The difference between those who need help, and criminals | Chief Strachan

During the third week of November, officers were dispatched to a convenience store regarding a report of a robbery. Officers arrived and learned a female suspect entered the store, took a can of beer and tried to leave without paying for it. The clerk confronted the would-be thief as she left the store, and the thief proceeded to hit the clerk repeatedly with the full can of beer. The suspect then demanded the clerk call the police, but then departed.

Officers located the suspect as she tried to walk away and identified her as a well-known criminal vagrant who has been kicked out of, and trespassed from, nearly every social service and every business in Bremerton. She admitted what she had done, but also wanted to press charges against the clerk for having the audacity to try to detain her; she was quietly but firmly informed that was not how things work. She went to jail for felony robbery.

Later in the week, Officer Spencer Berntsen was called to a downtown bank for a report of a suspicious check. He arrived and contacted the man attempting to cash it. While Officer Samantha Ortona stood by with the suspect, Officer Berntsen learned the check had been stolen in a recent burglary. The would-be check casher claimed he was given the check in the amount of $950 for yard work. That must have been one huge yard to mow.

The signature on the check didn’t match the card the bank had on file and, can you see where this is all going? The burglary victim confirmed the check had been stolen and he never wrote one to anyone for yard work. The check casher went to jail for possession of stolen property.

As every community and every region continues to wrestle with the issue of homelessness, we need to be mindful that there is a distinction between homeless individuals who need services and assistance, and criminal transients. The criminal transients commit crimes and do things like burglarize people and try to cash their checks, and assault store clerks with full cans of beer. The burglary victims and the store clerk are people trying to work at a job, pay their taxes, and raise their families.

As too many in our society try to characterize police as suspects, suspects as victims, and victims as irrelevant, we need to keep these differences in mind.

Also that week, our dispatch center advised officers of a suicidal man with a gun in the area of a strip mall in East Bremerton. The caller said she saw him with a handgun and he was threatening to shoot himself. A few minutes later, Officer Bill Prouse located the suicidal man a few blocks away. As other officers arrived to assist, Officer Prouse did a great job of maintaining cover, communicating with the man, and taking him safely into custody. The handgun was recovered from the man’s waistband.

Later, Officers Frank Shaw, Bill Prouse and Alec George were dispatched to a domestic assault call. Upon arriving, they found the male suspect had entered the attic of the residence. The female victim informed officers the suspect may have a rifle upstairs. Additional officers responded and the male was talked down by Officer Prouse. Once out of the attic, the suspect told officers they had exactly 15 seconds to get out of his house. Fourteen seconds later, the man decided to call their bluff and he experienced a Taser. He didn’t like that, and assaulted Officer Prouse, Officer George and Sgt. Keith Sargent. He was arrested and booked for three counts of felony assault on an officer, domestic violence, and resisting arrest. One of our officers ended up with a black eye.

Finally, Corporal Todd Byers selected “Outdoors for Our Heroes” as this month’s recipient of our monthly “Fuzz Fund” contribution. Outdoors for Our Heroes assists veterans in getting into outdoor activities.

Work hard, have fun, stay safe.

Steven D. Strachan is chief of the Bremerton Police Department. Contact him at