Judge doesn't allow police chief to talk in court

Judge doesn't allow police chief to talk in court »Play Video
YAKIMA, Wash.-- Yakima's police chief was subpoenaed to court today. Chief Dominic Rizzi is frustrated with a court policy that lets some criminals out of jail briefly. Just recently, a second inmate got into trouble while he was out of jail temporarily and didn't come back as promised. Chief Rizzi's officers had to find him. KIMA was in the courtroom during the Chief's visit today.

Dozens of officers piled into a Yakima County courtroom to support their chief. Chief Dominic Rizzi was subpoenaed to appear before a judge. He wrote the court a letter to complain about the court's policy on furloughs. These are granted to prisoners so they can see the doctor, go to a funeral, or take care of personal business. It's a chance to get out of jail temporarily with the promise to return. Twice in the past year, two people didn't come back. It took police overtime to get them back.

"When someone escapes, they pose a much higher risk to law enforcement," Chief Rizzi said.

While police are concerned for public safety, court officials had another concern. Rizzi sent his letter to deputies, Selah Police and officials with the Yakima County Court system, including Judge David Elofson. He was on the bench when the last criminal failed to come back after a furlough. The judge felt the letter was a ploy to persuade his decision on sentencing.

"I'm not swayed by it," Judge Elofson said in the courtroom. "I deeply respect the work that you do and the work your officers do, but I will not be swayed by a letter."

Chief Rizzi maintains that was not his intention. But the judge did not give him any time to speak at all. It was clear Chief Rizzi may be in charge of Yakima PD, but Judge Elofson was in charge if those courtroom.

"If there is a problem, I think there are other ways that we can address the issue," Elofson said to Rizzi in the courtroom.

"The fact that he did not allow me to speak, I am fine with that, but had he allowed me to speak, I would have definitely addressed what my intent was," Rizzi said.

Yakima County Prosecutors were already looking into stricter policies on furlough so that the past isn't repeated. The judge wanted the Chief in court so it was on the record. He didn't want the defense to find out about the Chief's letter after the fact and use it in an appeal.