Guest column: Time to start a conversation

  • Thursday, June 11, 2020 11:48am
  • Opinion

By Sheri Crain

For the Sequim Gazette

We have all watched the news over the last couple of weeks, overwhelmed and not quite sure how to process or determine a way forward.

It is a fact though, that every community deserves a police department they can trust and be proud of.

The state of law enforcement is not even across the country; laws are different in each state, there are differences in state constitutions, differences in government structures, different training standards or mandates, and more. Having a quality police department that is respectful and responsive to their community is dependent on a lot of factors. How you hire, train, and supervise are all significant factors.

Creating and maintaining a culture of respect, professionalism and fairness is vital.

Not all agencies have or have done enough to be successful at all of these. It takes funding, certainly, but mostly it takes intentional effort.

That is why here in Sequim, controlling what we can control, we’re happy to be a part of this conversation. This is our community and our profession, we take pride in both but understand there needs to be difficult work done when you talk about issues of racism and unequal treatment within the criminal justice system.

The debates, discussions and protests deserve to be heard. It is impossible not to be moved as we witnessed an appalling act being done by an officer in Minneapolis.

Discussion of the problem and discussion of solutions will be different within each community. In many ways, the 21st Century Policing plan from 2015, written after incidents in Ferguson, Mo., was written broadly enough that it can be a road map for any community to have that conversation.

In fact, Washington state law enforcement through WASPC (Washington Association of Sheriff’s and Police Chiefs) and individual agencies — including the Sequim Police Department — have taken on the plan and incorporated structural changes or worked with the community to make changes.

Here is a list of many of the issues and areas where WASPC has worked to address police reform issues:

1. Certification of peace officers (2001) and corrections officers (2020)

• Mandatory background investigations, psychological and polygraph examinations for all individuals being hired as a law enforcement or corrections officer

• Mandatory completion of the Basic Law Enforcement Academy/Corrections Officers Academy

• Mandatory completion of 24 hours of in-service training annually

• Revocation of peace officer or corrections officer certification for failure to complete annual in-service training, conviction of a felony offense, convicted of any criminal offense for conduct committed while on duty, or was discharged for dishonesty, controlled substance violation, or other disqualifying misconduct.

2. HB 1064 following I-940 (2018/2019)

• Independent criminal investigations into a law enforcement officers’ use of deadly force

• Mandatory De-Escalation training annually for all Washington law enforcement officers

• Mandatory Mental Health training annually for all Washington law enforcement officers

• Established a public policy that law enforcement officers have a duty to render first aid

• Repealed the requirement that an officer act “with malice” to be subject to criminal charges for the unlawful use of deadly force and replace it with an objective “good faith” standard

• Required community involvement in rule-making relating to training and investigations

• Required training in implicit bias, the history of race and policing, and alternatives to arrest

3. Mental Health Field Response Program to reduce criminal justice involvement (2018)

4. Coordination of Implicit Bias Training with Dr. Bryant Marks, Morehouse College (2018-present)

5. Alternatives to Arrest and Jail Program, an expansion of the King County Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion model (2019)

6. Wear The Badge Washington program to highlight and encourage recruitment of candidates that represent the communities in which they serve (2020)

The Sequim Police Department is an accredited agency. That means we have been audited to ensure we are adhering to law enforcement industry best practices.

That includes our use of force policies, performance monitoring and review programs, de-escalation training, hiring standards, standards of conduct policies and good supervision processes, among others.

We have a culture that values respect, integrity and excellence. We have a history and a track record. We stand ready to have a conversation with our community.

Sheri Crain is Sequim Police Chief. Reach her at 360-683-7227 or scrain@sequimwa.gov.

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