. I was present each time the numbers were reviewed which has been at every monthly board meeting. Detective Stegman has often appeared as a subject matter expert to corroborate the numbers and explained how they are arrived at. In conclusion, there is a big difference between refusing to believe the truth and accepting it as it is. Kathy Kosel and Jim Hausken are running for office and though you would not like to think such is the case, they have nothing to lose but the election by misrepresenting the truth. The district books are open and I invite anyone to review them at any time. “If these two candidates can’t be truthful in these comments what other misgivings might we expect….Vice President KPPCSD Board
M. E. Campbell of Kensington, CA November 03, 2012 at 09:43 PM
Two months ago my neighbors house was broken into and they were robbed of over $20,000 in jewelry and other items-this unsolved crime never made it into The Outlook. Interesting that it was omitted. What else that is serious and worrisome and shows the lack of follow-up by the KPD has been omitted? Doesn't The Outlook editor want residents to know when we are under attack, and there is another unsolved crime against property? Or would that undermine the campaign of the insiders clique under Toombs? The Outlook has become a politicized publication that reads I believe like an election advertisement for Toombs and Gillette. Ooops I said their names again, but I won't be voting for them. Only Kosel and Hausken bring the promise of saving the district in my opinion.
Rob November 03, 2012 at 10:26 PM
Twenty years living around the East Bay since leaving Cal and I've yet to meet a single cop, prosecutor or politician who deserves to walk free. From totally inept to downright criminal. It's amazing chaos doesn't rule here.
Rob November 03, 2012 at 10:56 PM
Well Anna, I've been hearing that song for many decades now, and it's out of tune for the most part. A police department and its leadership that doesn't have crime stats at their fingertips says it all. I've seen the police from Oakland to Richmond and the pols that claim to be looking out for the people and it's a damn shame. Civilian review is a great idea, except that it is usually steeped with those who have their own agenda. The state legislature is so corrupt, we can't even look to them for help. A fine mess we've gotten ourselves into I'd say.
Leonard Schwartzburd, Ph.D. November 04, 2012 at 01:59 AM
Mr. Lloyd, at least some of what you say must be true so I regret that for you to say it is for me not to believe it.
Frank Catterly November 04, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Explain to me how electing Cathie, who wants to outsource the police to El Cerrito, is going to help improve Kensington's crime statistics? All Cathie does is create discord; that's not the same as driving performance. Get a grip.
Frank Catterly November 04, 2012 at 04:52 PM
I'm a cheerleader for no one - I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I think we need to replace the whole board since they can't seem to get anything right. Cathie blames Chuck for all the towns woes, when she has just as much ability to make a difference as he does. Instead, she wastes everyone's time pursuing personal vendettas and sowing discord instead of problem solving and building consensus.
LONG TIME RESIDENT November 04, 2012 at 06:14 PM
Dear Mr. Catterly: Thank you for your post. Prior to October, I had no involvement with Kensington politics.As I started reading of all the acrimony on the board I started looking into what was going on. The Kensington website provides police logs, police reports, reports by village manager, even an "Open City Hall" link. "Open City Hall" has been shuttered since 2009. I asked questions of the Board. Mr. Long wrote to say that if I did not stop asking questions, he would set his computer to bloc my inquiries. Mr. Toombs wrote that his authority for his actions was "because it has always been done this way." Despite the Board's own policies which confirm that Mr. Toombs has no more authority than any other Board members, he nevertheless exercises autocratic control of our agency. Mr. Toombs instructed the Board that he and Mr. Harman have the sole authority to consult with our agency's attorneys (whom we pay). Board members have had to make Public Records Act requests of Mr. Harman to get financial documents that are the agency's own financial documents. Legal counsel has advised that it is illegal for our agency's representatives to be denied their own agency's financial documents. Mr.Toombs has without authority taken over our elected government and handed it to Mr. Harman. Mr Toombs and Mr. Harman have shut the Board's & the community's access to information. http://elcerrito.patch.com/articles/view-kensington-board-s-failure-to-disclose-information.
Leonard Schwartzburd, Ph.D. November 04, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Frank, Regardless of your motivation or intent--The answer to your question is that you are spreading THE BIG LIE that Cathie want's to outsource our Police Department. It ain't true Frank.
Rob November 04, 2012 at 08:37 PM
In the age of the computer, this statement is preposterous: "Nanette Wellman of the DA's office said that data on convictions by jurisdiction is not readily available." The people must the ability to call prosecutor's to testify on their actions. Their powers are too great and their histories too unsavory to accept them on their words. Data on arrests, dispositions and penalties must be "readily available" or the people are failing to do their jobs. Do not let these amateurs get away with this nonsense and call a special meeting and use subpoenas to get them to testify with penalties for lying. If you do not have those powers, fire the entire lot and hire new ones with the province for discovery and verification. Stop allowing these thugs to snow all of us.
Deanna Collis November 04, 2012 at 09:16 PM
please see http://elcerrito.patch.com/blog_posts/kppcsd-crime-statistics-solved-a-rebuttal .... Cathie asked the question concerning our crime clearing rate. She asked about the report that showed 0 property crimes cleared. Harman’s report delivered at that meeting clearly shows that 0 (zero) of the 90 or 72 property crimes (burglary/theft) that occurred in Kensington in 2011 were cleared. http://www.kensingtoncalifornia.org/files/active/0/2012-04-12%20KPPCSD%20AGENDA.pdf (pg 56). In Harman's own data, it is not clear how many part 1 crimes were cleared. According to the UCR - FBI report 2 or the 4 reported assaults were cleared in 2011. The chief’s records shows 1 assault for a total of 2 crimes(pg 54). I think he meant to put the 2 in the assault column not the total. That would be correct except he has 1 homicide listed which he admits is incorrect; that was in 2010 (pg 55 4/12/12 agenda and pg 30 of the 7/12/2012 agenda). The next page he scratches a 0 besides the assaults and homicide. He is all over the place. I know this doesn't make sense. The real problem is that a lot of the chief's crime statistics doesn't make sense. Even now (current agenda packet) the chief is misreporting his clearance rates. Here is just one example: The Year to Date 2012 Crime Statistics report shows 1 drug offense with 3 arrests. According to the UCR handbook pg79, "Reporting agencies must remember that the number of offenses and not the number of persons arrested are counted
Frank Catterly November 04, 2012 at 10:36 PM
Leo, She wants to pay the police chief a below-market wage, despite the fact that he performs two city functions, and harasses the members of the police force with whom she doesn't agree. Even if she doesn't say it in her words, her derisive actions will have the same effect, scaring away talent and leaving Kensington with an underfunded, low performing police force. Cathie should be working closely with the police chief and the officers to address any deficiencies, not trying to run them out of town with frivolous lawsuits that cost the town tens of thousands of dollars. How much money and time have we lost pandering to Cathie's outrageous claims, driven almost entirely by her own personal vendettas?
Rob November 04, 2012 at 10:43 PM
Why is Cathie, who is running for this election, so late to the dance? She doesn't seem to have her stories properly researched and founded? The others, the lot of them, seem to be circling the wagons. Take this advice and take it seriously, throw the lot out, and demand a recall or whatever is possible to toss those who aren't up for re-election. These people have their own agendas and don't deserve anyone's trust. If Kosel can't approach this with some validated facts, she doesn't deserve your consideration. This so-called chief, ought to be the first tossed. Kensington is getting ripped off by incompetence and worse. Quit kidding yourselves that musical chairs will change anything.
Greg Collis November 04, 2012 at 11:20 PM
Rob, Cathie has been derided by the opposition for being outspoken at every meeting. Your point that she has come up with stories "late in the dance" appears to me to be unfounded. On Nov. 3 she was chided for not being able to produce her sources. However by Nov. 4 we provided data showing what her sources were. Your timing, not ours, is off. Maybe you are being invited to the wrong dance.
Cathie Kosel November 05, 2012 at 12:34 AM
Which of the three versions of the crime statistics do you think is correct, Tony? Or did you even notice that one of the versions claims 74 crimes for 2011, one version claims 78 crimes for 2011 and his latest claims 188 crimes for 2011.
Cathie Kosel November 05, 2012 at 12:46 AM
Tony, This is a shocking comment to anyone who has asked about expenditures. "The district books are open and I invite anyone to review them at any time. " Toombs was quoted in the press as saying, "If I let her (Kosel) talk to the CPA for the district, I have to let anyone talk to her." As a governing board member I am refused access to many things by Toombs and Harman. Just this week I was refused access to the billing statements from our attorneys Hanson and Bridgett. The statements go only to our employee. KPPCSD is a frighteningly closed government because you and Lipscomb and Toombs allow it to be.
Rob November 05, 2012 at 12:57 AM
Well Greg, this election thingee is not new and she should have been prepared since she has been on the "board," or whatever. Far as Kensington being a swell place to live, consider that 1 in 6 homes in America will be invaded by serious criminals. I realize most of us in the area are peachy fine, but we are surrounded by murderers and thieves and I personally would like to know folks who claim to want to take charge aren't whistling the wrong tune, to carry the metaphor.

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