Tuesday, August 25, 2015

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.