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 KPLU since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KPLU, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.

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


2012 Elections
5:00 am
Tue October 30, 2012

Both candidates for King County Sheriff pledge to reform department

In King County, both men vying to be sheriff say they'll reform a department found to do a poor job of investigating police misconduct complaints.

But neither Steve Strachan nor John Urquhart are what you'd call outside reformers. 

(To hear the entire story, click the Listen button above.)

2012 Elections
5:00 am
Mon October 22, 2012

Candidates spar over role of Attorney General

Watching television political ads, you might think the job of Washington Attorney General is to be the state's chief criminal prosecutor. It's not. Most of the work is civil, defending state agencies and laws.

Still, there's been a debate in the campaign between Republican Reagan Dunn and Democrat Bob Ferguson over the importance of criminal prosecution experience.

(To hear the story, click on the Listen button above.)

If it's legal
10:36 pm
Thu October 11, 2012

Will legal marijuana make police less effective?

As an officer, you might get a call to go to the local 7-11 because of a public disturbance. You get there and find the perpetrators have marijuana on them. You can book them and take them to jail.
Connor Tarter Flickr

Washington voters are weighing whether to become the first state to legalize marijuana. All this week in our series "If it’s legal: Five ways legal pot could affect your life," KPLU reporters have been imagining what the future could look like if it passes.Today, we look at how legal pot could change policing.

In Washington state, between 9,000 and 10,000 people are arrested each year for possession of marijuana. If voters approve Initiative 502, it will suddenly be legal to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, enough to fill about a quarter of a small plastic sandwich bag. 

How would legalization affect who goes to jail and how our communities are policed?

Read more
Voting patterns
5:22 pm
Wed September 26, 2012

Racial bias a factor in Washington Supreme Court election, research finds

Gov. Chris Gregoire poses for a photo with Steven Gonzalez in 2011 when Gregoire appointed him to the Washington State Supreme Court.
The Associated Press

Racial bias did play a role in the primary election battle between Washington State Supreme Court Justice Steve Gonzalez and his challenger Bruce Danielson.

That’s the conclusion of research conducted by Matt Barreto, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Washington.

Read more
12:56 pm
Tue September 18, 2012

Will deal with Dept. of Justice really change police culture?

How do you make sure there is genuine change within the Seattle Police Department? That’s what some Seattle City Council members are asking as the city gets set to implement a police reform plan mandated by an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice.

For the complete story, click the listen button above.

Other News
1:59 am
Fri September 14, 2012

How did the 'City of Destiny' lose out to Seattle?

(This is the second installment of a 2-part series about Tacoma’s designation as the City of Destiny.)

Why didn’t Tacoma become the premiere city on Puget Sound?  How did the City of Destiny lose out to Seattle?

Back in 1873, it looked like Tacoma would be graced with fame and fortune when the city beat out Seattle to become the terminus for the Northern Pacific Railroad.

Read more on "I Wonder Why ... ?"

I Wonder Why ... ?
10:40 am
Fri September 7, 2012

Why Tacoma owes its slogan to a ‘crazy person’

New Yorker George Francis Train is often credited with naming Tacoma the “City of Destiny.”

Tacoma has been known as the “City of Destiny” for more than 140 years.

And while the city’s slogan is unique because it has lasted for so long (when was the last time you heard Seattle referred to as “Jet City?”), it also comes from a 19 Century “crazy person” who was a relentless promoter of Tacoma.

Read more on I Wonder Why ... ?

1:56 pm
Tue August 28, 2012

Why build a wall out of Jell-O?

Jell-O brick wall under construction at the Seattle Center grounds near the Monorail station.
Paula Wissel KPLU

Just steps away from the Monorail station at the Seattle Center, a wall is being constructed out of Jell-O.  A lightweight mortar holds the raspberry, orange and blackberry fusion "bricks" in place.   

The Jell-O brick wall is the work of sculptors Lisa Hein and Robert Seng. It was commissioned as part of the 50 year celebration of the Seattle World's Fair.

Read more
Worker benefits
10:28 am
Wed August 22, 2012

Paid sick leave for workers in Seattle takes effect September 1

At a meeting in Ballard on August 20, 2012, office managers and others who deal with small business payrolls listen to the city of Seattle Office for Civil Rights explain the requirements of the new paid sick leave law which takes effect Sept. 1.
Paula Wissel KPLU

A new benefit may be in store for you if you work in Seattle.  After September 1, 2012, employers in the city will be required to provide you with paid sick leave. It covers whether you're  full time, part time or work just occasionally in the city. 

Here's a link that to the specifics of the new paid sick leave law from the city of Seattle's Office for Civil Rights. For the most part, starting next month workers will earn 1 hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked.

Read more
Primary election
6:13 pm
Wed August 1, 2012

King county voters will decide whether to replace juvenile detention facility

If voters approve King Co. Prop. 1, the Youth Services Center, at 12th and E. Alder, would be replaced.
Paula Wissel KPLU

King County Proposition 1 would replace what’s called the Youth Services Center at 12th Avenue and East Alder Street with a brand new facility.  The current buildings sit on 9 acres of a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood near Seattle University. The proposal includes selling off 3 corners of the property to developers.

Read more
Primary election
1:22 pm
Wed August 1, 2012

Could Hispanic name be a factor in outcome of state Supreme Court race?

As candidates go, Washington Supreme Court Justice Steve Gonzalez seems to have everything going for him. But his supporters worry his name may hurt him.

Read more
NBA Arena
5:35 pm
Mon July 30, 2012

King County approves arena deal; Seattle council expresses doubts

Supporters of the new NBA arena proposal at the King County Council meeting in which the council is scheduled to vote on the proposal.
Ashley Gross KPLU

The King County Council approved an agreement with the investors who want to build an NBA arena in the SoDo district of Seattle. The council voted 6-3 to ratify the "memorandum of understanding" and "interlocal agreement," documents which define the terms of the arena deal.

"There is intrinsic value in this arena," said county councilmember Julia Patterson. She added that she had voted against Seattle's other sports arenas in the past, when she was in the Washington State Legislature, but voted yes on this deal.

In opposition, councilman Pete von Reichbauer said transportation issues had not been resolved. 

"If you build it, they will come – they can't come if they're stuck in traffic," he said.

Read more
Police misconduct
4:29 pm
Tue July 24, 2012

Audit says oversight of King County sheriff's deputies is lax

King County council members expressed frustration at the lack of progress in making the Sheriff’s office more accountable.
Kyle Fox KPLU

The King County Sheriff’s Department does a poor job of investigating police misconduct complaints. That’s the conclusion of an outside audit of the department. This comes five years after the county pledged to implement improvements in the troubled law enforcement agency.

Read more
11:10 am
Tue July 24, 2012

Cab ride to Sea-Tac will cost more

The rate for taking a taxi to Sea-Tac Airport from downtown Seattle is going up to $40.  That's an $8 increase from the previous flat rate of $32.

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I Wonder Why ... ?
4:05 am
Fri July 13, 2012

Why is "Louie Louie" Washington's theme song?

In the 1980’s, the Washington State Legislature considered making it the official state song. The measure failed, but “Louie Louie” is still listed on government websites as the “unofficial” state rock song.

Sure it’s got a good beat and it’s easy to dance to, but is a song about a Jamaican sailor longing for his girl really the best tune to represent Washington State?

How did this classic party song become so much a part of our cultural DNA, anyway?

Read More on "I Wonder Why ... ?"