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.
Acting Chief of Police