What's wrong at the Department of Corrections?

What's wrong at the Department of Corrections? »Play Video
SEATTLE - Three local police officers have been killed recently, and one thread links all three deaths. In each case, the suspect was a convict on probation, and each one supervised by the State Department of Corrections.

KOMO 4 News tried repeatedly to get the Department of Corrections to talk to us, even sending them a list of our questions.

They declined.

A whistleblower came forward, risking everything to tell us what's wrong at Department of Corrections.

"They're hiding everything. Everything's under a cloud," the source said.

Our source claims the Department of Corrections' failure to hold three career felons accountable is the reason three local police officers are dead.

Officers Beth Nowak and Joselito Barber were killed in violent car wrecks. King County Deputy Steve Cox was shot by a felon on probation.

"They died for nothing," the source said. "My department could have done more."

Last December, King County Sheriff's Deputy Steve Cox was gunned down by Raymond Porter, a known gang member and drug dealer on probation.

"It needn't have happened," said Joan Cox, Steve Cox's mother. "It shouldn't have happened. That young man should not have been on the streets."

"We're angry," added his father Ron. "We're starting to ask questions as to whether this could have been avoided."

Porter had been out of prison just four months when he shot Deputy Cox. And DOC's own documents show that time and time again, they let Porter violate his probation with only minor consequences."

Documents show he failed repeatedly to report to his community corrections officer.

He flunked drug tests, and confessed to using alcohol too. And never entered court ordered drug treatment.

King County Sheriff Sue Rahr is demanding answers.

We asked her: "If a felon on supervision is failing drug tests, is that a red flag?" Sheriff Rahr answered: "Absolutely."

DOC records show Porter failed to report at least six times. Each time, his probation officer sent letters or used the telephone to try to find him.

No one from DOC went to his home. And Porter's file shows when he tested dirty for drugs, his toughest punishment was a verbal warning.

"When they've crossed the line," Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske says, "there needs to be immediate and swift action."

In two months' time, Kerlikowske lost two officers to DOC offenders. Last November, in a devastating wreck, 20-time felon Neal Kelley killed himself and Officer Beth Nowak when he ran a red light in a stolen car.

"He didn't deserve the chances he was given," our source said.

Three months before Kelley killed officer Nowak, Seattle police arrested him for breaking into cars. DOC documents show six alleged violations of his probation.

But Kelley didn't go back to prison. Instead, documents show the DOC ordered his release from jail while the car prowl case was investigated.

After that, Kelley missed several appointments with his corrections officer, and tested positive for cocaine. Those are violations that could have put him back behind bars.

We asked our source, "when Neal Kelley tested positive for cocaine, if he'd been sent back to prison, would Officer Nowak be alive today?" Our source replied: "She would be, and she would be thriving at the East Precinct."

DOC documents show the same is true for Mary Jane Rivas. Police say she was high on cocaine when she caused a violent wreck last year, killing Seattle Police officer Joselito Barber.

She'd been out of prison just 10 days and had never reported to the Department of Corrections. DOC records show her probation officer made only a single phone call in an attempt to find her.

"I am angry, because they didn't have to die," our source said. "We are the Department of Corrections. That's what we do. We protect the public, and we are not doing it."

Again, KOMO 4 News gave the department many opportunities to talk to us. The DOC only issued a written statement, saying it would not be fair to the victim's families or the state employees involved to comment while they're preparing a report for the governor.