Lacey City Manager Scott Spence and several council members came to the defense of police Chief Dusty Pierpoint and his department after they were sharply criticized during the public comment portion of Thursday night’s council meeting.
Ron Nesbitt, a self-described “revolutionary black man,” who frequently attends council meetings and demands that more be done for African-Americans, turned his attention to the Police Department on Thursday, saying the department needs to improve its diversity.
Nesbitt also frequently attends Olympia City Council meetings on Tuesday nights and delivers a similar message during public comment.
Spence came to the defense of the department and chief during the city manager’s portion of the council meeting. Nesbitt was absent at the time, because he typically leaves after the three minutes allowed for public comment.
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Spence said he felt compelled to respond to Nesbitt’s comments because the Police Department does a good job of representing Lacey, adding that under Pierpoint’s leadership, the department is engaged in the community by participating in round-table discussions with the public.
Several council members echoed Spence’s remarks.
Longtime council member Virgil Clarkson added that African-Americans now represent about 10 percent of the Police Department, and if you include women and other officers of color, it is more than 10 percent.
“I’m not sure where our speaker is going with this,” he said about Nesbitt’s comments.
Chief Pierpoint, too, defended his department, saying it does a good job of reflecting the demographics of Lacey, likely the most diverse city in Thurston County.
Of his 52 officers, eight are women, five are African-American, two are Native American, and two are Pacific Islanders.
Could we do better? Yes, said Pierpoint, adding that the department is always looking for minority candidates to join the force.
In other council news Thursday:
• The council re-affirmed its support for the South Sound Military and Communities Partnership by agreeing to increase its financial commitment to $30,000 from $20,000 this year, and to increase it to $50,000 in 2016. Lacey is home to a large active-duty military community that serves at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
• The council also approved a telecommunications franchise application for Astound Broadband, a subsidiary of Wave Design Holdings of Kirkland. Public affairs manager Steve Kirkman said the company plans to provide telecommunication services to a health care customer in Lacey.
• In a lighter moment Thursday, the council approved Ken Balsley’s appointment to the city’s parks board, but said with good humor that they were doing so with “trepidation and angst.” Balsley, a local radio personality who also has chronicled the community in his blog and newsletter, is known for his strong opinions. Still, council members said that “no one loves Lacey more than Ken.”