Olympia’s new citizen police committee is preparing for its first public forum aimed at building a better relationship between minorities and local law enforcement.
The Ad Hoc Committee on Police and Community Relations was created in response to the May 21 shooting of two black men by a white Olympia police officer.
The committee includes five civic leaders appointed by the Olympia City Council. They will focus on engaging minorities and other “under represented” groups for their views on policing practices. Another priority is to seek input about how to implement use of police body cameras.
The committee held its second meeting Wednesday at The Church of Living Water to work out details for the first of five community forums planned for the next six months. About 20 people attended.
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The first forum is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 10, and the committee will meet again at 5:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall to finalize a time, location and format.
Currently, the committee is trying to define who qualifies as under-represented. In addition to racial minorities, other under-represented groups can include the homeless, transients, seniors, crime victims and even offenders.
The challenge, some said Wednesday, is reaching those groups who are unlikely to participate in public forums or communicate with police.
“People need to have that experience of being clearly heard,” committee member Kerensa Mabwa said. “We can come to it from a place of love and peace and upliftment.”
Committee co-chairwoman Reiko Callner said the first forum should cast a wide net that allows residents to share their views on what an ideal police department looks like and how it can operate better. The forums can help foster trust by teaching the public about how the police department works, too.
“People need to feel a sense of buy-in,” Callner said. “Who are the under-represented people we need to be hearing from?”
Committee member Clinton Petty said one issue he wants to address is the link between minorities and excessive use of force by police.
“We’ve got to figure out why this happens to those in a minority group,” he said, noting that Washington’s progressive views on integration may not go far enough. “We need to figure out what it is about this integration we have that’s not working.”
Questions and comments about the Ad Hoc Committee on Police and Community Relations can be emailed to staff liaison Kandace Johnson at PCR@ci.olympia.wa.us.