Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Olympia Police Present Strategic Plan to City Council

Above: Olympia Police Department Chief Ronnie Roberts greets Kingston, 7, before tonight's presentation by the department on its 2015-2020 strategic plan.  

Ad Hoc Committee Members Present at Tonight's Presentation

By Janine Unsoeld

Ever since the shooting of two young African American men on May 21 by an Olympia police officer stunned the South Sound community, momentum has grown for community conversations around racial issues. 

While the event caused national news to suddenly become local and deeply personal, some in the community live the conversation every day, experiencing prejudice, profiling, and discrimination. For some people of color, it was a question of not if, but when, an act of police violence would occur.

At a community forum last night at Traditions Fair Trade, Raphael Ruiz gave an update on a group he is involved with called Full Circle United. The group, composed of people of color, is actively organizing and fundraising to help Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin with their recovery, both physically and emotionally. 

Bryson Chaplin is in a wheelchair.  Ruiz said that doctors are not sure they can remove a bullet that is still lodged in his spine.  Chaplin’s brother, Andre Thompson and his sister Jasmine were in the audience last night, but did not speak.

Contrast that discussion with a city council study session meeting tonight featuring a nearly 45 minute presentation by the Olympia Police Department (OPD) on its 2015-2020 strategic plan, and the meeting could be described as restrained.

Staff went out of their way to avoid any mention of controversial issues but effectively spoke to their goals and priorities, challenges and opportunities.

Several interested citizens, including three members of the city’s new Ad Hoc Committee on Community and Police Relations, listened to Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts and Olympia Police Department staff members.

Roberts was hired in January 2011, and inherited the challenge of high turnover within the department due to the numerous retirements of officers and staff. Since 2011, the department has hired 30 officers, seven sergeants, five corrections officers, four and a half time administrators, and four managers.

Roberts described the 120 day hiring process for officers and said he is largely hiring people from the local community. He said they have hired a railroad engineer, a barista, a military officer, and even a member of a Christian rock band.

“Our department is changing, and we’re future focused,” said Roberts.

Demonstrating the different methods of community engagement, Lt. Paul Lower said that the department attends events such as neighborhood picnics and organized the popular Where’s Melnik? scavenger hunt around Melnik, the K-9 officer. 

The department is also using social media tools and has an active presence on Twitter, Next Door, Instagram, and their website. Lt. Lower also said that they are looking into a video mobile app.

Describing how the department uses its two new school resource officers and getting into the schools in different ways, officers are going to start participating with the handing out of awards to school crossing guards. He said they were also seeking nontraditional venues to speak with the community.

Internally, the department is using technology: 17 different software packages from tracking patrols, investigations, and crime prevention to records management and information sharing.

The days are gone where an officer gets out his or her pad and pencil to write out a ticket. Every officer has a computer in their car and they are essentially unable to work without their computer, said administrative services manager Laura Wohl. Violator information is entered into the computer, and a ticket is printed out in the squad car.

This fall, members of the public will be able to download their own police-generated accident report and send it to their insurance agency, run crime maps for their neighborhood or anywhere in the city, register their bicycle, and report some crimes.

The only time body cameras were mentioned was when Wohl described the possible future use of technology to interact with the community.

“….From body cameras to record public police interactions to access social services you may need, the department will continue to evaluate and implement the tools that can have a positive impact on public safety,” said Wohl.

Jail Manager Chandra Brady gave an informative presentation with statistics on how the department is using jail resources by prioritizing bookings based on charges, which are mostly assault, theft, and driving under the influence. The department is also being more selective about warrant confirmations such as domestic violence, harassment, and driving under the influence.

Above: Kerensa Mabwa outside Olympia City Hall after tonight's Olympia Police Department presentation.

Ad Hoc Committee Members Present

Three members of the city’s new Ad Hoc Committee on Police and Community Relations were present at tonight’s meeting: Curt Pavola, Kerensa Mabwa, and Clinton Petty.

Coming from Chicago, Kerensa Mabwa moved to Olympia ten years ago. Mabwa is currently the community engagement coordinator for Garden Raised Bounty (GRuB), a local non-profit that works with youth and people with low-incomes to create food solutions.

Interviewed after the OPD presentation, Mabwa says she’s excited to be invited into the conversation.

“It’s a big opportunity for people to do some deep listening…this opportunity offers initializing energy….We can benefit by riding the momentum of the conversations that have already begun. I’m curious, and it will be a learning opportunity for me as well to better our community, to learn, respond and communicate in new ways….” said Mabwa.

Above: Clinton Petty after tonight's Olympia Police Department's 2015-2020 strategic plan presentation.

Clinton Petty is a Vietnam veteran and a retired US Army Division Command Sergeant Major. His professional career includes service for the State of Washington. While in state service, Petty was twice awarded the Distinguished Manager award by two governors.

Also interviewed after the OPD presentation, Petty said that things today don’t have to be what they are tomorrow. 

As an ad hoc committee member, Petty says he is interested in hearing from the public.

“….They want to get into what their experiences are… and that’s not bad, we should be trying to get into an understanding of how things can be better. Those experiences don’t have to be what they are tomorrow, and I believe if we take that, and begin to look at it proactively, we don’t have to be another Ferguson, if we do the right thing and put the right process in place. And the other thing is, we should work together….The governor of the state needs to understand that we should be the model. We shouldn’t be waiting for somebody to present it for us…. And you know, we shouldn’t do it in a piecemeal fashion, and then get to a week or a month later, and nothing has changed. I just see that what we do will be a benefit to our children and our grandchildren, and by the way, the police force, the way I look at it, they’re our sons and daughters too, and so often we talk about that as if they’re not….They are our children,” said Perry.

Community Members Take the Lead

Many individuals and organizations have taken the lead in developing opportunities for constructive conversation around racial justice.

Leslie Cushman is a member of the United Churches of Olympia, and attended tonight’s police department presentation and last night’s community forum at Traditions Fair Trade.

With her spouse Jody Smith, she is working alongside their minister Tammy Stampfli and Carol McKinley from the Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation to keep their congregations engaged with racial justice issues.

Earlier this summer, United Churches of Olympia hosted a three part film series, Race: The Power of an Illusion, and held discussions that drew over 100 people. The group also helped convene the Michael Brown memorial on the Capital Campus on August 9. 

“I am going to stay involved in this policing issue, and the broader racial justice issue, which includes a broad array of topics, including jails, government services, education, land use, and climate change,” said Cushman.

“We have been fortunate to have partnered with the YWCA on these events….their national mission is to eliminate racism. That is inspiring to me. The approach we are taking is a balance between the need to educate ourselves on white privilege and the need to get directly engaged in the police accountability issues.  We will be involved in observing and providing input to the Ad Hoc committee.  We are very aware that at this point in time, silence is akin to complicity.  We stress the need to be willing to be inconvenienced and uncomfortable in order to tackle these topics, and we have heard loud and clear from people of color in our community that they are afraid.  This speaks volumes.”

For more information about the Olympia Police Department, the May 21 shooting of two African American men by an Olympia police officer and community conversations, go to Little Hollywood, www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com and type key words into the search engine.

Olympia Police, Community Conversations Continue

Above: Jose Gutierrez, Jr., a faculty member at South Puget Sound Community College, speaks Monday night at a forum discussing personal experiences and perspectives about police issues. To his left are Tony Benton of Rainier Valley Radio, Seattle, and Jeremy Newton, faculty member at St. Martin’s University. Other panel members included Olympia community activists and candidates for public office, Rafael Ruiz and Marco Rosaire Rossi. The event was held at Traditions Fair Trade in downtown Olympia and was coordinated by Ruth Brownstein, KAOS 89.3 FM Community Radio general manager at The Evergreen State College. It was the first in a series of community conversations called “Tea and Talk.” 

The room was packed with community members voicing their thoughts about police and community relations, which included the May 21 shooting in Olympia of two young African American men, Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin, by Olympia Police Officer Ryan Donald. Andre Thompson and his sister Jasmine were in the audience but did not speak. Brownstein said that she chose this topic because “it was long overdue that we talk to each other and get to know each other as a community.” Brownstein also said that she invited representatives from the Olympia Police Department, the Lacey Police Department, and The Evergreen State College campus police department, and all declined the opportunity to participate.

By Janine Unsoeld

The Olympia Police Department will give council members an oral report called, “Creating a Leading Organization” at a city council study session on Tuesday, August 25, at 5:30 p.m. at Olympia City Hall, 601 4th Avenue East.

Presenters will discuss the police department’s strategic initiatives through 2020 and include Olympia Police Department Chief Ronnie Roberts; Lt. Paul Lower; Jail Manager Chandra Brady; Acting Lt. Rich Allen; and the department’s administrative services manager, Laura Wohl.

There is no city council meeting scheduled following the study session.

Wednesday: Ad Hoc Committee on Police and Community Relations

The first meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee on Police and Community Relations will be held on Wednesday, August 26, 5:00 p.m., at Garfield Elementary, 325 Plymouth St. NW, in the multi-purpose room.

The agenda states that public comment will not be allowed.

The group will review and discuss roles and responsibilities of the committee, review the committee charter, and discuss future meeting dates and locations.

At the Tuesday, August 18 city council meeting, Mayor Stephen Buxbaum made a surprise announcement about the upcoming meeting of the ad hoc committee on police and community relations group and named additional participants, providing brief biographies of each member.

At the meeting, Mayor Buxbaum said that the committee will meet up to six months and have up to five community forums within that timeframe. He said that within approximately two months, the committee will have a work session with the whole council, and two work sessions with the council before the end of the year.

The public is invited to attend the meetings, but he said not all meetings will be open for public comment. Committee members will have city email accounts and a website will be established for the committee. There will be a method for the public to leave comments for the committee via the city website.

Although Mayor Buxbaum said that this information will be announced on the city website, as of this writing (Tuesday, August 25, at 1:15 a.m.), it is still not available on the city website.

A city webpage on the police shooting was last updated since August 6.

In that update, the Olympia Police Department said: The Critical Incident Team has completed their investigation and transferred it to the Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office. The Olympia Police Department does not have a copy of the investigative report. The Prosecutor will review the report contents, consider the case details and request any additional follow-up work needed. Once the Prosecutor has completed his review, he will publicly issue his findings as well as any criminal charges. The Olympia Police Department will learn the results of this investigation along with our community at that time.

Ad Hoc Committee on Police and Community Relations Charter

Mayor Buxbaum and Mayor Pro Tem Nathaniel Jones have been charged by the council with enlisting the help of five community members who would act as a “convener group.”  

Exact language of the charter is as follows:

The group’s purpose is to develop opportunities for broad-based and inclusive engagement with the community about police and community relations.

The specific charge of the task force is to work as a team, in collaboration with City of Olympia staff and local non-profit organizations, and carry out up to five community forums to receive information and share perspectives about methods for engaging under-represented and minority groups on policing practices in order to bridge understanding between Olympia’s law enforcement officers and the public and seek input on a preferred process for engaging the public on implementing police-worn body cameras.

Engagement methods will include community briefings by city staff and other criminal justice professionals, small group discussions, and other direct public engagement strategies.

Outcomes: Within six months of appointment, provide a summary of what was heard that might assist Olympia in achieving its goals as a transparent and inclusive organization.

Challenges for success: Achieving broad based community input and understanding; Attaining adequate resources to support the ad hoc committee; Staying within the charter of the Committee; Delivering results within the appointed time frame.
The Comprehensive Plan establishes a broad policy framework for Olympia’s public services that emphasizes the importance of integrated and interdisciplinary approaches to service delivery. Criminal justice issues can’t be addressed solely through policing. Partnerships between police, the courts, schools, the religious community and many other organizations are essential to addressing the sources of much of the crime in our community. Public engagement is a critical part of this work.

As stated in the Public Services section of our Comprehensive Plan [GS15]:

The citizens of Olympia are empowered as partners in solving community problems.

The Ad Hoc Committee is tasked with identifying strategies to advance the following three Comprehensive Plan Public Service Goals:

PS15.1: Form interdisciplinary partnerships with individuals and groups in the community to address policing issues.

PS15.2: Involve citizens as we look for ways to reduce repeat crimes, and use education to prevent crime.

PS15.3: Emphasize the need for our police force to have positive, day-to-day interaction with the public that encourages collaboration on problem-solving, rather than responding only to crises. Regular contact between the police and citizens helps strengthen working relationships and makes policing more effective.

To this end, the purpose of the task force is:

To engage the public and 1) provide them with information on current activities and best practices, 2) listen for opportunities for improvement, and 3) create grounds for positive and productive engagement between people who have different experiences and perspectives.

Ad Hoc Committee on Community and Police Relations

Ms. Reiko Callner
Reiko Callner is a local attorney and human rights activist.  She is the current Olympia Chapter President of the Japanese American Citizens’ League.  She is the former Chair of the State Human Rights Commission. 

In her day job, she is employed as the Executive Director for the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct.  She worked in Thurston County as a prosecutor for ten years and has represented Child Protective Services.  Her emphasis in prosecution was on domestic violence issues, diversity and hate crimes.  She wrote the hate crimes ordinance for the City of Olympia, and has prepared and presented a domestic violence program for the Department of Ecology, workplace violence programs for state and local agencies, and diversity programs for law enforcement agencies. 

She was an active member of Hands Off Washington!, a GLBT rights organization in the 1990s.  She is one of the founding members of Unity in the Community, an anti-hate crime organization, volunteers with a variety of civil rights organizations, and performs with a Polynesian dance group. 

She was the recipient of the YWCA’s Woman of Achievement Award for Social Justice in 2000 and the Capital City Pride Day Award in 2005.

Ms. Kerensa Mabwa
Kerensa is the Community Engagement Coordinator for Garden Raised Bounty (GRuB), a local non-profit that works with youth and people with low-incomes to create empowering individual & community food solutions. Kerensa has 20 years of experience in the nonprofit world including work on parenting & child welfare, affordable housing, project evaluation, management & fundraising. She is passionate about helping people to tap into their innate strengths to live successful and sustainable lives. Kerensa is deeply inspired by holding space for group collaboration and multicultural awareness.

Mr. Curt Pavola
Curt Pavola is a program manager at the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. Previously, Curt worked for the Association of Washington Cities and was responsible for policy development, educational programming for city officials.

In January 2000 Curt was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Olympia City Council. In November 2001 he was elected to a full four-year term that ended in December 2005. 
As a community advocate, Curt worked many years for political campaigns at the federal, state and local levels, while also pursuing non-discrimination and equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. 

As part of this community organizing work, Curt created non-profit organizations, led advocacy projects and interacted with the news media and elected officials, while also maintaining a broader focus on community outreach and education.

Mr. Clinton Eugene Petty
Mr. Petty is a Vietnam veteran and a retired US Army Division Command Sergeant Major. His professional career includes service for the State of Washington as the director of operations for the Employment Security Department and Director of the Washington State Unemployment Insurance Program. He retired from state service in 2001. While in state service Mr. Petty was twice awarded the Distinguished Manager award by two Governors.

Mr. Petty currently serves as Trustee, Director of Operation and Training and Facility Planning for Risen Faith Fellowship Church since its inception in 1989. He is married to Pastor Charlotte Beeler Petty. He is a father, a grandfather, and  a great-grandfather.

Mr. Alejandro Rugarcia
Mr. Rugarcia was born in Mexico City and immigrated to the United States and became a citizen in 2009.  He completed his Masters of Public Administration at the Evergreen State College in 2012. He has worked for multiple non-profit organizations and is currently employed by the Olympia Food Coop and also serves as a member of the Coop’s Board of Directors.  Mr. Rugarcia desires to build a diverse, strong and safe community based on respect, understanding and inclusion.

Ex Officio Member: Lt. Aaron Jelcick
Lieutenant Jelcick has served as a police officer for the Olympia Police Department for 22 years. His positions have included service as a patrol officer, a field training officer, emergency driving instructor, walking patrol division, detective for the Thurston County Narcotics Task force, a general crimes detective, a patrol sergeant, the detective sergeant, and now the special operations lieutenant.  Prior to joining the Olympia Police Department, he attended Washington State University, where he completed a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degree in criminal justice. 

For more information about the Olympia Police Department, go to past articles on Little Hollywood, www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com, and use the search button to type in key words.