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 tent stands at the emergency entrance to Seattle Children's Hospital. As health officials across Washington state prepare for the latest COVID-19 surge, rural hospitals face unique challenges.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

Rural hospitals are feeling the effect of the surge in coronavirus cases in Washington. Unlike earlier in the pandemic when urban areas felt most of the impact, this time small town hospitals are also being slammed with cases. And this is happening as some of the same hospitals are dealing with an influx of patients from out of state.

KNKX photo

King County will no longer be electing its sheriff. Voters approved a charter amendment that directs the county to appoint its top law enforcement officer. The County Council is planning how to go about making the change.

Charles Krupa / The Associated Press

Making the transition from being in the military to living and working outside of it can be challenging. COVID-19 has made it even harder.

When civic leaders wanted to tear down Pike Place Market in the 1970s, people rallied to save it. Pictured here is a demonstration from 1971.
MOHAI, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Collection, 1986.5.54096.1, photo by Tom Brownell

Sometimes in the heat of an election, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment. But there are lessons to be learned from taking a step back and putting it in context.

An online exhibit at the Museum of History and Industry, or MOHAI, in Seattle does that. It looks at how democracy has played out in Washington state over the years, from how we cast our ballots to our use of the initiative process to our history of protesting.

Nurses put on PPE outside Harborview on April 2, 2020.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press


A major expansion of Harborview Medical Center is on the ballot in King County. It’s listed as King County Proposition 1. If approved, the $1.7 billion, 20-year bond would pay for a new 10-story medical tower along with upgrades to emergency and behavioral health facilities, as well as earthquake proofing.

A flu vaccine is administered in Seattle in 2018.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press (file)

Have you gotten your flu shot yet? It’s something you hear every year, but this flu season public health officials are going the extra mile to convince you. They say a bad influenza outbreak could overwhelm the health care system, which is already stretched by COVID-19. This year, there are more flu shots available for free. 

Paula Wissel / KNKX

When was the last time you had to put your official signature on something? These days, we rarely have to use it. We aren't writing many checks and even when we have to sign for something, it's on a digital device where a squiggly line will suffice.

Maybe that explains why two-thirds of ballots rejected in Washington state, which is an all mail-in state, are because the signature doesn't match the one election officials have on file. The other third are because ballots were postmarked after the deadline.

People gathered on the East 34th Street bridge to remember the late Harold Moss on Thursday. The bridge was renamed for Moss last year. The Tacoma civil rights icon died Sept. 21.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Members of the community gathered Thursday to remember Tacoma civil rights icon Harold Moss, who died last week. Services were held on what would have been his 91st birthday.

People regard Moss as a trailblazer who fought, among other injustices, the discriminatory real-estate practice of redlining.

Thursday’s events included a socially distanced funeral with people in their cars, and a procession over the East 34th Street bridge, which was renamed for Moss last year.

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.

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