Edmonds acting police chief issues statement following prosecutor’s office decision on artwork charges

Edmonds Acting Police Chief Jim Lawless

In the aftermath of the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office decision to not file hate crime charges in connection with the defacement of the “I Can’t Breathe’ artwork, Edmonds Acting Police Chief Jim Lawless issued the following statement Friday:

There have been numerous comments/questions regarding the case surrounding the vandalism of the “I Can’t Breathe” art installation that is located on the fence at Edmonds’ Civic Field. The installation is not only an individual’s free speech expression, it is also a project wherein the artist went through a sanctioned submission/selection process. Upon being selected, Ms. Jamison installed her project on the city fence within the established guidelines set forth by the Edmonds Arts Commission. The defacing of this project is not an alternative expression of free speech, it is an act of vandalism that most likely constitutes a crime.  Police officers must establish probable cause in order to arrest someone or forward a case for a charging decision. That charging decision is ultimately up to the prosecuting attorney, be that the Snohomish County Prosecutor in the case of felonies, or the contracted Edmonds City Prosecutor in the case of misdemeanors. The case is then evaluated by the prosecutor at a higher standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” in making that final decision. In this instance, I and our investigating detective believed probable cause existed to support a charge of Hate Crime. However, upon review the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office determined that there was not sufficient evidence to prove the case “beyond a reasonable doubt.” As a result of this decision, the case has now been forwarded to the Edmonds City Prosecutor for review of a charge of Malicious Mischief.

Every officer within the Edmonds Police Department takes the following oath of office:

I, do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Washington, that I will enforce the laws of the State of Washington and the City of Edmonds, that I will perform the duties of police officer for the City of Edmonds to the best of my ability, and that I will abide by the Code of Ethics and Canons of Ethics adopted by the Edmonds Police Department.

As an organization and as individuals, we will always endeavor to live up to our Mission Statement:

We place service before self, with an unwavering and unbiased commitment to public safety, improving the quality of life for our community.

Please know that the members of the Edmonds Police Department can never fully express our gratitude for the level of support and trust that has been shown and expressed towards our organization and profession. We work each and every day to earn and maintain that support and trust. I understand that there are many differing opinions/positions regarding the multitude of issues that are currently confronting our society. But make no mistake, we are accountable to all members of our community, including those who may question and challenge us – we must enforce the law impartially. We also, must never be afraid to look at ourselves and listen to others in the continuing effort to always improve in our abilities to serve all members of the community professionally, with dignity and respect.

  1. Chief Lawless,
    Thank you for the radar Officer on 5th the other day. The speeders are there, it was just a slow morning.
    Stay Safe……….

  2. Thank you Chief Lawless and our police force for serving our community with professionalism, compassion, discipline and total competence. Thank you too for directly communicating with us about this terrible incident. Public safety is the number one priority for government at any level. It sounds as though your department took this act of vandalism very seriously because you understand that allowing what seemed to be relatively minor violation by some, if unchecked, could escalate to one that causes not just mental and social harm but physical harm.

  3. There existed probable cause to support a charge of vandalism that most likely constitutes a crime. Probable cause to support a charge of Hate Crime was so weak that it would never meet the standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt”. The investigating detective’s belief probable cause existed to support a charge of Hate Crime, might have been based more on political pressure than factual information. The Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office tossed the the Hate crime charge because prosecutions required factual information beyond just EPD beliefs.

  4. I wonder if when this art project expires in September if there is any chance that the powers that be will allow the next sign to read “black children matter” or “blue lives matter” or “free Hong Kong” and how much effort the Mayor would put into punishing someone spray painting over such a sign?

    Chief Lawless would you seeing someone spray painting BLM on public property arrest them, it is vandalism, right?

  5. I appreciate the oath of office that every officer within the Edmonds Police Department takes. The officers swear to enforce the laws of the City of Edmonds and the oath recognizes that one can no longer take an oath to enforce both the laws of the United States and the laws of the State of Washington. This is because there is a difference between state and federal law on specific matters, including cannabis use and sales.

    Citizens of Edmonds may not know that our elected officials still take an oath to enforce both the laws of the United States and the laws of the State of Washington, but not the laws of the City of Edmonds. This is true despite the fact I emailed the following prior to the first City Council Meeting in 2020:

    Dear elected officials,

    Please consider using the Oath of Office recommended by MRSC:

    I, _____, do solemnly swear [or affirm] that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution and laws of the State of Washington, and all local ordinances, and that I will faithfully and impartially perform and discharge the duties of the office of _____, according to the law and the best of my ability.

    I believe it critical to include affirmation that all local ordinances will be supported. I believe so because:
    1. Edmonds is a Home Rule, Code City with broad powers.
    2. The Mayor is required to see that all laws and ordinances are faithfully enforced.

    As such, why would anybody choose to leave support of all local ordinances out of our Oath of Office? Please consider using the Oath of Office recommended by MRSC.

  6. If the artist had been caught spray painting over a “support our local police sign” the same people advocating that we give the vandal a break here, would be screaming for her to be charged with some sort of crime. A double standard is what this BLM business is all about. Certain people equate BLM with an attempt at a Marxist takeover of our economic system and they are probably the same folks who think it’s a wonderful idea to send Federal Agents into large cities, uninvited, to quell supposedly rampant anarchy.

    I applaud our Chief for making this statement and presenting the facts of the matter as they are. This guy is a gem in the world of Police ethics and management and the sooner he is confirmed permanently the better, in my opinion.

    The bottom line is; the artist in this case did things legally and the protester of her art did things illegally. He should be treated just as she would have been, if she had put up her art/statement illegally. I don’t care if the alleged vandal is publicly identified or not, but he should be held accountable in some manner for his actions. I think it would have been very difficult to get this man convicted of a hate crime, but I think he could easily be convicted of misdemeanor vandalism and fined accordingly.

    1. “If the artist had been caught spray painting over a “support our local police sign” the same people advocating that we give the vandal a break here, would be screaming for her to be charged with some sort of crime.”

      Really. Who is that? Vandals should be held accountable for their actions, regardless of politics.

    2. “…A double standard is what this BLM business is all about. Certain people equate BLM with an attempt at a Marxist takeover of our economic system…”

      The FOUNDERS of BLM say this in plain words, they don’t try to hide it, they say it over and over again. Why you spend so much time not admitting it is purely politics on your part and not the actions of a “reasonable centrist.”

      “In a 2015 video interview at The Real News Network. Patrisse Cullors affirmed that she is a “trained Marxist” (https://therealnews.com/stories/pcullors0722blacklives). She stated that BLM-GNF co-founder Alicia Garza also is a “trained Marxist.” Advocating liberation theology is further evidence that BLM-GNF is Marxist.”

      “While promoting her book “When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir” in 2018, Cullors described her introduction to and support for Marxist ideology.”

      “Jun 20, 2020 … BLM founder Patrisse Cullors, reassuring an old communist that she understands that the goal is to destroy freedom: “we’re trained Marxists.”

      “Quite honestly I’m not sure we can have both [policing and the valuing of black lives]. That’s me personally.” Alicia Garza

      “Pigs in a blanket, fry them like bacon.” Opal Tometi 2015

      “Tometi also quoted Joanne Chesimard, a radical Marxist convicted of murdering a New Jersey state trooper in 1973 who has lived for decades as a fugitive in Cuba, as urging, “you must fight until all black lives matter.” Tometi referred to Chesimard, who renamed herself “Assata Shakur,” as the summit’s “dear exiled sister.””

      “if this country doesn’t give us what we want, then we will burn down this system and replace it.”
      Greater New York Black Lives Matter president Hawk Newsome

      “In the “What We Believe” section of the official BLM site, the organization calls for the “national defunding of police” and for the “disruption” of the nuclear family.”

      “the official organization Black Lives Matter DC openly dedicates itself to “creating the conditions for Black Liberation through the abolition of systems and institutions of white supremacy, capitalism, patriarchy and colonialism.”

      1. Black Lives Matter started out as a slogan and has grown into a movement, a very large and multi-racial movement. I don’t believe anyone has a copyright on the words. There are many independent groups using the name~ most of whom having nothing at all to do with Marxism. Let’s try to keep some perspective here.

  7. A.A. I don’t know about all this stuff you quote, and I don’t care. In a few short weeks the current President of the United States will declare a National Emergency in our City’s due to anarchy riots, which, plus the horrible advance of the “China” virus, requires martial law and the suspension of our next election. That’s what worries me and I think that’s what’s going to happen. I fear the extreme Right and I guess you fear the extreme Left. ( Actually I fear them both.) If what I predict above doesn’t happen, I will happily buy you dinner and beers at the Salish, when and if that becomes safe again. This is one bet I sincerely hope I lose. in the end we all just believe what we want to believe anyway. Peace and Love, my friend.

  8. The BLM Movement is at this point far larger, far more comprehensive, and far more inclusive than anything that the BLM Organization is about (the former having had a lot to do with initiating the Movement, and still trying hard to remain relevant while they try to co-opt the broader message).

    Watching on T.V. the other day (thank gawd there is baseball ..) I watched as the Yankees and the Nationals, and then the Dodgers and the Giants all took collective knees in support of the BLM Movement (not the BLM Organization). I hardly think that in doing so those players, their coaches and managers, and ownership were somehow advocating the support of Marxism, the destruction of freedom, the frying of bacon, or the “burning down (of) the system”.

    The “BLM Organization” and the “BLM Movement” are two separate things – the former are in large part a smallish subset of dogmatic radical leftists, whereas for latter now includes the Raging Grannies, moms in aprons, dads with leaf blowers, and veterans with outrage. Oh, and also apparently the NY Yankees, unless you happen to think that they too have now gone full blown radical Marxist.

    1. The BLM Organization is the vehicle, the BLM Movement is the fuel, the leadership are the drivers. Remember those two moms that drove their SUV off a cliff in Oregon killing themselves and their kids… if they had been stopped at a gas station and we helped them out with a tank of gas, we would have felt pretty good about ourselves until we heard the outcome. If the women told you they were going to drive off the cliff before you purchased the gas though and you bought it anyway would you not at least be somewhat responsible?

      If someone is willing to buy BLM the gas to feel good AND take responsibility for the outcome then I think they are wrong but its their choice. If someone only wants the boost of the good part and to ignore the bad part I call them out on it. Just like I would someone flying the Confederate flag to only support states rights. Just like I would someone that only wants to support the police and ignore the problems.

  9. Clinton, please tell me you don’t really believe this conspiracy theory. When the first 136 didn’t prove out one would think that people would stop buying into the next one. If people really thought this was going to be an issue there is a very simple solution, stop rioting while pretending you are part of the legitimate protests, then there is no excuse. Instead the same groups that were trying to shut things down 5 years ago in Portland and other places are using this as the current excuse to keep rioting. If the Feds were truly looking at Martial Law it would have been fairly easy to do back in March using Covid as the excuse. In fact he’s been knocked by many on the left for NOT taking more powers.

  10. “I don’t know about all this stuff you quote, and I don’t care”. Well there you have it, a citizen admits this and states that he intends to stay that way. Truly a most disturbing comment.

    My wife and I both escaped Marxist governments and were lucky enough to gain legal citizenship into the United States of America. If people do not do research on organizations, such as BLM, that are led by avowed Trained Marxist who teach the Rules and doctrine of Marxism, teach that Patriarch type Families are not the cornerstone of our society then “our” country, our constitution and our freedoms will not survive.

    I urge everyone to do their homework on the Antifa movement in Portland and now spreading to many other cities. They start with breaking down the family, get people dependent on government handouts, take over education and have socialized health, loss of many freedoms especially freedom of speech, dividing different ethnic groups based on different pigment of skin, divided by religion, then eventually doing away with religion completely, getting rid of police and law, doing away with churches, statues, followed by riots, famine, and chaos, extreme decline of independent businesses, only large companies who support Marxism will be allowed to exist, and always the Uber-wealthy elites and high government and military who align with the leftist Marxist, and last but not least, average citizens are not allowed to arm themselves or protect their families. All that do not follow the Marxist doctrine are either sent to re-education camps or are killed, if they cannot escape.

    This is a proven method of collecting freedom from people who are unaware or not facing reality. It worked in Cuba, my entire family fled to Panama, where the Chinese have done the same thing since taking over the Panama Canal, (thanks Jimmy Carter). Now we are here, have made a nice life, but I “feel” what is happening, I’ve experienced it twice before. I truly urge you who were born into this freedom, who have not experienced living under what starts as Socialism, moves to Marxism, and ends up Communism, to study, research, and learn. It can happen here, I know. I believe the black lives matter movement started out with good Intentions, but Antifa and the Marxist leaders have taken over and high jacked the soul of the of the good people who want black lives to matter, brown lives to matter, and quite frankly, all lives to matter. Ignorance or laziness should not be an excuse to stand by and let what is happening throughout this country to continue. It is no longer about black lives mattering. It is the recipe of a deadly revolution that we could all find ourself in the middle of. The USA has been a beacon of freedom for the world, there is no other place to escape to. You need to care, you need to be knowledgeable, you need to study the history of China, Russia, Venezuela, Cuba, and Panama. God Bless the USA!

  11. Since I’ve been called out for what I consider my centrist views I will make one last response here to Mr. Hernandez and then give you all a break from me again. In my view the danger to our way of life comes from both sides of the political spectrum. As I stated before, radicalism from the Left concerns me too, but there aren’t enough of those type folks right now to be of any real danger. On the other hand, there are many on the extreme Right of the Spectrum who actually have great power (The Presidency and Control of the Senate and Supreme Court) and they scare the stuffing out of me. On top of that many of their supporters are heavily armed.

    As to the idea that Marxism is being advocated only by the Left, how about looking at what we have had to do to save Capitalism as recently as today. The folks from the extreme Right (in power right now) have just stated that they are going to give the vast majority of Americans another $1200 and extend unemployment benefits. Guess what; that money comes from the public treasury, is redistribution of wealth, and in effect a form of Socialism. We also had to resort to some limited forms of Socialism in 2009, in order to save Capitalism, after some of the Capitalists abandoned basic accounting principles and gamed the system. In short we are all for capitalism until we aren’t. My take away is that any economic system is flawed when it is taken to extremes.

    I stand by my prediction that there will be some attempt by the extreme Right to suspend the upcoming national election and retain power in an undemocratic manner. The handwriting is on the wall.

  12. one surmises political correctness in the police chiefs assertions. the sign was offensive, still is, and always will be offensive.

  13. Curious to know if there is any particular reason why the vandal isn’t being named, even though it is listed on public records?

      1. This is an excellent and civilized MEN Policy. There are those that would attack this person and take it upon themselves to be judge and jury. We saw it recently done to the nail salon, via Facebook and phone.

        1. I was genuinely curious as to why his name wasn’t being listed, and I respect the editorial decision behind it. That being said, (1) I already know who it is, (2) the person has openly admitted that he did it and why (per the police report) and (3) told an officer “I made the front page of the paper”. All are entitled to have their own opinion of this, as always.

    1. I’m fine with the MEN policy and, it being a public record, took mere minutes to locate on my own. I don’t understand, and probably never will understand, how a grown man can take pride in “making the front page of the paper” on defacing artwork. Of course, a person can have any individual opinion they care to have but if this were my father, I would be embarrassed for him tarnishing the family name. And these actions would also damage his relationship with his grandchildren. Not because of what I told them about the situation but because they will connect the dots all on their own. When someone shows their true colors, believe them.

      1. So there you have it Alicia. You have outed this man who has not been charged. You gave a road map as to how to find his name and statements. You ran for city council twice. I truly am glad that you did not win, as you always say “to be sure”.

        1. She did not out him at all. Anyone can figure out his identity. It literally took 10 minutes of my time. I haven’t outed him either.

  14. Clinton, the reason you find so many to the right and so few to the left is that you are well over to the left, not in the center. That you think the extreme right is in power when the Republicans in the Senate are constantly blocked by the Democrats and the Democrats hold power in the House again shows you are not a “reasonable centrist.” We shouldn’t have done the original $600 bump to unemployment, which was opposed not pushed by the right. Its the Democrats that pushed it and are trying to extend it past the election, if Pelosi and Schumer are to the right of you then you are not a centrist. We should not shove a huge blank check payment into the education system, especially if they are not going to follow the science and open, again not being pushed by the right. If anything we should attach the money directly to each child and allow the parents to put their kids in the public, private, charter or home systems they feel are the best bang for the buck for their situation. This would disproportionately help the black community, it will not happen despite support from the right because the Democrats are deep in the pocket of teachers unions.

    1. AA, you hit the nail squarely on the head, which is a talent that is appreciated; your knowledge and opinion are always informative and clear.

  15. I wish we could move our political discussion away from this notion of left, right, and center. I earned a degree in political science many years ago, and about my sophomore year I concluded the convenient left/right spectrum is mostly hokum. It’s a too-convenient way to arbitrarily pigeonhole people. It’s just not helpful, and it leads to name-calling. Let’s focus our discussions on the issues and their merits or lack thereof.

    1. Thanks, Roger, and I would remind people that we are trying to be respectful and civil here (and maybe even kind?). Mostly people are doing that. But a reminder never hurts.

  16. Teresa,
    Your policies of civility and letting all different opinions be known is a great benefit to our community.
    And thanks to everyone who participates in these discussions. It helps us understand the ramifications of actions taking place.

  17. I think we have a bigger issue with systemic, institutional racism and bias in our community. Is no one else at all concerned that the CARES money allocated for citizens in need is only available through a link provided in English? This assumes that those who need it most will a) have access to a computer b) are computer literate c) can find the link in the Council minutes AND d) speak English.

    There are over 100 primary languages spoken in our school district. What is even worse is that many of the places that people go to to use computers like the library and the senior center are closed.

    As we watch the comments and outrage over the defacing of art and the perception that it is a hate crime, I encourage us all to look at the more veiled institutional bias in our community.

  18. I already knew the suspect’s name because MEN hyperlinked to one of those public records in an earlier article. I
    guess that’s not technically a violation of the editorial policy, but it makes the policy almost irrelevant.

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