Dispatch recordings show that Richland school board candidate Misipati Semi Bird called local dispatchers 20 times in a recent 12-month period to report people— juveniles, he presumed— parked near his house, drinking or playing loud music.
He called one group “thugs” and on multiple occasions urged police to issue citations for offenses that included trespassing. In all, four people were cited as a result of his 20 calls. They ranged in age from 15 to 23. All four were Latino.
Obtained under the Washington Public Records Act based on questions circulating in the community, the recordings shed new light on a Nov. 2, ballot contest that has drawn little media attention so far.
Bird, a consultant and a decorated Iraq war veteran who is Black, is running against Elizabeth Vann-Clark, a teacher turned technical writer, for Richland School Board, Position 3.
His calls may shed light on the leadership, communication and management style he would bring to the district if elected, as he helps set policy for a district of more than 13,000 K-12 students.
On the campaign trail he’s said his leadership and management skills, as well as priorities of accountability and transparency, would be his calling card. Among other things, he would treat employees with the “respect that they deserve.”
The call recordings show that he tried to pull over a pickup truck that he felt had almost run him off the road. Another time he accused a dispatcher of lying to him. He also alleged a lack of service from the Richland police, asking a dispatcher if the department was “giving me the finger.”
In a complaint to the Richland Police Department last December, he said that because of police failure to respond as he’d hoped to his 911 call about reckless driving, he’d decided to arm himself. “I do not believe that the RPD has the capability to protect the citizens of Richland.”
Most of his calls centered on people disturbing his family in their recently built home on a private road that has a nice view. Recordings show him calling about loud music, littering and drinking. In the calls he repeatedly offered to confront the trespassers himself, at one point saying, “I have firearms.”
Bird told the Observer that the calls were appropriate.
“We built our dream house,” he said, “and people are trespassing on our property, drinking, and keeping us awake at night with their noise.”
Asked about the youth who were cited, Bird said it was not his job to take them by the hand and fix their problems. He added, “I’m a firm believer in remediation. As a system, what can we do to get people on the righteous path?”
He did not respond to a follow-up email asking for additional perspective on specific calls he made to dispatchers.
Bird started a management consulting business after working at the Department of Energy and Washington State University.
He purchased land in Richland on March 6, 2020, and began building a home on it that year. The property sits on a private road with five other houses on a hill with a view of the Tri-Cities.
Most of the calls obtained by The Observer concerned Bird’s new home. One, however, occurred on Dec. 16, 2020, before he moved in.
“I’m following a truck,” he told the 911 emergency dispatcher. “He just hit me and he won’t pull over.”
It was 6:28 p.m. Bird told the dispatcher he was pursuing the Chevy 1500 that had “hit” him in the Queensgate/Columbia Trail roundabout. He began relaying the truck’s location and license plate number for police to respond, and again complained that the Chevy would not pull over.
The recording picked up the muffled sound of Bird, perhaps having driven up alongside the Chevy, exchanging words with someone: “I’m on the phone right now with 911,” Bird could be heard saying.
Returning to the dispatch call, Bird said, “He is driving away. He is exceeding the speed limit right now … He just said ‘F- you, you effing loser,’ and wouldn’t stop.”
Bird then acknowledged he wasn’t certain the other vehicle had hit him.
“I haven’t even checked for damage. If he missed me, it’s a blessing — and I’m driving a $95,000 car, so…” he added with a chuckle.
Bird told the dispatcher the Chevy had pushed him out of his lane, adding “When I was a police officer, we used to call that reckless endangerment … or driving recklessly.”
“I really appreciate you,” he told the dispatcher. “You did a fantastic job…. Thank you for what you do.”
Bird struck a different tone later that day in a complaint to the Richland Police Department.
“I’m very disappointed with the RPD and will now have to arm myself,” he wrote, “because I do not believe that the RPD has the capability to protect the citizens of Richland.”
“If I wasn’t so close to completion of my $2 mil home, I would relocate to another city.”
Records provide additional details about the police response and incident. According to computer-aided dispatch notes from Dec. 16, an officer in the area told the dispatcher that they had been “unable to respond (in person) due to a priority shooting,” but left a voicemail for Bird to call back in the morning.
The next day, on Dec.17, Bird confirmed to an officer that his initial claim of having been “hit” by the truck was incorrect, dispatch records show. Bird told police “he took his car to a shop and determined that there was no hit and run but he had hit a curb,” according to a report.
Asked in a Sept. 25 email what evidence the police could have used to cite the other driver, Bird did not reply by press time.
CALLS ABOUT NEW PROPERTY
Records indicate that Bird’s calls to dispatchers about trespassers near his new home began more than a year ago.
Under Washington law, police can respond to calls about private roads just as they do calls about any private property.
According to dispatch records:
In September and October he called three times about people parking on or near his property. The crimes he alleged included trespassing, vandalism, littering, drinking and “lewd conduct.”
On November 24, 2020, at 9:36 a.m. Bird called to report that $1500 worth of tools had been stolen from a locked trailer on the construction site. A Richland police officer investigated but closed the case the same day, writing “leads exhausted,” according to the dispatch notes.
Police documented extra patrols on Nov. 25 at 1:09 a.m., Nov. 25 at 1:21 a.m. and Nov. 28 at 2:00 a.m.
The calls continued: on the afternoon of Dec. 20, he called dispatch about a white Prius on his private road playing music.
· In the early afternoon of April 3, 2021, at 1:37 p.m. Bird called dispatch to report a vehicle at the end of his driveway..
· At 6:09 p.m. on April 29, 2021, Bird called dispatch to report a vehicle in his private driveway, adding that in the past, tagging and littering had occurred in the area.”
A CALL ABOUT “THUGS”
On May 1, 2021, records show, Bird called dispatch twice starting at around 5:30 a.m. in the morning about a car he said was blaring loud music.
“I apologize for the inconvenience,” he told the dispatcher when they told him he should have called the non-emergency number.
Eleven minutes later, however, he called back, expressing impatience and saying he hadn’t seen a police car respond, according to dispatch records.
“Yes, I called not too long ago for police support. We have trespassers who are blaring loud music on our private road and our driveway. There are booze bottles and everything. I have firearms. What do I do as a citizen when the police department can’t handle this stuff?”
The dispatcher responded that it appeared police had already responded to the area.
“Okay I’m walking outside of my house right now and I’m going to approach these people based on what you just said,” Bird replied.
The dispatcher urged him to not approach the car, saying “I did not recommend anything like that, and did not tell you to do anything like that. I don’t think putting yourself in any type of harm’s way is-“
“Oh no, ma’am,” Bird replied. “I’m a former Special Forces green beret. I’m not in any harm’s way and I’m very proficient with protecting myself and my family. I don’t see an officer there, so is he driving an invisible car?”
“I’m still looking at the people, the thugs, parked out in front,” he said. “And I don’t see any police cars.”
He added, “You tell me there’s a cop here, and where the hell is it?
Bird told the dispatcher to give his name to police Capt. Chris Lee as well as John Bruce: “He’s the chief of police in case you’re not aware.”
The dispatcher replied, “I am.”
“I want an answer, I want an answer,” Bird continued. “What is my police department doing, giving me the finger and saying ‘No we’re not going to do a damn thing to help you out? Citizen you help yourself out.’”
“The first lady said there was an officer here. Which was a lie. And now you’re saying there’s a police officer in the area.”
The dispatcher replied, “There’s an officer dispatched.”
“He just pulled up. I’ll take care of it myself.”
On May 15, 2021, Bird called at 2:44 a.m. and then again at 2:53 a.m. about loud music. According to the police report, an 18-year-old male was cited for trespassing and being a minor in possession of alcohol. An 15-year-old male juvenile, cited for trespassing, was referred to the prosecutor’s office.
On May 17, 2021, Bird filed to run for Richland School Board director. The calls continue.
On May 17, 2021, after 10:30 p.m Bird called dispatch three times in a seventeen-minute period about people on his private property being noisy and drinking out in public, according to dispatch records.
According to the call record, “RP back on the phone and is demanding that subjs are given a citation and trespassed.”
According to the recording, Bird said he assumed such trespassers are juveniles, because “most civilized adults” wouldn’t be out drinking on someone else’s property at that time of night.
Again, he offered to go confront the presumed youths: “I’m a Special Forces Green Beret. I have no problems taking care of people on my property.”
The officer cited a 20-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman with trespass. The officer reported “Subjects were not drinking but admitted to listening to music.”
On May 22, 2021, at 8:09 p.m. Bird call about young people speeding on a nearby public road drew the following reaction from the officer who responded: “No apparent crime, will provide XP [extra patrols] as time allows.”
He made one call each in May, June and September complaining of music, trespassing or illegal parking. The times of the calls ranged from 8:23 p.m. to 10:44 p.m.
Officers who responded to the first two calls said the cars either had gone or left when police arrived. For the third the officer reported that the driver of the vehicle said they were “hanging out, checking out the view. Moved along without issue.”
On his Facebook page, Bird has repeatedly stressed his commitment to bring accountability and “transparency” to the Richland school board. On Sept. 20, based on public records requests filed for this blog, Bird posted that he had been “targeted” by a “left-wing progressive blogger,” adding that he “probably” was targeted because “of the color of my skin and my message. My message runs counter to the progressive narrative that we live in a systemically racist city.”
He added in a video, “We’re going to stand true to our message to hold our school board accountable, to bring true visionary leadership to the Richland school board, and to assure accountability within the Richland school district; to ensure that parents have a voice, that students are heard and that our Richland school district employees are being engaged, being supported and being treated with the respect that they deserve.”
(Disclosure: The author is a member of the board of the National Women’s Political Caucus – WA which has endorsed Bird’s opponent.)
(Update: The date Bird filed to run for School Board has been corrected. The Observer regrets the error.)