The Edmonds Police Department needs to do a better job of working with — and understanding the needs of — communities of color and addressing the social services needs of its residents. Those were among the takeaways of a report from an Equity and Social Justice Task Force appointed last year by Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson.
The task force report on Public Safety and Policing includes several findings and recommendations. The full report can be found at http://report.edmondswa.gov.
Among the task force’s findings:
- While the police department intentionally works to hire a more diverse force, it should have — but does not currently have — consistent, ongoing training in working with marginalized populations — specifically communities of color.
- The department has not sought out input or insights from the community at large when developing their plans for cultural assessments
- The department lacks insight into the perspectives and concerns that communities of color have about police.
- The department lacks training in community outreach and community engagement that would help police serve Edmonds residents. It was also evident, the task force said, that police don’t have training in dealing with the social services needs of citizens. Police are being asked to provide social services without adequate training, which makes it challenging for a social worker to follow up after the fact, the task force said.
- Many residents of color do not feel safe in Edmonds.
- Accountability and transparency are two terms that came up repeatedly throughout the task force process and there are differences in how the police and the community understand those terms as they relate to public safety.
The task force’s recommendations for the police department include:
- Community engagement training.
- Integration of social services, including training in the best use of a social services staff person.
- Establishing an implicit bias training program.
- Continued use of the task force in developing an ongoing equity work plan.
Nelson announced in June 2020 he was appointing the Equity and Social Justice Task Force “to help identify and correct issues of systemic and implicit bias within city operations in response to the aggressions and inequities perpetrated on African-Americans around the nation and in our region.” The task force began meeting in August 2020 to study equity-related issues within city government, and also had a goal of creating an Equity Toolkit and an Equity Work Plan for the city.
The task force’s first priority was police department practices as they relate to public safety/policing. According to the city’s announcement, the task force also wants to provide support and evaluate progress made on the police department recommendations.
The task force consists of 13 members, including a combination of civic and business community members, as well as representatives from regional equity and inclusion organizations.
Task force members are Richard Suico, Ann Jacobs, Patricia Valle, Charles Harvey Jr., Dedie Davis, Gian Rodrigues, Jeanne Misha Carter, Laura Johnson, Margaret Browne, Monet Bletson, Nicole Sumwall, Sandra Palmer and Yvette Sanchez.
Task force members declined to be interviewed about their work based on guidance to refer all media inquiries to the mayor’s office
Over the last six months, the task force has worked under the guidance of Bellevue-based Armstead Consulting, which specializes in equity and justice work. The consultant assisted the task force in providing information on best practices for this process, but the task force drove and completed the work, Nelson said.
The city paid Armstead $47,500 for its work from August 2020 to March 1, 2021.
“This report found problems in how we police and gives solutions to do a better job of supporting Black residents and other marginalized populations,” Nelson said. The mayor said he is sharing the report with the Center for Public Safety Management (CPSM), the Washington, D.C.-based firm he has hired to conduct a police performance audit, and the firm he has hired for a national police chief search — the International Association of Chiefs of Police — “to help inform expectations for our next police chief moving forward.”
“I want to thank the citizen task force members who dedicated themselves to help address equity and social justice issues facing our community,” Nelson added.
The Equity Toolkit included in the report provides a set of questions aimed at helping decision-makers focus on equity in both their processes and outcomes. The questions are designed to create a more inclusive perspective, drawing attention to how a decision may create the potential to affect marginalized groups, the city said.