Solidarity in Times of Challenge
As the events of last week have unfolded in the wake of the reprehensible treatment and senseless death of George Floyd, I want to share that the City of Bremerton unequivocally condemns the actions and behavior of the Minneapolis officers last week. What happened to Mr. Floyd should not have occurred under any circumstances.
Right now, people are sharing their thoughts, emotions and sorrow as Americans. On Sunday and yesterday, we had two nonviolent demonstrations in Bremerton by people who shared their voices and their distress on what happened to George Floyd. The participants were passionate and peaceful while they expressed the pain and anguish that many of us are feeling across our nation. Bremerton police were visible and committed to de-escalation at both events while preserving the integrity of these peaceful gatherings.
During these times, supporting peaceful and productive dialogue is important. As part of that belief, Bremerton Police Chief Jim Burchett and I stood in unity and solidarity with Pastor Richmond Johnson of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church; Pastor Frankie Coleman of Sinclair Missionary Baptist Church; and Pastor Floyd Ussin of Emmanuel Apostolic Church. We were all there together to meet with about 150 peaceful demonstrators who planned a demonstration at the Bremerton Police Department to share their voices on this terrible tragedy. During the protest, we each had an opportunity to speak to participants and listened to their concerns and desire for change. The Pastors, Chief Burchett and I stayed for two hours afterwards to talk with individuals who wanted to share additional thoughts on issues.
These hard conversations are part of the open and peaceful expression of ideas. They are not easy, but they are part of the fabric of a strong community.
Addressing Discrimination and Diversity
As a City, we have been working to address discrimination and diversity for the past few years, which I believe has laid the groundwork for thoughtful conversations during this time of challenge. Over the past two years, Bremerton has undertaken efforts to improve our policies, programs and workplace culture. I want to share some of what we have been doing as a City and what we are continuing to work on:
- The City of Bremerton Police Department (BPD) has achieved and voluntarily maintained Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) accreditation, which has strict standards for police accountability, transparency, training and reporting. Law enforcement is not mandated to pursue this certification, but I have fully supported BPD in renewing annual requirements. The accreditation is a level of excellence that all police departments should strive for in our state. Roughly only 20% of agencies in Washington are accredited. Bremerton Police Chief Jim Burchett and I believe this level of accreditation should not be voluntary. I will be advocating to make this high standard mandatory across our communities.
- We have been implementing training for police officers as part of our policies. Our officers receive annual training on de-escalation of situations as well as on bias.
- For the first time, we initiated a mandatory Implicit Bias training by renowned expert Dr. Bryant Marks for all city employees, including law enforcement, at the Marvin Williams Center this past November. This effort was part of my continuing goal to address bias when serving our community.
- The City of Bremerton completed a workforce diversity plan and updated our Equal Employment Opportunity plans.
- Bremerton Police Chief Burchett and I are both members of the NAACP, and we participate in their annual Law Enforcement and Community Dinner hosted each year.
- We also take part, on a regular basis, on Police and Community Together (P.A.C.T.), a forum sponsored by Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church. This group is made of community members and police to discuss issues together.
- The police chief and I regularly communicate with Bremerton’s African-American leadership and communities of color to discuss concerns and strengthen conversation across our City.
- We implemented the Safe Place program last year, which aims to create safe locations for individuals that may have been the victim of hate or bias crimes.
These efforts are just the start and we remain open to doing more. This Friday, June 5, Bremerton Police Chief Burchett and I will be attending the NAACP community forum to discuss the concerns facing residents. Additionally, I, along with police and citizens, will be coming together at Mt. Zion’s P.A.C.T. meeting on Tuesday, June 9 to talk about the events that transpired in Minneapolis.
These are the beginning of conversations we will be having regularly to find solutions together. As we move forward, we will be ready to deploy new programs to strengthen social justice in our City.