Monday, September 14, 2015

Ad Hoc Committee on Policing Meets Again

Above: Not everyone wants to attend a meeting in a government building. While the Ad Hoc Committee on Policing and Community Relations group has expressed a sensitivity to different communication styles and a desire to reach a variety of ages and cultures, the meetings thus far have not captured community interest. 

By Janine Unsoeld

The Ad Hoc Committee on Policing and Community Relations met again Monday night, this time at Olympia City Hall.

Their last meeting was September 9 at the Church of Living Water. About 13 people were in attendance at that meeting.

In order to appear more welcoming, the group paid attention to their physical presence. Without microphones or tables in front of them, members met in a semi-circle.

Only two members of the public were in attendance: Jim Johnson, a man who lives near the location of the police officer involved shooting that occurred on May 21, and Little Hollywood

Johnson expressed that he was disappointed with the continued low turnout at Ad Hoc Committee meetings. He also attended the September 9 meeting. He suggested that an Olympia-style potluck was in order to bring the community and conversation together to talk about the Ad Hoc Committee’s goals.

The group continued to discuss the logistics of their first community forum, which will be held on Saturday, October 10. The place and time is still to be determined. 

Committee member Alejandro Rugarcia said that he is not able to make the October 10 forum, and expressed a need to know in advance when future forums might be held.

The group explored several questions to pose to the public in a large plenary gathering. 

The proposed questions for the larger group were:

1.       Share your experiences with the Olympia Police Department;

2.       How can the Olympia Police Department build better understanding and trust with all people?

Proposed small group discussion questions were:

1.       How can the Olympia Police Department more effectively reach out to underrepresented people and groups in the community (ethnic or racial minorities, LGBT, homeless, crime victims, persons arrested or convicted of crimes)?

2.       The vision of the Olympia Police Department is to provide policing services through trust and partnership: a. What does that look like to you? b. How can the Olympia Police Department better meet your expectations for an ideal department?

3.       How can we help community members feel safe when interacting with the Olympia Police? How can we build trust and what are the barriers to trust?

Lt. Aaron Jelcick, an ex-officio member of the Ad Hoc Committee said there’s value in the whole group conversation and was not in favor of breaking up into small groups.
Ad-Hoc Committee member Clinton Petty said that the group is ignoring the young members of our community and expressed a strong desire to explore Washington State’s law about the use of excessive force.

“Something has got to be done about changing portions of this law,” said Petty.

Group co-chair Reiko Callner gave an overview of the law and suggested that the community may need a citizen’s law and policy forum about why it is difficult to bring criminal charges against a police officer in Washington State.

Group co-chair Curt Pavola distributed a draft list of who the city needs to engage in the conversation.

The group is expected to report to the Olympia City Council on October 20 with its progress.

The next Ad-Hoc Committee meeting day, time and location was not set. 

Above: Several broken windows at Olympia City Hall will cost at least $10,000 - $15,000 to replace.

Assault and Property Damage to City Hall

On Saturday evening, September 5, around 7:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m., a group of individuals dressed in dark clothing near Percival Landing carried bats and golf clubs. Their faces covered with scarves, they marched through Fourth Avenue.

In an interview last Thursday with Olympia Police Department Lt. Aaron Jelcick, Jelcick said the police diverted traffic around State and Cherry, where a peaceful group was gathered.

The first group grew to about 50-60 people and converged on a man on a motorcycle with a Confederate Flag. The police received numerous 911 calls of the man being beaten and the situation became a riot. The man was taken to St. Peter’s Hospital where he was treated.

No one was arrested. The police are asking for help to identify the suspects, and can call (360) 753-8300 or Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS with any information.

“As we were responding to the assault, the same group continued on Fourth Avenue to City Hall. We were within a half block (of City Hall) but couldn’t prevent the damage. We used pepper ball guns and other impact weapons to quickly disperse the crowd….A lot of people don’t understand police tactics – we don’t just run into a crowd. It has to be organized…otherwise we put everyone at risk,” said Lt. Jelcick.

The damage to the windows at City Hall, which also houses the Olympia Police Department, is estimated to be between $10,000 - $15,000 dollars, said Lt. Jelcick. 

City manager Steve Hall confirmed tonight that the cost will be at least that much because the windows are not standard, and replacements will need to be custom made.

Above: Broken windows at Olympia City Hall, which also houses the Olympia Police Department, as seen late last week, will take time to replace.

Upcoming Events:

An Olympia Town Hall meeting on policing will be held Wednesday, October 14, 7:00 p.m., Traditions Café, on the corner of 5th and Water Street.

Several organizations involved in policing issues have been invited to participate including the YWCA, Students for Unity & Racial Justice (SURJ), Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), Media Island, Justice Not Jails coalition, Interfaith Works, Cop Watch, and the Ad Hoc Committee on Policing and Community Relations.

Several Ad-Hoc Committee members said they may be in attendance.