Letter to the editor: The truth about diversity and the Edmonds Police Department

Editor:

I am the daughter of a Mexican immigrant who came to this country in 1925 — learned to read, write and speak English and became a U.S. citizen. In one of many conversations surrounding the chief of police issue in our Edmonds community, the topic of just how diverse is our police force in terms of people of color, and gender has come up a number of times. A friend of mine found this article that was posted February 2020 in MEN. I totally missed it but am so glad my friend brought it to my attention. You will find that what Mayor Nelson, Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, and three other city councilmembers have been telling us is completely false. They have fabricated and spread misinformation in an effort to prop themselves up as saviors of Edmonds. They have told us that Edmonds is basically a racist community, that we need a chief of police who is in tune with our community and needs to diversify our police force because we are sorely lacking.  Apparently, according to Mayor Nelson’s actions in choosing a police chief, Acting Chief Lawless has failed in this area and therefore he [Mayor Nelson] needs to correct this injustice. This is patently false.

The article is linked here for you to read.  It was written in February 2020 — that is about a year ago. But allow me to be a bit redundant and restate what was said by Josh McClure, Edmonds Police spokesperson in this February 2020 article.  He stated “As of December 2019, the department’s 58 commissioned officers include nine who are women and 13 who are non-white. That’s nearly double the number of women (five) and officers of color (six) since 2009. It was an effort championed by long-time Edmonds Police Chief Al Compaan, who retired in December, and is continued with the tenure of Acting Chief Jim Lawless, who is also strongly committed to the effort.”

So, the question is: Has Mayor Nelson been trying to take credit for the positive changes that had and were taking place under former Chief of Police Al Compann and Acting Chief of Police Jim Lawless? These positive changes have been going on for many years, well before Edmonds had ever heard the name Mike Nelson, let alone Mayor Mike Nelson. Was Mayor Nelson trying to capitalize on the national unrest we are witnessing, and trying to bring national attention to himself in an effort to prop himself up and taking credit for someone else’s work and accomplishments? This would indeed be shameful and be yet another example of how he has violated the public’s trust in the handling of his foremost duty — public safety —  the appointment of our chief of police.

Theresa Campa Hutchison
Edmonds

25 Replies to “Letter to the editor: The truth about diversity and the Edmonds Police Department”

  1. A definite pattern is occuring with Mayor Nelson of not telling the truth and then refusing to answer questions about it. Please stop the national search for a Police Chief and hire Acting Chief Lawless. Better yet resign and let somebody honest take the position of Mayor. If you will remember, Mayor Nelson had significant issues with the IRS which were never explained and he also terminated the Finance Director–again no explanation and he spent a significant amount of our money to gag the Finance Director. We the people of Edmonds deserve better.

    Also, how much is this national search for a Police Chief costing us?

    Please head over to https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/drop-the-mike and register you concerns!

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  2. Sadly, Chief Lawless has washed his hands of the situation and stated be no longer wishes to be considered for the job.

    It was apparent from the beginning that this whole process was put in motion to specifically put a POC in this position to show how woke the City government is supposed to be, and the resulting commotion proved it.

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  3. Thank you, Ms. Hutchison. Unfortunately Asst. Chief Lawless has conceded and withdrawn from seeking the permanent position of COP. He has shown more grace and professionalism than some people have in this debacle. That is our loss but do not forget all this next election day.

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  4. Just a question, but is there any LGBTQ representation on the Edmonds Police Force? I’d just add that my interactions with our police, though few, have been 100% positive, and when my partner was killed in a traffic accident, the police were wonderful – even 17 years ago. But is there any actual representation now?

    We’re lucky.

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    1. I don’t know the current answer to the LGBTQIA representation on the EPD but your question did remind me of the case the city settled with officer Sackville who was harassed about her sexual orientation by officer Machado for YEARS before the case was addressed and eventually settled. Sackville is no longer with EPD. He also won an award. I don’t see any documentation of other similar incidents, so this is just on example somewhat related to your question.

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      1. A reader questioned this accuracy of this comment. Here’s a link to our previous story about the lawsuit, which was settled out of court: https://myedmondsnews.com/2017/02/city-council-oks-235k-settlement-with-officer-who-said-she-was-sexually-harassed/
        And here’s the information on the sergeant’s award: https://myedmondsnews.com/2018/05/2018-police-awards-recognize-outstanding-efforts-in-local-law-enforcement/
        Also, there’s detailed story from the Edmonds Beacon in 2017 about the entire situation:
        https://www.edmondsbeacon.com/story/2017/04/20/news/city-denies-culture-of-sexual-harassment/18267.html?m=true

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    2. Bless the women standing out on the corner of 5th and Main last weekend with a small “resign or recall” sign. We need a concerted effort to rid ourselves of our so called Mayor. Remember his attempted power grab a few months back? Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures.

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  5. Drop the mike. Literally Theresa I could not have stated the obvious any better than you just did. It’s all about ego and look what I did in regards to Mayor Nelson. What he and the 4 council members were trying to achieve for their own glory and self edification was already happening because is was the right thing to do. Not because the political winds called for it and them wanting all the attention and glory. What’s sad in all this is that we lose a person of high character that wanted a safe city for all people and to build diversification into the police force. They didn’t need to hold a press conference and puff their chest about their accomplishments. They let their actions speak for themselves. They were doers, not talkers. We had the right COP right under our noses and Mayor Nelson and the 4 took that away from us and our community. What a shame.

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  6. This letter raises some legitimate “bigger picture” concerns. And the hiring process timeline reported by MyEdmondsNews this past week also reveals a disturbing aspect of this growing controversy: a mayor and council president who claim to be staunch advocates of women and underserved communities instead minimizing and dismissing a police chief candidate’s history of domestic violence instances in the interests of a political win – instances that according to the Edmonds Police Department website would have disqualified the candidate from a patrol position, let alone a chief position. Rather than acknowledging this serious concern, the mayor instead releases a Facebook video asserting his political mandate for Edmonds and dismissing his critics as a “small group of local people spreading fear and lies and trying to tear our city apart.” As a progressive woman among a broad coalition of residents now legitimately questioning this mayor’s character and judgement, I find that statement insulting and alarming. I believe we should hold all our electeds accountable – including (and especially) those for whom we vote. We’re seeing what happens nationally when a political party refuses to do so. I am grateful to My Edmonds News and letter writers like this one for attempting to do so in our hometown, regardless of the slings and arrows that will head their way.

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    1. Carolyn Douglas, thank you for your well thought out comment on this ongoing disturbing pattern of disgraceful conduct. Your perspective and thoughts are greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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  7. “I’m a person of color and I don’t see any racism. Those seeking to address racism are wrong!”

    To find a person of color who can deflect for white residents who want to silence residents of color is an insult to those who deal with racism in Edmonds every day. Tell the children chased from Harveys bar by an Nword yelling psychopath…whom charges weren’t even pursued once it left the public spotlight. “Edmonds isnt racist”. Tell the black kids targeted at Edmonds-Woodway High by a white supremacist student who wanted to go on race-based shooting spree that. Tell Middle Eastern residents who have to sit by and watch a residents poster attacking Alaskan Airlines for booting him after insulting Muslim passengers.

    I appreciate Mrs Campa-Hutchinson’s experience, but no one person of color has the right to generalize the experiences of all others. Just because you lucked out doesn’t mean everyone does. And to use your background to silence others (or those advocating for others) hurts them and you in the grand scheme of things.

    Fitting for the federal holiday, Martin Luther King spoke on this very topic: “We will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.””

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    1. Ashley:

      No one is saying there are not racist incidents in Edmonds. No one is trying to silence anyone. All voices deserve to be heard. What people are saying is that the EPD was ahead of their time in making sure they had a diverse police force that represented all members of the community.

      The citizens of Edmonds are frustrated the Mayor and 4 council members rushed a nomination without doing their due diligence and ignoring information that would have DQ’d Mr. Pruitt immediately. By rushing the process they stained the career of Mr. Pruitt and overlooked someone who was already doing what the Mayor and council members wanted. The Mayor and Council wanted their own credit for it, they wanted to make their own political statement. The Mayor and Council were reckless and used Mr. Pruitt for their own political gain. Do you think the mayor and 4 council members treated Mr. Pruitt fairly? I don’t!!!

      I am very sympathetic to the horrible events you describe above. My daughter is dating an African American and he has stories throughout his life that are similar. This should never happen to anyone no matter what color their skin is, or sexual orientation, religious or political beliefs. God created all of us and we are all beautiful in our own unique way. I appreciate your comments and have empathy for those that have been targeted or wronged. Racism does exist in Edmonds, but as a whole we are not a racist town and the actions of a handful of idiots does not define all who live here, the EDP, Mr. Lawless or all police officers.

      Please read the article below to see what the EPD was already doing in regards to diversity:

      https://myedmondsnews.com/2020/02/prioritizing-diversity-is-paying-off-for-edmonds-police-department/

      Respectfully,

      Rod

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    2. Ashley,

      I believe (and it is a given fact) that there is racism in Edmonds. You are discounting Mrs. Campa-Hutchinson’s experiences, and asking everyone to not discount the experiences of other people. That is, for lack of a better word, a difficult view and a difficult way to expand on unity in the march towards equity and justice. If that is the approach you choose to take, that is the approach that you choose to take.

      I do not believe there has been much silence on the topic of moving from equality (the equal rights movement) to social justice (the post-equal rights movement) to equity – the current phase of where we are headed (by recognizing and changing systemic bias and attempting to undo policies that, by design, have been based and developed in a world that contains bias). Edmonds has been, and continues to be, a City that is progressive leaning – just on various places in the spectrum of left-leaning politics. Obviously, there are varying degrees of thought on how to approach equity. It is difficult to get everyone on the same page exactly.

      Family wealth is the basis to six major pillars of equity. White Americans have wealth that is 10x greater than that of Black Americans and 8x greater than Hispanic Americans. Asian American family wealth is slightly greater than that of White Americans. My focus is on responsibly (fiscally) moving towards access to healthcare, education, financial services, housing, justice (the justice system), and employment. There have been dramatic gains in all of these areas, and to overlook that is short sighted.

      Is it enough to say there have been gains? No. Is it appropriate to keep telling the people who need to be a part of the change that they are not concerned? No.

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    3. I guess my point is that there are lots of speeches, lots of language, and little measurable action. There are incidents of racism – how are they measured?

      Case in point – the statistics show that Coronavirus affects marginalized populations more heavily than non-marginalized populations (be it age or race). This is by the Governor’s own statistics, and is widely supported by those statistics. Why then has the Governor not made it possible for the groups that are most likely to be negatively affected (either financially or health wise) to get the vaccine? The numbers prove it out, it is worth the investment to increase access to the vaccinations, but it was ignored. This is an indicator, where science shows the case, that policies are displaying some implicit bias (or it was determined that elderly and front line workers were more in need). I do not know.

      Snohomish County was considered a more fair housing county, but over the past 10 years, has had an issue with affordable housing and living wages. In the 12 years that I have been here, I have seen funds thrown at studies – but limited action and results. Money needs to go to action. I asked the CIty for the plan for the new Human Services department, I was told I was putting the cart before the horse. In the business world, asking for money prior to having a plan is like asking a client to just “trust me”. A plan, with metrics, goes a long way to get everyone on board.

      If you look at the line items in the current year financials, pay attention to the equity expenditures (Opioid fund, Homeless fund) – I do not know if it got reallocated? What was the plan, did we spend other places? Who knows..

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  8. Theresa, thank you for your letter; I appreciate your story, as I too have lived it.
    What I am seeing, reading, and hearing in these comments is a coalition of people from both sides of the political aisle coming together and mostly speaking with one voice against the lies and treachery that has been committed by mayor Nelson, Adrienne, and 3 other council members who were bullied into following Nelson and AFM. I am truly proud of Edmonds to rebuke this attempt by elected officials to think they could divide us by politics, when, in fact, what they did is “wrong and dishonest”, if not illegal. Edmonds voters are smarter than these representatives, AND we have a brave and honest press in MEN that has brought these deeds to light of day. Nobody puts Edmonds in a corner. This is what we, who immigrated here dreamed about: Land of the free, home of the brave.

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  9. I wish someone who thinks racism isnt such a problem in Edmonds would tell black students at Edmonds High who were targeted by a mass shooting by a racists fellow student. Or the black students targeted by Harveys bar bartender who threatened them with racial slurs and a baseball bat and whose charges were no pursued by local law enforcement. Apparently some voices, experiences and lives matter than others in town. Much how some have always preferred it.

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  10. there seems to be universal agreement across the city that this police Chief hiring process and all related communication from the city to the public has been completely mishandled. However, I’m not sure how the numbers presented in this letter of the number of women and “non-white” officers is related to the very real issue of racism in the community? The premise of this letter can to be summarized as 1. “the city and council lied to us about racism” and 2. “racism in Edmonds is a lie because the police department diversified their force.” Both of these claims are not related nor are they rooted in reality. The only explanation I can think of for why so many letters and comments continue to deny the existence of racism in Edmonds is because the authors feel like they are personally being called racist, and they don’t consider themselves racist and don’t want to be called a racist. I encourage everyone to stop being distracted by that label. We need to be able to have productive discussions about racism in the community and racist policies that need to change without everyone feeling like they are being individually accused. It’s like trying to address the tree policy and having everyone show up to tell us how many house plants they have. You story is great and you are great and that’s great but it does not contradict the stories of what we need to address. Just because you are lucky enough to NOT be the victim of [insert any injustice or crime or horror here] does not mean it doesn’t exist. And what is your goal? To comfort victims by telling them you aren’t a victim? To convince victims it never happened to them?

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  11. I believe the reference to the diversity of the Police Department is important in that those numbers show the current police administrations hiring. They have been successful in hiring a Police force that represents the community. Thank you to police leadership.
    Racism is certainly not a lie and I don’t believe any thinking person believes that; we can all do better. What one person experiences does not represent what all experience. However, we need to be open to hearing the whole story and not jump to “racism” without knowing the facts of each individual interaction from all parties. Making broad statements of racism only harms any movement forward.
    The actions and statement made by the Council and Mayor are not acceptable. It appears by their actions and communication, their main goal is to use race as a political stepping stone and I find that disgusting behavior. Edmonds want the most qualified and proven individual for our highest public safety position. I’m not convinced that is the goal of the current City Administration.

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  12. Those of us who argue against racist statements do so because they are destructive and demeaning. That word immediately creates a victim mentality that is destructive in every way unless grounded in fact [and no, citing a criminal’s behavior and pretending there are more hiding nearby is fallacious]. If I were to lecture half the respondents in this thread how they were genuine racists I’d immediately create a victim/aggressor relationship and that’s wrong on all levels. Dr. King was explicit on how we must avoid language and policy that separates us and focus on pride and respect at all times as teaching our neighbors and children victimhood is an affront to everyone and is literally un-American, meaning not characteristic of or consistent with our American customs of tolerance, principles of Justice, or traditions of acceptance.

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  13. The Edmonds Police Department made an arrest of a suspect in the Harvey’s incident. They were arrested at their workplace and booked into jail that same day. The investigation was forwarded to the prosecutor’s office.

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  14. Does Edmonds Police ever do any kind of event like this one? https://www.northcountyoutlook.com/news/mville-residents-meet-with-police-officers/article_06598e50-707d-11eb-be46-af9a4be44329.html

    Are they involved in this local training? It looked like other agencies were involved but I didn’t see Edmonds mentioned? https://myeverettnews.com/2021/02/10/everett-police-reinforcing-a-culture-of-peer-intervention-with-active-bystander-training/

    I love the piece on “emotional intelligence” and I strongly believe this would be beneficial to all police departments.

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    1. Dorian, EPD and the Edmonds Police Foundation have cohosted an open house in the summer the past few years. Of course COVID cancelled it last year. It’s a great opportunity to meet officers and other first responders. Hopefully we will be able to hold the event this year.

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