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Feb. 04, 2014
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Frank G. Bowne (pictured center) is a hunter by profession. Bowne is a K9 handler and SWAT operator with the Post Falls, Idaho Police Department. He and his canine companion, a German Shepherd named Koda, occasionally pursue criminal suspects. More frequently they can be found in pursuit of cash and other property that can be seized through “asset forfeiture” as part of the demented exercise called the War on Drugs.
Law enforcement agencies have found this practice to be very lucrative in sparsely populated northern Idaho. Since the agencies conducting those seizures don’t have to prove that the property owner committed a crime – or even provide a full accounting of their haul – the practice could be considered a form of state-sanctioned poaching.
Post Falls is a very small town in northern Idaho with an unremarkable crime rate. Yet local police and sheriff’s office have two full-time K9 units, and will soon have a third. This means job security for Bowne, whose background should have disqualified him for employment as a “peace officer.” Before being hired by the Post Falls PD as a government-licensed poacher, he was terminated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office after being found guilty of poaching -- of the private variety -- in Colorado.
In October 2003, several residents of Bayfield, Colorado, a village not far from the Four Corners region, heard gunshots near a local ranch. When they went to investigate they found three men lounging by a truck with California license plates. The men took off after the residents said they were going to ask authorities to investigate a suspected act of trespass and poaching.
Colorado Division of Wildlife investigator Cary Carron arrived the following morning and found a dead deer on private property bordering a county road. The animal had been killed after dark by a shooter who had used a spotlight. In the company of several other officers, Carron tracked down the vehicle at a hunting camp near Sauls Creek. Bowne was among the ten hunters who were questioned by the investigators, and like all of his colleagues he insisted that he knew nothing about the killing of the deer the previous night.
The pickup truck was seized, and investigators collected sufficient forensic evidence (such as boot and tire tracks, and spent shell casings) and witness statements to identify Bowne as the shooter. In his official investigative report, Carron described how Bowne lied to him, lied to Officer Mike Stefanak of California’s Fish and Game Department, and obstructed the inquiry conducted by Lt. Rick Jennings, an internal affairs investigator with the LA County Sheriff’s Office.
After a felony arrest warrant was issued for Bowne, the deputy agreed to a deal in which he pleaded guilty to an “illegal take” of a deer. He paid $4,199 in fines and court costs, and was fired by the LA County Sheriff’s Office.
Bowne lost his job in May 2004. Like other disgraced California police officers before him, he followed the “gypsy cop” ratline to Idaho, where he was able to get a job a little more than two years later. According to the Idaho POST Council, Bowne received his “basic” certification in June 2006. In order for this to happen, Bowne either concealed his background, the POST Council failed to conduct a rudimentary background check, or both parties simply ignored the legally binding standards governing peace officer certification in Idaho.
The POST Council is instructed to de-certify any police officer who has committed any felony or misdemeanor, or who “Willfully or otherwise falsifies or omits any information to obtain any certified status.” If Bowne’s poaching offenses were made known to the Council, he wouldn’t have been certified. If he withheld information about that offense – and his deceitful behavior in trying to cover up that crime – he should be immediately de-certified.
“I were in charge of that decision, [Bowne] never would have been allowed to go to POST in Idaho,” a former sheriff’s deputy and police officer told me after I provided the details of the case to him. “He lied about things that should have kept him from being an officer again… If he lied once he will do it again. Like if you are an officer and go to court to testify and you lie, the judge can never trust anything you say from that point.”
Another retired deputy (who has also worked in the state probation and parole system) ruefully told me that he wasn’t surprised that POST cleared Bowne despite his background.
“He could have received a waiver from POST, but his employer would have to vouch for him,” the former deputy suggested. “Unfortunately POST won't tell you if a special panel did review his case.”
That prediction was quickly vindicated. When I filed a public records request to find out if POST had granted Bowne a special waiver, the agency denied that request, insisting that it was exempt from disclosure as a “personnel” matter.
Under a strict and rational application of the law, Frank G. Bowne was never legitimately certified as a peace officer in the State of Idaho. That means he is engaged in what the state code (18-1711) refers to as “Unlawful exercise of [the] functions of peace officers,” a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
However, as is so often the case in the racket called “law enforcement,” Bowne and those who protect him assume that they are exempt from the laws they supposedly uphold.
“It’s a possibility that Bowne got his certification because he knows someone of importance in Post Falls or elsewhere in Idaho,” commented the second former deputy. “The fact that he lied to the LA investigators and hindered the investigation -- and yet was apparently given a waiver in Idaho -- tells me he knows someone.”
“I can tell from first-hand experience” that such corrupt “professional courtesy” is commonplace, he continued. “I have seen a Sheriff who wouldn't keep an officer on unless he or she would lie to keep their job. An officer who will lie to keep his or her job will be invaluable to a dishonest official.”
During the now-notorious hunting trip to Colorado, Bowne saw nothing amiss in trespassing on posted private property. That is a habit of mind he has retained as a police officer in Post Falls.
As I noted here recently, Bowne and his partner, Officer Frank Uhrig, invaded the home of Melissa Ward in a warrantless midnight raid in December 2011.
Ignoring a lawful order by Ward to stay out of her house, the officers assaulted the woman in front of her terrified daughter, then carried out an illegal search of the dwelling after claiming to smell marijuana. At a hearing several months later the judge acknowledged that the search was illegal and dismissed drug-related charges that had been filed against Ward and her boyfriend.
Two years earlier, Bowne was named in a tort claim filed by Post Falls resident Lori Denise Howard, which accused him of committing “an illegal trespass” on her property and subjecting her to “an illegal arrest” involving “excessive force and violence.”
Howard wasn’t able to pursue that claim: Charged with the spurious crime of “resisting arrest,” she was quickly processed into the Sisyphean hell called the probation and parole system.
Meanwhile, Bowne – who, unlike Howard, has repeatedly done violence to the persons and property of others -- continues to make a comfortable living as a privileged poacher in the employ of the Post Falls Police Department.
William Norman Grigg publishes the Pro Libertate blog and hosts the Pro Libertate radio program.