Black in Edmonds panelists call on city leaders to address issues with police chief selection process

Black in Edmonds panelist Dedi Davis, upper right, speaks during Saturday’s conversation on the Edmonds police chief selection process. Others included Alicia Crank, upper left; Misha Carter, lower left, and Richard Taylor Jr., lower right.

The topic of the latest Black in Edmonds panel discussion? The Edmonds City Council’s 4-3 decision Dec. 8 to confirm Mayor Mike Nelson’s appointment of Sherman Pruitt as the city’s next police chief.

Two of the four Black in Edmonds panelists appearing Saturday via Facebook Live — Alicia Crank and Richard Taylor Jr. — sat on the community panel that Mayor Nelson appointed to interview both police chief candidates. Both stressed that — contrary to the belief of some — the panel did not make a recommendation for a preferred candidate between Pruitt, now Sauk-Suiattle Tribal Police Chief, and Edmonds’ Acting Police Chief Jim Lawless.

Panelists “had a set number of questions for both candidates,” Crank said. At the end of their interviews, panelists were asked to share the pros and cons of both men —  with no recommendation for a particular candidate. “We did not say —  nor were we asked — which one,” Crank said.

In addition, Crank — who sits on the Edmonds Planning Board — and Taylor — an author and speaker — both stressed that the questions asked were focused on community policing. The focus was not about background or experience, they said, because the assumption was that by the time the two candidates were presented, any necesary vetting had been done.

During the Dec. 8 council meeting, councilmember and citizens raised questions about whether the city had conducted a thorough background check on Pruitt. (A KOMO-TV report on Dec 8 pointed to testimony about alleged domestic violence issues as part of a lawsuit involving Pruitt and the City of Arlington.) There were efforts by some councilmembers to delay the vote for further investigation, but those were rejected on 4-3 votes — the same majority that confirmed Pruitt’s appointment.

The fact these questions weren’t addressed during the council meeting has resulted in anger and frustration among many in the community, all four panelists acknowledged.

“There’s a lot of misinformation,” said Black in Edmonds panelist Dedie Davis, a wedding and event planner who has lived in Edmonds for more than 20 years. “People didn’t understand the process and so they jumped to a lot of conclusions.”

“There’s a lot of anger, frustration and hurt,” agreed panelist Misha Carter, also 20-plus-year Edmonds resident who for three years staffed the Edmonds Diversity Commission. “People are feeling hurt on all sides and they are feelilng helpless. They are looking for answers.”

Adding fuel to the controversy was another television interview — on KING-TV — which featured interviews with City Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas and former Edmonds Police Chief Al Compaan, who retired last year. Fraley-Monillas has been under fire for stating during the interview that Pruitt would be a good pick, given “all the racism in Edmonds.”

Crank said she “hated everything” about the KING-5 interview. “Edmonds is not a racist city,” Crank said. “Does racism exist among certain people here? Absolutely. It’s in Anytown USA. Edmonds is not special or exempt to those types of behaviors. So that statement? Not helpful.” She added she was also was disappointed by former Chief Compaan’s interview, during which he criticized the chief selection process, “because in total the whole thing was just filled with anger. And who likes to see their community portrayed with so much anger?”

Taylor agreed that Edmonds “is just a representation of the underbelly we see in America,” but he also added that Edmonds “is messy.”

“I’m not attacking the city when I say that,” Taylor added, stressing that angst of Edmonds residents is a reflection of the city’s leadership. “We have got to deal with our own inner workings…to truly serve for the betterment of our city. With Edmonds being a small town, we do have an opportunity to be better.”

Panelists also discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic has created anxiety, depression and trauma responses among many, and when city government appears to be acting without transparency, it amplifies people’s concerns. Taylor, who is also a mental health advocate, added: “We cannot allow that (COVID-19) to be an excuse for how we choose to present ourselves through our actions.”

Crank agreed. “There is a lot of animosity that goes beyond the police chief situation and those are influencing leadership decisions — from mayor and council,” she said. “The angers and frustrations are on full display every Tuesday during those council meetings.”

It doesn’t help the community as a whole — or communities of color — “to have a dysfunctional leadership system… for people in leaderhsip to not be successful,” Crank added. “When there isn’t transparency to the questions that people are asking… that’s detrimental to us.”

Carter pointed to one question in particular she received — “Isn’t that what you all wanted?” — that implied all Black people in Edmonds were supporting Pruitt’s appointment. “We don’t all think alike,” she said.

Addressing the issue of “family business,” Crank said: “When we (Black people) see someone rise up in a position, we are hella critical. We need to make sure this person is on point, nothng in the background that’s going to come out, we know people are going to look.”

If anything, she added, people of color “know they have to be 200% above. We don’t expect shorcuts to be given to us, we don’t expect circumvention.”

The tone of comments on local news sites and social media about the police chief selection process is “disheartening,” Davis added. “This is a time when we all should be coming together. We’re splitting the town — white and other. They are so divisive. I can’t remember looking back over the 20 years living here where it’s been this in your face and everyone having such a strong emotion.”

It’s unfortunate, Crank added, that some commenters are taking their anger out by attacking the candidates themselves or people of color in the community rather than the selection process.

“I’m not saying don’t be upset,” Crank said. “What I’m saying, is make sure you’re upset about the right thing, and you channel it in the right direction…and don’t misdirect your anger and furstration to groups that had nothing to do it.”

Davis also said she was bothered by the focus on comparing the experiences of the two candidates “on paper,” rather than taking into account “what you can bring to the position as a person. It was not really a fair judgment.”

Crank said her biggest worry is the potential for what could happen next. “If Chief Pruitt becomes the new chief, what’s the temperature in the police department right now? Is there going to be a vote of no confidence? Are people going to start walking out and going to different agencies beaue they don’t like how this was handled?

“The optics are horrible for a city to see officers walk off the job,” Crank continued. “And frankly I don’t want to see this under the first Black police chief of a predominantly white city — because that’s going to be the story.  Even if they’re walking off not because of him but because of the process and they are angry at the mayor and council, the headline is ‘Edmonds gets first Black police chief, officers walk away.'”

And even if Pruitt doesn’t end up taking the job, “I don’t think Chief Lawless, if it was offered to him, would take it because of all the stuff that had happened,” Crank added. “And frankly, I can’t blame him for it.” That would mean another chief search and hiring process, “and who — after doing a quick Google search — would want to apply for it? So this is messy, whatever angle is taken.”

The issue, Davis added, is one of transparency, and she challenged city leaders to “figure out what happened and own it and fix it. It’s not up to the residents of Edmonds to do that. That’s not our job. Now it looks like — were corners cut with this Black chief of police? Well, we didn’t ask for that either. Take him on his merit or don’t take him at all. We’re not asking for shortcuts just so we can walk around and say, ‘Wow, look at us. We have a Black chief of police now.'”

“I’m challenging the mayor and council to fix this, whatever this is, because we don’t know what this is because no one’s talking,” Crank said. “No one is winning in this — there is no victory for anybody involved in this. And the ones that can do something about it need to do something and not let us as a city of residents, flail in the background and make false allegations or make guestimations of what’s happening becaue there’s been non-responsiveness.”

You can watch the entire Saturday panel discussion at this link.

– By Teresa Wippel

 

 

  1. “I’m challenging the mayor and council to fix this, whatever this is, because we don’t know what this is because no one’s talking,” Crank said. ALicia, I agree. Process failed both.

      1. I did not watch it Sam. I am hopeful. This issue was manipulated by those trusted to protect the process and they failed.

        1. I was wondering if you bothered to watch and if you also liked the part where she expressed disappointment in those questioning Chief Pruitt’s honor and training.

        2. Our Mayor came across as a skilled suave politician when running for office. Now we have what you voted for.

      2. Sam, criticism of the process does not mean criticism of Chief Pruitt. Nothing about Micheal’s statement suggested he has a problem with Chief Pruitt himself.

    1. Why all of a sudden does Edmonds have a race problem(?), because a few said so. Whether they are playing the victim of society or buying off on false narratives spewed by activist followers. I challenge those who want to scream racism in a city of such unity and spirit. The fear mongering race baters are attempting to spread hate and unjustifiably created division in a amazing small city that has never been labeled or challenged as targeting people of color. Edmonds City Council and the HR Director should seriously understand the ramifications that come with thoughts and comments made creating false narratives to justify their blatant comments about hiring Pruitt as chief because the city needs a person of color. And to say, this person of color will understand since he has lived it. Understand what? That Edmonds should created a fictitious race problem to justify Pruitt’s hiring while foregoing the exemplary career of Acting Chief Lawless to satisfy their agenda. Edmonds isn’t perfect but it is not a racist city like some want you to believe. Similar activism in Seattle was the start of their problems and look at what it got them. An out of control city council, hiring a pimp as street czar position with crime running rampant as they push out their black chief of SPD and officers are quitting in record numbers. This is what you get when race is always a topic in an effort to indoctrinate people in believing it is everywhere. Well, its not and the hiring of Puritt based on his color is illegal regardless if the panelists want to minimize what is happening. If the city doesn’t want Lawless, then find an equally qualified candidate. Not because of color, or with a questionable past.

      1. A few questions: First, why do you think this is a “sudden” problem and hasn’t always been the case? Second, why are you dismissing the experiences and opinions of Black residents of Edmonds outright? Are you calling Black residents liars or assuming the experiences and opinions of Black people “don’t matter”? Last, have you ever spoken to a Black person in Edmonds? How can you claim their isn’t a racism problem while simultaneously dismissing people of color who are yelling that there is and they regularly experience it? Is this what they call “gaslighting”?

  2. I am very impressed with this discussion. It seems to me that the four panelists fully understand the issues and discussed them with great objectivity.

    1. They should be aware. Wasn’t Ms Crank appointed to mayor Nelson’s panel to discuss who they like to see as police chief?

      1. As stated in the article and video, we were not asked to pick a favorite. Feel free to reach out to any of the other 7 community members that participated if you believe I’m not being truthful.

        1. Alicia, I watched the video you did with Richard Taylor, Misha Carter and Dedie Davis. It was really good, and I appreciated the way the group respectfully and kindly shared their thoughts and perspectives.

          My question for you now is, are you against Acting Chief Lawless becoming our new chief? If so, why (I realize it’s not your decision, but I’d appreciate your perspective)? Asked another way, how would you feel if he became our new chief? Is the only correct choice a person of color?

          I want to understand the very real and perceived push back there appears to be from some members of our community, especially some who have expressed themselves on facebook with the message that anyone who didn’t support Chief Pruitt is racist. It seems that Pruitt’s past issues with violence don’t matter, and his omissions are irrelevant, his dismissal is only seen as another example of how racist people are in Edmonds.

          “…lots of folks in Edmonds do their best to run Black people out of town.”

          “Y’all ran the Black guy out of town!
          Congrats, Edmonds
          Well done”

          “The reputation is now how racist this little town is and how so many people refuse to see it and/or do anything about it. ” “Edmonds we need to do better.”

          Thank you in advance, Alicia.

        2. I’m skeptical of the process due to my experience with the Edmonds housing task force. The mayor taps certain individuals who appear to have some benefit from the outcome. (Land developers, politician who wanted to put low barrier housing at a church in my neighborhood.) To me it reflected a selected group chosen for a predetermined outcome.

        3. Annon: There is a lot to unpack there! I’ll say what I’ve said in the video and other times before, which is that I wouldn’t dare speak for ALL Black people, or even some of us. I can only speak for myself and my experiences. In context to the issue at hand, I was okay with either candidate (for different reason), based on their community policing responses. My opinion may be different from others on the panel, but I wouldn’t know for certain since there wasn’t a discussion on preference. Obviously, that’s only one piece of the entire puzzle, and that was the piece my focus was on. As to the other quotes you listed, I would suggest reaching out those individuals directly and ask for more context.

        4. Alicia, thank you for your response, and sorry about the overloaded suitcase of questions! I appreciate and value your point of view, and I would never expect you to be a spokesperson for anyone or everyone else.

          This division breaks my heart, and it doesn’t jive with the relationships I have with my neighbors (people of color and white alike). Many years ago I worked with law enforcement and I’ve seen/experienced what bad cops look and act like. Those who serve with the EPD are different, in the very best ways.

          As far as those on facebook I quoted, I don’t do facebook, for various reasons, but even if I did I don’t think I would interact with any of the people I referenced. Those who have engaged and/or disagreed have been shut down/dismissed in one way or another. I want very much to understand why having AC Lawless as our chief is so objectionable to some, and why, to some, anyone who supports him is viewed as a racist. Guess I’ll just have to wait and see if there’s an opportunity to ask someone who feels that way.

          Thank you again for sharing your thoughts.

      2. Kari: I can only speak to my role and what happened in the 3 hours we interviewed both from a community policing perspective. Anything that happened before or after, including the law enforcement panel, is information I’m not privy to. I believe there is a MEN story where all the participants of the community panel is listed.

  3. I would like to know something about “all the racism in Edmonds” to which Adrienne Fraley-Monillas is referring, and where did she get the idea that a minority police chief could correct the situation if this was happening.

  4. I appreciate all the panelists who gave of their time and energy to have the discussion they had today on Black in Edmonds. It was helpful for me to learn more about this situation by listening to people who deeply care about our city
    Thank you especially to Alicia for hosting these discussions.

  5. Holy cow that was a good panel. Mike Nelson +4 (the Squad) ended making everyone feel sideways and uncomfortable. I wish I could tell this panel… they think they are speaking for you because you’re letting them. Councilwoman Olsen asked Mike to explain his thought process. Mike told her he doesn’t have to explain anything. He wouldn’t of dared say that to Alicia if she asked him to explain his decisions.

    1. Very much agree with you Matt. I think it was Diane Buckshnis that the Mayor blew off, but that’s not important. The point is the Mayor made it clear that he owes no one an explanation. Under our current system of city government he is absolutely right about that. That is our fault, not his. Also, “there is no way to fix stupid” as us gear heads used to say when we had to deal with bad or needlessly complex engineering of mechanical systems. Same thing applies here, IMO.

      Crank should have gotten the council position and Lawless should be chief of police and this is a human race issue; not a race issue, IMO. Following the herd, is usually never a good idea; it often leads to the slaughter house. The sooner we all forget the very concept of race in terms of skin color and religion the better off we will all be. We are all human beings and we are all pretty much the same in terms of life and happiness. We need our leaders to always be open and honest with us but that is an unusual event I’m afraid. Our leaders tend to use their positions for control, power and influence and that is a shame.

      1. Alicia Crank for Mayor.
        I am betting you’ll get your transparency then. She will be truthful…like it or not.
        Alicia, when this position is open…Ill support you all the way.
        Thankyou for ALL you do. And that is much. XO Deb.

      2. Alicia probably doesn’t like me, but she’s always treated me with respect and she actually makes an attempt to understand my crazy.

        I’m going to ask Luke to step down so that one of the 3 people of color who actually ran a campaign could take his seat. He was appointed according to a fair process, but he also feels like the process and reasons shouldn’t stand in the way of Equity objectives. I think the mayor agrees with this statement. A white man who accepted an appointment that displaced people of color should be willing to step down so that the original, more equitable, slate of applicants can be considered. Luke is a great guy, always kind, but Alicia [for example] is better from the Equity perspective. Let’s take this whole thing to it’s logical conclusions.

  6. This was a great discussion and addresses all the issues that have resulted fro the city leader’s lack of transparency. No one wins.

  7. I’ll start with again quoting Alicia Crank, “I’m challenging the mayor and council to fix this, whatever this is, because we don’t know what this is because no one is talking”. Thank you Alicia and to the panel for your comments. They are real and heartfelt and I am in agreement with you all. This mess that Mayor Nelson and some members of council have created is not going away and will not be soon forgotten. Failure to provide transparency, the kind of leadership that Edmonds elected you to provide and deserves, and what has come of this failure is deplorable. We all have been trampled on – Edmonds, Lawless, Pruitt, the entire police department and we have been diminished in the eyes of our neighbors in surrounding cities. And what “winning situation” have you accomplished by this fiasco?

    Adrienne Fraley-Monillias comment on King 5 “all the racism in Edmonds” was disgusting, disappointing and shocking to hear coming from a person who holds this office, elected position in our city. Is Edmonds racist? No we are not. There are racists individuals in the USA and there are some in Edmonds, but we are not a racist nation nor is Edmonds racist. We elected a Black president of the United States. of America. Let me state the obvious, it took a heck of a lot more folks to elect Barak Obama president than just Blacks. It took, whites, Hispanics, Asians and many others to elect him. So we showed, we have proven, that we are not a racist nation. So contemplate that for a moment before you play fast and loose with that inflammatory and hurtful word.

    Again, mayor and council, “Fix this” and fix it now.

    Theresa Campa Hutchison

    1. I have to say, outright claiming “America is not a racist country” when we have a majority that acknowledge police treat people of color differently, not to mention slavery and removal and execution of native peoples is built into our very constitution is pretty glaring. Unless you’re going argue slavery and native genocide aren’t racist, or that there are no after effects of those policies still in effect today. To which I would ask, have you gotten the opinion of Black or Native people on this or is it solely your opinion as a person from your background. Which I am assuming is not Native of Black.

  8. Thank you SO much Alicia and panel! The group has certainly highlighted the problem here in Edmonds. I do agree we need honesty and transparency by the Mayor and City Council about this process. I think most would agree that education and employment history is only a piece of the decision-making process. Unfortunately, the citizens only have the experience/education information and then a horrible series of steps in presenting the decision. We are seeing the horrible results of lack of information. This is our city and we all want a positive outcome. But the citizens need some honest communication from the Mayor and City Council to move forward. And not only for this hiring but the future issues of this city. Thank you for helping us to understand our anger and focus thinking about this issue.
    OK Mayor and Council it’s time to answer questions, face-up to mistakes made, show a way forward to heal this city.

  9. Great panel discussion. Thanks to Alicia and team! And excellent recap by MEN, as usual. As I reflect this morning on the coverage and associated comments, it seems to me we are all going through a learning process—learning to be introspective and learning how we can make meaningful change toward being a more welcoming and inclusive community. This starts with kindness and is rooted in Biblical principles (to paraphrase: treat others as you would like to be treated). So the “we choose kindness” signs we have seen around town are on the right track, I think. And these signs aren’t in opposition to the “we choose change” signs that have also appeared. Real kindness can lead to real change—the two concepts aren’t mutually exclusive. During this Christmas season and beyond, I hope we can all work toward a climate of kindness, inclusiveness and equity. Merry Christmas, everyone!

  10. Again, the mayor and council have the opportunity to put much of the speculation to rest by providing the objective process they followed.

    The questions and instructions given to both panels and the recommendations (of which I do know there were recommendations/suggestions) by each panel would be a great start.

    The scoring mechanism from which Mr. Pruitt and Chief Lawless were evaluated would be another great start.

    One of Mr. Nelson’s campaign issues was improving communication with the community (he criticized the waterfront connector process as a lack of transparency) – he now has the opportunity to provide answers to many questions.

    I believe in one team, one fight. I believe in best-fit and best-qualified. I also believe that differences should lead to discussion, not division. Let’s keep the conversation going – with the intent of seeking understanding, not proving our point of view as the only point of view.

    To the mayor and the 4 councilmembers who voted to confirm, let’s hear your point of view.

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