City of Olympia - Police Guild Contract Ends December 2015
By Janine Unsoeld
According to an article by Ansel Herz posted May 22 in The Stranger, a Seattle publication, an Olympia police officer who shot two unarmed African American men also fired a bullet into a nearby home.
The article is at: http://www.thestranger.com/blogs/slog/2015/05/22/22265239/olympia-police-officer-who-shot-two-unarmed-black-men-also-fired-a-bullet-into-a-nearby-home
Olympians Express Continued Shock, Anger, Concern
Conversations this weekend in most Olympia restaurants, coffee shops, homes, and social media sites continue to express a wide range of emotions about the shooting incident.
Reflecting the thoughts of many Olympians, many wonder why local corporate media has already seemingly moved on from the shooting.
Zoltan Grossman, a faculty member at The Evergreen State College, knows the young family whose window was said to have been shot out by the officer’s bullet and confirmed The Stranger's story for Little Hollywood.
“Why hasn't this angle been covered in the Olympia police shooting? I know one of the young people who lives in the house that was struck by Officer Donald's bullet. The residents report that there were around 10 gunshots. I have seen other photos of the broken window on the second floor,” says Grossman.
Following the incident, Grossman says he wrote an email to The Olympian but has not yet heard back from the newspaper, and shared it with Little Hollywood:
“….You've covered every possible angle to support a pro-police point of view--the video from Safeway, the records of the victims, windows broken by protesters separate from the larger protests. But I haven't seen a word about the bullet breaking the upstairs window of an Olympia home, in what could amount to reckless endangerment by Officer Donald. The police themselves have recovered the bullet and interviewed the residents --why haven't you? It deserves a separate article and interviews with the residents,” wrote Grossman.
Wendy Tanowitz of Olympia spoke at a downtown community gathering last Thursday night at Temple Beth Hatfiloh.
Tanowitz has conducted much research into local and national law enforcement actions, and was asked by Little Hollywood today for more information.
“....I'm very concerned and hyper-sensitive to systemic and institutional abuse of power in all its forms….Many factors contribute to a culture of impunity among people who work in law enforcement, not the least of which is that they are almost never held accountable for their actions, and the criminal (in)justice system exists to protect and shield them from the legal consequences of shooting or killing someone,” she said.
In researching how many people are killed while in contact with police, Tanowitz learned that there is no national database where these figures are available. She says a grassroots-generated site exists at www.killedbypolice.net but it is incomplete.
That group estimates that 1,000 people were killed by police or while in police custody in 2014. Their Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/KilledByPolice/posts/1026884260673044?_rdr
She said that the use of a Taser instead of a firearm and the officer calling for backup before he shot two men should have been considered.
“People who work in law enforcement should never take it upon themselves to act as judge, jury and executioner. Many hundreds of people - the number sometimes approaches 1,000 - are killed or injured in the United States each year by law enforcement who said they felt threatened. This must end. Police are hired to protect public safety and must held be accountable for their actions….There must have been other ways to have handled this situation short of using potentially deadly force. We need to know what happened Thursday morning in Olympia, but we have no video record. This can and should be remedied in the future by mandating that all Olympia police department officers wear body cameras.”
City of Olympia-Olympia Police Guild Contract
The three year contract between the City of Olympia and the Police Guild ends in December 2015, just in time for a new contract to mandate body cameras for the Olympia Police Department.
The January 1, 2013 - December 31, 2015 contract is located here: http://www.codepublishing.com/wa/olympia/mobile/?pg=labor/OlympiaLabor05.html
Although Article 22 of the contract details the use of dash-mounted video systems, it has not been implemented.
Related to a police incident involving local resident Scott Yoos, Tanowitz read the Police Guild contract and in an October 8, 2013 meeting of the Olympia City Council, she asked when the dash cameras would be installed.
In response, according to the minutes, Police Chief Ronnie Roberts addressed the council and the issues regarding record retention and additional staff needed to manage the large amount of data. He said body mics or cameras would also impact records requests.
In a vote of 6 – 1, the contract was approved at that meeting by Councilmembers Stephen Buxbaum, Nathaniel Jones, Jim Cooper, Julie Hankins, and Jeannine Roe. The only one who did not approve it was then-Councilmember Karen Rogers.
At the time, Mayor Buxbaum asked that a list of frequently asked questions regarding dash cameras be produced for the public and include the cost breakdown for records requests.
A search on the City of Olympia website, www.olympiawa.gov for that list brought up no results.
Future Police Accountability
The Olympia police department does not currently have a police auditor - the position was cut for budgetary reasons in 2009. The department has never had a citizen review panel, although there has been discussion about it.
In the past, a police auditor reported directly to the city council. The auditor, hired on an annual contract, reported on a quarterly basis, and conducted an internal affairs investigation, looking into use of force and other complaints.
In an interview with Little Hollywood in December 2014, Laura Wohl, who was then public information officer for the department said:
“It is very unusual for a department of our size to have a citizen review panel. If a citizen makes a complaint, a professional standards lieutenant does a complete investigation into policy and law. For some complaints, a dispute mediator is used, for example, if a complainant feels an officer was rude....it's different than any other employment situation. It's a full investigation when a complaint is made of any kind,” said Wohl.
“After the professional standards lieutenant makes his or her findings, it is reviewed by the commander and chief of police. If it is sustained, disciplinary action is taken. If somebody doesn't like the determination, and feels they have been harmed, they can make a claim with the city, or file a civil liability tort, and sue us.”
Little Hollywood has written many past stories about the Olympia Police Department, including the crisis intervention training of a police officer, police accountability, statistics on officer demographics regarding gender, race, and language diversity, the incident regarding Olympia resident Scott Yoos and more. For more information, go to www.janinelittlehollywood.blogspot.com and use the search button to type in key words.