Mayor, police chief announce efforts to review, implement new police procedures and policies

Mayor Mike Nelson
Chief Jim Lawless

Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson and Acting Police Chief Jim Lawless on Thursday issued statements outlining ways they plan to address community concerns about policing and racial justice given the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for several minutes.

Following up on his announcement Tuesday that he is creating an Equity and Justice Advisory Task Force, Nelson shared a list of steps he plans to take “to study and implement reforms to address police violence and systemic racism,” which include:

  • Reviewing and updating the police department’s use-of-force policies.
  • Creating and implementing a body-worn camera program.
  • Reviewing and updating the department’s de-escalation policies and practice.
  • Creating and implementing more robust and comprehensive anti-bias/anti-harassment training.

In addition, Nelson said he hopes the task force “will thoughtfully advise me on a host of other issues from equitable hiring to addressing systemic racism.”

Nelson also said he wanted to acknowledge the proactive steps the police department has been taking, including the following:

  • The Edmonds Police Department was one of the first in the region to implement a broad less-lethal force program. During every use-of-force training, officers review de-escalation techniques.
  • Every use-of-force incident is reviewed at three different levels, with the final review done by Acting Chief Jim Lawless. All use-of-force reports are reviewed collectively to identify any trends and/or recommendations for training or policy updates.
  • All officers are currently required to attend anti-bias/anti-harassment training.
  • All officers receive Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training; this training was mandated internally by the Department several years before our State Legislature required it.

“I do want to be clear: The individual Edmonds Police Officers that I have spent time with and witnessed in action are good women and men who are dedicated to serve, not harm, our community,” Nelson added.

In a letter to the community Thursday, Lawless said that in conjunction with the mayor’s Equity and Justice Advisory Task Force, he will be forming a Community Response Team that will work with the mayor’s task force and other community members “to address concerns that may arise related to police interactions with the community.”

The police chief also addressed the issue of body-worn cameras. While Edmonds police officers don’t current wear them, having such cameras “is an option that we have been exploring for some time, but privacy and budgetary concerns have slowed that process,” Lawless said. “I am committed to continuing to pursue the acquisition of body-worn cameras and Mayor Nelson is in full support of the requisite funding that will be required to properly implement this program.”

In addition, Lawless said that he wanted to assure the community that the members of the police department “deeply value the trust and confidence that you, the community we serve, afford us each and every day. We are acutely aware that this trust and confidence is not something to be taken for granted and is something we must earn and maintain each and every day.”

Here is the complete letter from the police chief:

Dear Edmonds Community,

Of late, I have been asked whether our officers have body worn cameras; we do not currently have a body-worn camera program. This is an option that we have been exploring for some time, but privacy and budgetary concerns have slowed that process. I am committed to continuing to pursue the acquisition of body worn cameras and Mayor Nelson is in full support of the requisite funding that will be required to properly implement this program.

I want to further assure you that the members of the Edmonds Police Department deeply value the trust and confidence that you, the community we serve, afford us each and every day. We are acutely aware that this trust and confidence is not something to be taken for granted and is something we must earn and maintain each and every day. ln conjunction with Mayor Nelson’s Equity and Justice Advisory Task Force, I will be forming a Community Response Team. This team will work with the Mayor,s task force and other members of the community to address concerns that may arise related to police interactions with the community.

Our officers swear a solemn oath to protect the public we so proudly serve and we are all expected to exemplify our Department Mission/Vision/Values – I believe that individually and as an organization, we do an outstanding job of this. We have committed to hiring a diverse, highly qualified and well-vetted work force for the community we serve. Aside from ensuring that each contact with members of the community is professional, compassionate and empathetic, we constantly re-evaluate our operations, policies and procedures. Why do we re-evaluate? Because we can always do better…

The Edmonds Police Department is one of just 52 police/sheriff’s departments out of over 270 in the State of Washington to hold the distinction of being state accredited. The accreditation process ensures that the department is “operating under industry best practices and standards” to include hiring, retention, training, discipline, de-escalation, and use of force policies and procedures. A full overview of this program can be found at https://www.waspc.org/accreditation.

Your officers are very well trained and equipped, as this has been a long-standing priority of department leadership and below are just a few examples:

  • The Edmonds Police Department was one of the first in the region to implement a broad less-lethal force program. During every training involving use of force options (multiple times a year), officers review department use of force policies and de-escalation techniques.
  • Every use of force incident is reviewed at three different levels, with the final review done by me personally. At the end of the year, all use of force reports are reviewed in total, to include any trends and/or recommendations for training or policy updates.
  • All officers of the Edmonds Police Department (both during the basic academy and on-going):
    • Receive annual Crisis lntervention Team (ClT) training; this training was mandated internally several years prior to legislative requirements.
    • Are required to attend anti-bias/anti-harassment training, to include “Acknowledging and Managing the Hidden Bias of Good People.”

The Edmonds Police Department is committed to transparency and open communication with the community we serve. ln addition to our over 30,000 contacts with the community annually, our website has numerous options for contacting us, including the ability to file a compliment or complaint related to interactions with our officers. Also available on our web site is the department policv manual and our annual report. The annual report documents department accountability, as well as detailing crime statistics. Beyond the aforementioned annual Use of Force Review/Analysis, the department also conducts an annual Complaint Review, an annual Pursuit Review and an annual Biased Based Policing Review; in each, the applicable policies are reviewed and modified where needed.

l, and all of the members of the Edmonds Police Department, welcome and look forward to hearing from and working with you, the members of the community we serve as we continue to improve and move forward, The members of your police department are committed to protecting the community by working with the community. Please know that we recognize and very much appreciate th€ support that we receive each day.

Sincerely,

Jim Lawless
Acting Chief of Police

 

18 Replies to “Mayor, police chief announce efforts to review, implement new police procedures and policies”

  1. I also extend this letter and the sentiments expressed within it to the residents of the Town of Woodway, whom we so proudly serve via our contracted law enforcement services.

    Jim Lawless – Acting Chief of Police

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  2. David Stern and Al Compaan built us a great police force. I am totally confident that Jim Lawless will maintain that greatness.

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  3. I’m a huge believer in the police wearing body cameras. Having an unbiased/ impartial record of events will enable a fair oversight process which can be used to weed out the very few bad apples in police departments. Kudos to both the police chief and mayor for recognizing this as part of the path forward.

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    1. I agree, if anything happens from these protests universal body cams should certainly be at the top of the list. Also need regulations that they turn on when you go on shift and only go off when you clock out.

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    2. One of the pastors at our church is a woman of color. In the next few days she will be sharing her own experience with our local police, either here or directly with the mayor and police chief.

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  4. I think it’s time for City Council to approve Jim Lawless as Chief of Police so he can take *Acting* out of his title.

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    1. Hi Roger, sadly, City Council was unable to confirm Jim Lawless as Police Chief because our City Laws did not allow City Council to do so after Mayor Nelson announced his appointment on April 9, 2020. I do not know why Mayor Nelson announced his appointment before making sure our laws allowed City Council to confirm his appointment.

      Mayor Nelson is now proposing a new Ordinance to create a new exception to the City’s three-interview requirement – you can see such in the City Council Agenda Packet for July 21, 2020. I believe he is trying to change our laws so City Council can confirm his appointment of Jim Lawless as Police Chief.

      Sadly again, under our City’s laws the authority to hold an appointive office on an acting basis shall expire and be deemed vacant six months after the date of the acting appointment.

      I fear that the office of Police Chief has been vacant since end of day June 30, 2020. The only way that is not true is if Council voted to extend the acting term another 6 months. I highly doubt Mayor Nelson made such a request as he could only do so “to allow the recruiting process to continue”.

      What a mess.

      I, like many others, think Jim Lawless will make an excellent permanent Police Chief. I think Mr. Lawless would agree that it best to start that off properly, by the Mayor making an appointment consistent with our City’s laws.

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      1. Ken how rigorous does the search process have to be to satisfy the requirement? Could they do something as simple as bring in Lawless and two random persons off the street, ask a few questions and say okay Lawless wins.

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        1. Good question Anthony. The Code says that City Council SHALL interview the top three candidates, unless they opt to interview as few as two candidates. As such, I suspect a good faith effort must be undertaken to provide the City Council with the top three (or two) candidates.

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      2. I see now that the City Council is being asked to approve an extension of the interim appointment for James Lawless as Chief of Police retroactive to July 1st through December 31st, 2020.
        Giving this more thought, the window of opportunity has passed for City Council to confirm an extension of the acting directorship. There is nothing to extend now as the Code is clear that the acting directorship has expired and is deemed vacant.
        Even if it was still a time prior to June 30, 2020, the only way the Mayor could request an extension would be: “If, during that six-month period, the administration has not been able to generate sufficient interest from suitable candidates to satisfy the city council interview requirement (see ECC 2.10.010(D)), the mayor may request an extension of acting directorship authority from the city council, in increments of no more than six months at a time, to allow the recruiting process to continue. After the initial six-month term, each extension of the acting directorship shall be subject to city council confirmation.”
        Mayor Nelson announced his Police Chief appointment on April 9, 2020 and City of Edmonds spokeswoman Jamie Holter announced that the City terminated the contract with national search firm — California-based Public Sector Search & Consulting (PSS&C), as previously reported in My Edmonds News:
        City of Edmonds spokeswoman Jamie Holter said the city paid a $5,625 fee to initiate the contract, which covered initial work. The mayor also asked Acting Chief Lawless to apply for the job. “We put the process on hold early March when the pandemic became our priority,” Holter said. “Now that we have chosen our police chief, we have terminated the contract and are working on the details to close it out.”
        This is even a bigger mess that I thought. I do not see how Mayor Nelson can now ask for more time for the recruiting process to continue when he ended the recruiting process back in April.

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        1. Governmental rules and laws only last until the government either chooses to ignore or change them. If the city on Monday says they are doing a new search, brings in Lawless and the deputy police chiefs of Lynnwood and Everett on Wednesday, then declare Lawless the winner on Friday, would there be push back? Look at what Seattle did when they hired Chief Best, she was not a top three candidate after their lengthy expensive search, the black community complained so Durkan stopped the process and appointed Best. Some policy wonks likely found ways she broke rules/laws but it didn’t matter because there is no follow through. In Edmonds if Nelson just keeps Lawless in the post what can/will happen, would the council attempt to do anything about it?

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        2. I appreciate the interaction Anthony. The 2014 City Council updated the laws that govern this process via Ordinance No. 3959. I encourage you and others to review Item 16 on pages 15 – 18 of the January 7, 2014 Approved City Council Meeting Minutes. A review of this item will provide an excellent window into the legislative intent of the 2014 City Council. Three of the 2014 City Councilmembers are also 2020 City Councilmembers.

          We are a Code City and Ordinance No. 3959 adopted the Code that governs this process.
          I prefer a City Government and Mayor that choose to comply with our laws. The Mayor is the one who has the duty to follow through when laws are broken – I believe it wrong to burden citizens to see that our laws and ordinances are followed.

          Our Code states that the following are the duties of the Mayor:

          The mayor shall be the chief executive and administrative officer of the city, in charge of all departments and employees, with authority to designate assistants and department heads. The mayor shall see that all laws and ordinances are faithfully enforced and that law and order is maintained in the city, and shall have general supervision of the administration of city government and all city interest. [Ord. 2349 § 2, 1983].

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        3. Seems at the moment that Edmonds is not following the rules… do you think they will fix this problem by changing the rules, start following the rules or ignore the rules?

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        4. Anthony, I hope City Council will follow the laws that are in place.

          I have no idea how an after the fact extension request was placed on the Consent Agenda for the July 21st City Council Meeting, but I imagine somebody will need to make a motion to remove it from the Consent Agenda for discussion. (Note – this extension request was not discussed in last week’s Committee meeting so why is it on this week’s Consent Agenda?) If a Motion to remove from the Consent Agenda is seconded and approved, it can be pointed out that it is too late to extend as the authority to hold an appointive office on an acting basis (an acting directorship) shall expire and be deemed vacant six months after the date of the acting appointment. There is nothing to extend as the acting directorship expired June 30th and is deemed Vacant.

          When Council gets to the Study Item related to the Mayor’s request for a new Ordinance on Tuesday night, Council might reject this idea. On January 7, 2014, Current City Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas made the following two statements:
          1. Councilmember Fraley-Monillas commented if it is a true confirmation process, it would be better to have more choices than less. In her 30+ years of experience in government, the appointing authority consistently had a choice of three top candidates. She supported the Council interviewing three candidates.
          2. Councilmember Fraley-Monillas said if the Council only interviewed one candidate there was no purpose in having a confirmation process.

          The 2014 Council gave this great consideration and updated our related laws. Why would the 2020 Council go against the legislative will of the 2014 Council, especially since three sevenths of our current Council were on Council in 2014? I would imagine they would stand strong by the vote of the 2014 Council.

          I hope elected officials choose to follow our laws Tuesday night as opposed to changing our laws or ignoring our laws. Tuesday night’s Council Meeting is very important.

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  5. As a white person with privilege this all sounds like a police department I can be proud of. I would like to hear from people of color and specifically black people to know if this policy/leadership plays out in daily life. Are you profiled for your skin color here in Edmonds?

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  6. Lets skip the body cams since all the guilt ridden liberals around here want to defund the police, and use those funds and the CARES Act revenue to pave a few streets, and clear the tents in the HWY99 / Edmonds Way interchange….again

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    1. Funny, but most of my friends are liberals, and I don’t know a single one one who is guilt-ridden, or who wants to defund the police, and most, if not all, would favor of improving the paving. Perhaps paint with a less broad brush?

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      1. Nathaniel, most of my friends are conservative. I find myself agreeing with most of your comments recently. Could this be a real turning point? Have we crossed the “barrier” that the politicians have put in place and suddenly find that we have common interest and think somewhat alike? Could these “barriers” be removed by the love of our country and mankind? How’s this: You were the first thing I thought about with the upcoming “walk only no cars” day(s) in Edmonds, I thought what about Nathaniel? How will he attend, where will he park? Seriously, something is in the air, and it is honest, sweet, and good.

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