Paula Wissel | KNKX

Paula Wissel

Law & Justice Reporter

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.

Paula's most memorable moment at KNKX: “Interviewing NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr about his ability to put current events in historical context. It’s something I aspire to.”

Ways to Connect

A mural covers the boarded up windows of a business in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood back in April. State officials say economic decline brought on by the pandemic could be with us long after COVID-19 ceases to be a public health emergency.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX (file)

The state’s economic decline brought on by the pandemic could be with us long after COVID-19 ceases to be a public health emergency, says Lisa Brown, director of the Washington Department of Commerce.

If previous recessions both here and around the world are any indication, Brown says, it will be three or four years before the economy in Washington reaches its pre-COVID level. The state commerce department has created an economic recovery dashboard to track everything from taxable business income to food insecurity. 

Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler poses for a photo, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017, in his office at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press (file)

If you’re trying to find an individual health plan because you lost your job, beware of scammers. That’s the warning from Washington’s Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. He says right now there are a lot of people desperate to find affordable coverage and they’re easy marks for con artists.

Washington Supreme Court Justice Raquel Montoya-Lewis, left, reacts to applause after she was sworn in, Monday, Jan. 6, 2020, in Olympia, Wash. Montoya-Lewis wrote the unanimous opinion calling for the Indian Child Welfare Act to be more broadly applied.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press (file)

A Washington Supreme Court decision saying the Indian Child Welfare Act should be more broadly applied is being called a big win for Native American rights.


Congress passed the Act in 1978. Washington state has its own version as well, called the Washington Indian Child Welfare Act. What the welfare acts do is require that tribes be notified and allowed to intercede in child custody or loss of parental rights cases if the family has any tribal relationships.


The unanimous opinion was written by Washington’s first Native American justice Raquel Montoya-Lewis, who cited the long history of Native American children being taken from their communities.

Adrian Florez / KNKX

The King County Prosecutor’s Office recently filed it’s 11th domestic violence homicide charge for the year. There were only four domestic violence murder cases all of last year. Calls to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which includes Washington state, also are up. Domestic violence experts say COVID-19 is making the situation for domestic violence victims worse.

Xuyen Le, Tommy Le's aunt, speaks while Sunny Le, Tommy's father, listens in the background during a news conference Wednesday at the Asian Counseling and Referral Service in South Seattle.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

An outside investigator presented the King County Council with a scathing review of the sheriff’s department on Wednesday, centered on its handling of the fatal shooting of 20-year-old Tommy Le.

Le was killed three years ago by sheriff’s Deputy Cesar Molina, who was responding to a report of a disturbance in Burien. Initial reports said Le wielded a knife in the incident, but the review concluded all he had on him was a ballpoint pen.

Police stand in a line on the streets of downtown Seattle during protests in May.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX (file)

The Seattle agency that investigates complaints against police is struggling to keep up with the volume of filings. Andrew Myerberg, director of the Office of Police Accountability or OPA, said there are 87 active investigations related to this summer’s protests. 


He said 80 to 90 percent of the complaints allege excessive use of force by police. Meanwhile, he said investigators are still handling their regular caseloads.

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

In a mostly white neighborhood, you'll see phrases like "vintage charm" and "classic" when searching rental advertisements. In neighborhoods that are predominantly people of color, you're more likely to see an apartment advertised as "safe and secure" and "convenient transportation."

These are examples of what University of Washington researchers found when they analyzed a year's worth of rental ads for Seattle, Tacoma and Bellevue on Craigslist. 

Backpackers in the Central Cascades in August 2020. Search and rescue crews say more people in the outdoors means more calls for help.
David de Graaf

Search and rescue teams in Washington had their busiest July ever.

King County Search and Rescue conducted 43 missions last month. That's more than double the 20-a-month average for July. Olympic National Park has had 39 search and rescue incidents in 2020, 22 in July. That's up from the 17 incidents in July of 2019. 

Because rescue teams are stretched thin, crews say it's more important than ever that hikers and backpackers be prepared before heading into the wilderness.

One of the courtrooms in the King County Children and Family Justice Center.
Paula Wissel / KNKX

Just like adults, teens who are arrested are read their Miranda rights. But advocates for reform say the teenage brain isn’t developed enough to really absorb the meaning of “the right to remain silent” and “anything you say can and will be held against you in a court of law.”

The Seattle City Council and King County Council are considering ordinances that would provide more protections for juveniles when it comes to the Miranda warning. 

Courtesy of Central Area Senior Center

A senior center in Seattle’s historically Black Central District, also known as the Central Area, is fighting a proposal that would require affordable housing to be built on land surrounding the center.

Dian Ferguson, executive director of the Central Area Senior Center, said she isn't opposed to affordable housing, but the plan would hinder the senior center's ability to provide services.

Adrian Florez / KNKX

A 62-year old Bothell man has been arrested for the 1993 murder of Melissa Lee, who was abducted from her home and strangled 27  years ago.

Alan Edward Dean has been arrested, and faces charges of first-degree murder.

Adrian Florez / KNKX

In King County, a one-third decline in sales tax revenue has resulted in a $12 million cut to a King County fund that pays for mental and behavioral health services. The Mental Illness and Drug Dependency (MIDD) funds rely solely 0.1 percent of sales tax in King County. The levy was approved by voters.

Vistors to Seattle Center walk along the International Fountain on a Thursday afternoon. Vistors to Seattle Center on a Thursday afternoon.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Imagine all those sounds of summer you aren’t hearing right now. That’s what Seattle artist Robb Kunz did. Then he combined those noises that remind us of our pre-COVID existence with other sounds he's collected, creating an outdoor sound collage on a glass covered walkway at the Seattle Center. It will be up through the end of July.

Temple of Justice in Olympia
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

An innovative program that allows non-lawyers to be licensed to give limited legal advice has been touted as a national model. As reported by KNKX in 2016, it was created as a way to provide inexpensive legal help for people without a lot of money.

But now, with no official warning, the Washington Supreme Court has voted to kill the LLLT program, as it’s known.

Paula Wissel / KNKX

U.S. postal workers drove around the Seattle federal building in a car caravan Tuesday, their vehicles plastered with signs urging Congress to approve $75 billion in stimulus money to keep the U.S. Postal Service afloat.

The post office doesn’t receive tax dollars. As an independent agency operated by the government, it relies on revenue from business and advertising mailers, but that has plummeted. 

Messages in support of Black Lives Matter and defunding Seattle police cover the boarded up windows of the Seattle Police Department East Precinct in the Capitol Hill Organized Protest zone, or CHOP. Mayor Jenny Durkan has called for protesters to leave.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan says “it’s time for people to go home” and leave the Capitol Hill Organized Protest zone, or the CHOP. She says businesses and residents on Capitol Hill are suffering and the area needs to be restored and streets open. Durkan didn't specify when the city will take action.

Jeff Chiu / The Associated Press (file)

COVID-19 emergency funds distributed by the state of Washington in April included $3 million for the state’s Civil Legal Aid program. Now, an additional $2.3 million has been tentatively approved for the program.

In the initial round of funding, the civil legal aid was targeted at helping workers get the unemployment money they’re due and preventing renters from being unlawfully evicted.

Adrian Florez / KNKX

Gig workers who deliver groceries and restaurant meals to homes in Seattle will be getting hazard pay. The Seattle City Council approved a bill that requires companies such as Instacart to pay workers an extra $2.50 per delivery during the coronavirus emergency.

Protesters have been gathering in Seattle daily since last weekend, to protest police brutality. During those demonstrations, police have been accused of using tear gas to clear crowds.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

The Seattle City Council grilled Police Chief Carmen Best on Wednesday afternoon over the conduct of officers during weeklong protests. Often late at night, police were dispersing crowds with tear gas and flash-bang grenades.


Critics said there appeared to be little effort to de-escalate the situation in ways that had been done in the past. Council member Lisa Herbold, who chairs the Seattle City Council Public Safety Committee, told Best she wanted answers.

The Seattle arts community gathered Tuesday for a peaceful march protesting police brutality and systemic racism, after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Members of the arts community in Seattle are joining in the protests against the killing of George Floyd. Hundreds gathered Tuesday near the Seattle Opera House.

As musicians, painters, actors and others chanted “Black Lives Matter,” cars and trucks drove by honking their support.

Paula Wissel / KNKX

Recently, a small group of janitors gathered outside a downtown Seattle high-rise around 10 p.m. Standing socially distant from each other, they lit candles to honor a member of their union, SEIU-6, who had died from COVID-19.


More than 15 out of 7,500 members of the union are sick with the virus. The janitors say it highlights the dangers they face on the job. They say while their work is essential, it isn’t being recognized as such.

Erin Hennessey / KNKX

Every year, recreational boaters are reminded to stay safe on the water, to wear life jackets and avoid using alcohol and drugs. This time around, the warnings include tips for avoiding coronavirus.

Paula Wissel / KNKX

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, cities and counties have worked to prevent the spread of the disease in crowded homeless shelters. King County already has moved 600 shelter residents into hotels and has set up isolation and quarantine sites for people who are ill or have been exposed to the virus.


The county’s latest effort is a temporary modular shelter constructed on a vacant lot in Seattle’s Interbay neighborhood.

Teamsters Local 117

Taxi drivers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport are upset with the Port of Seattle. They say the port indicated in March that the airport fees they pay would be waived during the COVID-19 crisis. But now, the drivers have received a letter notifying them that fees are only being deferred and will have to be paid back in January.

Tomo Nakayama

Most of the news about airports these days is about empty concourses and cancelled flights due to the coronavirus. But, 23 airports in North America are changing that up today by hosting a live on-line music festival. The JetStream Music Festival begins at 3 p.m. (PDT) on Facebook Live. It’s hosted out of Austin and features musicians who, during normal times, entertain passengers by busking at airports.

In this April 2, 2020 photo, a nurse at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle holds a medical face shield prior to the start of her shift in a triage tent outside the hospital's emergency department.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

Have you ever felt like this is your moment, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to really make a difference? Nursing student Liam Malpass says that’s what it feels like for him right now. He’s one of 45 graduate students in University of Washington's School of Nursing who are getting their clinical experience by working with King County Public Health during the fight against coronavirus.

Passengers spread out as they wait at a screening area meant for hundreds at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Wednesday, April 15, 2020.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

Passenger volumes at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport were down 56 percent in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And officials with the Port of Seattle expect the numbers for April to show a 90 percent decline.

Harborview Medical Center in Seattle is among the hospitals in the UW Medicine system, which will likely start allowing elective surgeries again if COVID-19 modeling continues to show improvement.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

Hospitals in Washington state are mapping out plans to once again offer elective surgeries. Gov. Jay Inslee, who halted the procedures as part of his emergency order, has indicated he may loosen restrictions if Thursday’s COVID-19 models show enough of an improvement.

The Very Rev. Steven L. Thomason, left, and the Right Rev. Gregory H. Rickel, bow to an empty sanctuary as they begin a live streamed Easter service at Saint Mark's Episcopal Cathedral Sunday, April 12, 2020, in Seattle.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

With crowds prohibited from gathering, churches and other religious institutions have had to connect virtually. This past weekend marked Easter Sunday, the holiest of Christian holidays. KNKX reporter Paula Wissel "attended" online services and brings us an audio postcard. The services include St. Brendan’s Spanish Mass in Bothell, New Beginnings Christian Fellowship in Kent, St. James Cathedral in Seattle and Our Savior Lutheran Church in Tacoma.

A King County Metro bus had no passengers during a ride through Seattle’ Pioneer Square neighborhood March 11. Elderly people are being advised not to use public transit amid the coronavirus pandemic. But some don’t have a choice.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Audio Pending...

To avoid exposure to the new coronavirus, the elderly are encouraged to stay home. Many can turn to friends and family to bring them what they need. But for those who live alone without anyone around to help that can be challenging. That was one of the issues that came up during a telephone town hall organized by AARP Washington with public health officials.