Race, In/Justice and Advocacy

December 1, 2016:
Final Report to the Legislature and Governor Required by ESHB 2908, 2016 Legislature (in PDF format)
by the Washington State Joint Legislative Task Force on the Use of Deadly Force in Community Policing


Jt. Leg. Task Force on the Use of Deadly Force in Community Policing
Summary of Action Taken on November 21, 2016
(Adopted Recommendations Below Include Adopted Amendments)

Document here in PDF format.


Olympian – Politics & Government – July 29, 2016

Reform advocates upset over pushback over changing malice law

By Walker Orenstein

When an effort by state lawmakers to make prosecuting police for improper use of deadly force easier stalled last year, legislators compromised.

They agreed to let a task force study the issue and recommend policy to next year’s Legislature on how to reduce violent interactions involving law enforcement.

But some on the state-appointed committee, which had its second meeting Tuesday, say lawmakers overseeing the panel are filibustering even a dialogue about changing controversial state law regulating police use of deadly force.

Read more here: http://www.theolympian.com/news/politics-government/article92684327.html

Watch the Joint Legislative Task Force on Use of Deadly Force in Community Policing [click image below]

07/26/2016, 9:00 am

JointTaskForce-07-26-16Agenda: Welcome/introductions, Law Enforcement Training, Investigation Protocols for Officer-Involved Shootings, Use of Force Data Collection, discussion and closing remarks.
Location: Criminal Justice Training Center

Article: “After White Officer Shoots Black Brothers, Chief Works To Build Trust”

By Austin Jenkins – KPLU / NWNews – July 14, 2016

Cutline: Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts says police departments ”need to be more transparent, more open and more accountable.”

“The police force in Washington’s state capital is changing. Fourteen months ago a white police officer in Olympia shot two African-American brothers. The shooting triggered local protests, but not a national outcry — the brothers survived, although one was paralyzed.

“Ultimately, the officer was cleared of any wrongdoing. Even so, Olympia’s police chief says that event was a catalyst for change.”

[Then later in the article]

… “At a news conference a few hours after the shooting, Chief Roberts was asked about the “elephant in the room” — race. The officer was white, the men who were shot black.

“This was his answer then: “There’s no indication to me that race was a factor in this case at all.”

“Today, Roberts says he apologizes for that statement.

“‘Because what I know based upon black people in this community and across this nation is that every time they’re present, race is a factor,’ Roberts said.”

Read the whole article and listen to the recording here:


Joint Statement of Olympia Police Department Chief Roberts and Black Alliance of Thurston County Chair Dr. Johnson


July 8, 2016

In light of recent events Chief of Police Ronnie Roberts and Dr. Karen Johnson of the Black Alliance met today and have the following statement:

“We are at a time in our country where violence is pulling communities apart.  We must come together to address longstanding challenges between our Black communities and law enforcement.  We recognize that police violence is real and that prejudice exists.  Violence against police, those whom we entrust the responsibility to keep us safe, and police violence against the people without accountability are not acceptable solutions.

The solutions lie in moving toward each other, demonstrating a sense of unity and ownership for making our communities safe.  We must focus our efforts on a culture of respect and equity for all.  Building strong, trusting relationships  and sound policing practices are critical to creating safe communities.

As leaders,  we believe our community can be the example of how to work together to ensure all people are treated with respect regardless of race and that law enforcement is honored for the daily public service they provide.

We have already started this work and we will continue to find ways to be transparent, open, and honest.”


Here is the Final Report to the [Olympia] City Council from the Ad Hoc Committee on Police and Community Relations, presented to the Council on 4/12/2016. (PDF format)


IW Board Endorses I-873

The Board of Directors of Interfaith Works has formally endorsed Initiative 873, concerning police deadly force.

Last February, the Board endorsed House Bill 2907 to amend the state statute on police use of deadly force in recognition that current law makes it virtually impossible to charge a law enforcement officer with a crime when he or she uses deadly force against a citizen.

That bill failed to pass, but a study bill, HB 2908, on this issue was adopted creating a broad-based task force of law enforcement professionals, human rights groups, and citizens to study the current law and report back to the Governor and legislature by December 2016 on any recommended changes to the law.

Pursuant to ESHB 2908, the Task Force on Police Use of Deadly Force had its first meeting June 28 (view the meeting at http://leg.wa.gov/JointCommittees/DFTF/Pages/Members.aspx), with discussion that was civil and wide-ranging. There will be three more meetings, July 26, September 13, and in November.

Meanwhile, an initiative to the legislature (I-873) was filed on May 20, to amend the state statute on police use of deadly force. By December 31, 2016, 250,000 valid signatures must be collected in order for the legislature to consider it. (See sidebar for the Ballot Title and Ballot Measure Summary that appear on the petition.)

Such a change would remove from state law what experts and activists alike have identified as a central impediment to being able to charge a police officer with a crime. Police would arguably be more careful, possibly preventing police use of deadly force in certain instances because officers would be aware of increased accountability for their actions.

The endorsement of I-873 by the Board builds on IW’s interest and involvement in the issue of gun violence, police reform, community peacemaking, its February endorsement of HB 2907, and the timeliness of the issue both locally and nationally. The Board encourages IW members to consider helping with signature gathering and for support in the 2017 legislature.

Proposed Initiative 873

 Ballot Title

Initiative Measure No. 873 concerns use of deadly force by public officers or peace officers.

 This measure would amend the law to eliminate consideration of whether an officer acted “without malice and with a good faith belief” when determining whether the officer committed justifiable use of deadly force.

 Ballot Measure Summary
This measure would amend the law that exempts public officers and peace officers from criminal liability for using deadly force under specific circumstances. It would eliminate consideration of whether the officer acted “without malice and a good faith belief.” Instead, under this measure, a public officer or peace officer could not be held criminally liable for using deadly force if the act was justifiable under the specific circumstances set forth under the statute.



About Black Alliance of Thurston County

The Black Alliance of Thurston County is committed to building trust and promoting fair and impartial policing in Thurston County.  We support courageous and respectful conversations between communities and law enforcement about race, ethnicity, and income status.  We work for systemic change and call for legislative reform, including greater diversity in the legislature. For more information, visit www.blackalliancethurston.org
Media Contact: Dr. Karen Johnson, blackalliancethurstoncounty@gmail.com

About Latino Civic Alliance

Latino Civic Alliance (LCA) is a nonpartisan organization that promotes civic engagement in Washington State by encouraging social responsibility and public service. LCA will facilitate community and state based advocacy for Latino/as.  We collaborate with the community to improve the public good on the local, state and national level while enriching the community. LCA seeks to foster opportunities for meaningful and reciprocal relationships between political representation and the community.
Media Contact: Nick Marquez, media@latinocivicalliance.org

About Olympia Coalition to Reform Deadly Force Laws, Washington State

Media Contact: Leslie Cushman, leslie.cushman.olympia@gmail.com




IW Testimony on HB 2907, Police Use of Deadly Force

Testimony on Behalf of Interfaith Works
In Support of House Bill 2907
February 3, 2016
Selena Kilmoyer, Board of Directors, Interfaith Works

Thank you Mr. Chair and members of the committee for the opportunity to speak today on House Bill 2907. My name is Selena Kilmoyer, and I am on the Board of Interfaith Works, a Thurston County non-profit working on homelessness, justice issues, and ways to build a stronger and more loving community.

Interfaith Works strongly supports passage of House Bill 2907 and thanks the sponsor and co-sponsors for bringing it forward this year so soon after the tragic shooting right here in Olympia of two unarmed young black men last May.

As an organization composed of faith communities in Thurston County, we are called to do all we can to help reduce violence and build a just society. Love, compassion, justice and nonviolence are foundational principles of all religions across the globe. We recognize in one another, and indeed in all of creation, the spirit of the divine, however one defines it and the need, therefore, to protect life. As people of faith, we believe we are called to ACT on our principles of love and justice. Supporting HB 2907 is a small act we take in partnership with many others in hopes of a better day. If one person’s life is spared because of the changes proposed in 2907 to Washington’s unjust law, then it is worth it.

Police officers often do heroic work, and of course they need leeway for split-second decision making in dangerous situations. But deadly force has to be clearly necessary to be justified. It should be the last resort, not the first.

Washington’s current law on police use of deadly force, with its standard of malice, is grossly unjust, especially to people who an officer perceives as threatening because they are different from him or her.

Police officers in the United States are taught that they can use deadly force if they reasonably believe an individual poses a grave, imminent danger to themselves or others. Superficially, this “reasonableness” rule looks unobjectionable.

But racial bias can affect what seems reasonable. Individuals of all races in America perceive black people as more aggressive and dangerous than white people. Studies show that black people are seen as being physically stronger and less prone to feeling pain than people of other races, and black children are often perceived to be older than they are. When faced with an armed black target, shooters are both more likely to shoot and quicker to shoot than they are when faced with an armed white target.

These biases can affect the way we think, judge and act. As a result, force that may seem unreasonable if used against a white person may seem perfectly “reasonable” when used against a black person.

An analysis of F.B.I. data from 2010 to 2012 concluded that the police killed black men ages 15 to 19 at a rate 21 times greater than the statistic for white men the same age. Department of Justice numbers indicate that a black person is about four times more likely to die in custody or while being arrested than a white person is.

HB 2907 would not solve all the problems with police use of deadly force in Washington. Training on de-escalation techniques, the use of body and car cameras, education on implicit bias, and other improvements in police work are very much needed. But HB 2907 takes an important step forward in making our law more just and, quite possibly, in saving lives.

Interfaith Works thanks the legislature for moving forward on this issue so important to our state.

Thank you again for the opportunity to testify.




 Local Anti-Racism Education and Action Resources for Interfaith Communities

The Black Alliance of Thurston County is committed to building trust and promoting impartial policing in Thurston County. The group supports courageous and respectful conversations between communities and law enforcement about race, ethnicity, and income status. BlackAllianceThurstonCounty@gmail.com

ARTICLE: Thurston County residents discuss race relations at first ‘community cafe’
by Amelia Dickson – The Olympian – December 11, 2015

“About 90 people attended a Thursday night “community cafe” hosted by the Black Alliance of Thurston County and the Olympia Police Department.”

Read more here.

ARTICLE: Black Alliance of Thurston County celebration focuses on change
The Olympian – Nov. 20, 2015 – by Amelia Dickson

“In the weeks since the group’s founding, members of the Black Alliance of Thurston County have already taken steps to make sure Thurston County is a welcoming community for African Americans, and to decrease racial bias — especially in policing.

“The Black Alliance hosted its founding celebration Saturday afternoon at Olympia’s Risen Faith Fellowship church. The more than 70 people who attended included elected officials from both the city of Olympia and Thurston County, and representatives of both the Lacey and Olympia police departments.”

Read more here.

VIDEO: Black Alliance founders celebration
The Olympian – Tony Overman Staff photographer

“Black Alliance of Thurston County celebrates its founding by focusing on change.”

See more here.

EDITORIAL: Black Alliance is new, needed voice
The Olympian – Nov. 7, 2015

“The shooting of two young black men by a white police officer was the catalyst for the formation of The Black Alliance, a new advocacy group for black people in Thurston County.

“The Alliance is already working with Olympia’s police chief to build better relations between police and the black community.

“But Karen Johnson and fellow Alliance founder Thelma Jackson also have a very large vision that takes in African Americans’ welfare in schools and opportunities in the state and local economy. One key to that is breaking what Johnson called a “school to prison” pipeline that lands too many African Americans behind bars.”

Read more here.


Full Circle United (360◦). A group of Black, Indigenous and People of Color artists, organizers, teachers, learners, and healers living and working in Olympia, formed in the wake of the May 21, 2015, police shooting to support Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin and to expose and dismantle the anti-Black racism that exists in our community. fullcircleunity@gmail.com

Mentoring Youth. This developing program, focused on mentoring minority youth, resulted from suggestions made at a community forum at Risen Faith Fellowship in early June. At this time guidelines are being formulated for volunteers and participants. For information on ways to be involved contact: Jose Guiterrez, (818) 256-4961

Olympia Unity in the Community. Unity in the Community is an Olympia-based coalition dedicated to organizing positive and pro-diversity educational events and appropriate community responses to the presence of hate groups in the Olympia area. Unity seeks to build working relationships with a broad range of ethnic and cultural organizations, faith groups, progressive organizations, government entities and individuals who support diversity as an essential basis for a strong community. http://www.OlympiaUnityInTheCommunity.org

SURJ – Showing Up for Racial Justice.   SURJ is a national network of groups and individual organizing white people for justice. Through community organizing, mobilizing, and education, SURJ moves white people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice with passion and accountability. We work to connect people across the country while supporting and collaborating with local and national racial justice organizing efforts. SURJ provides a space to build relationships, skills, and political analysis to act for change. www.showingupforracialjustice.org   Olympia contact is Emily Pieper, emily.pieper@gmail.com

Thurston County Law and Justice Council. The purpose of the Law and Justice Council is to provide an interjurisdictional forum for consideration of initiatives and resources to improve criminal justice services, enhance public safety, and reduce crime throughout Thurston County. http://www.co.thurston.wa.us/bocc/law-and-justice-council.htm

YWCA of Olympia.   The YWCA’s mission is to eliminate racial and gender inequity and advance the social and economic status of all women and girls by providing direct service to individuals, educating the community on relevant issues and engaging in advocacy to promote systemic change. All of the work and initiatives are focused on the three strategic areas of economic empowerment, leadership and health & wellness.  ywcaofolympia.org

These and more are listed in our downloadable document:

Olympia and Thurston County Anti-Racism Education and Action Resources  (PDF file)

Prepared by Interfaith Works

Olympia’s Police and Community Relations Committee

The Olympia City Council created an ad-hoc committee on Police and Community Relations in 2015 that worked for six months.  The committee consisted of five community members and one member of the Olympia Police Department.  The committee’s purpose was to develop opportunities for broad-based and inclusive engagement with the community about criminal justice issues.

This Ad Hoc Committee on Police and Community Relations held forums open to all community members to share thoughts about how Olympia Police can best serve all of the public. Information about the committee can be found on the City of Olympia’s website at http://olympiawa.gov/city-government/advisory-committees/police-relations-committee.aspx

The Committee prepared a Summary of Major Themes.

City’s staff liaison, Kandace Johnson: PCR@ci.olympia.wa.us

ARTICLE: Olympia committee focuses on police relationships with downtown street community
by Andy Hobbs – The Olympian – December 8, 2015

“The latest public forum by the Ad Hoc Committee on Police and Community Relations invited social service providers to join the discussion about building better relationships in downtown Olympia.

“About 30 people and a handful of police officers gathered Monday evening at First Christian Church at Seventh and Franklin. It was the third public forum since the committee formed last August in response to an Olympia police shooting involving two black suspects and a white police officer last May.”

Read more here.

ARTICLE: Police-Community Ad Hoc Committee Forum Focuses On Social Service Providers
by Janine Gates – Little Hollywood – December 8, 2015

“Danny Kadden, executive director of Interfaith Works, which operates the Emergency Overnight Shelter located at First Christian Church, downstairs from the forum’s meeting place, described his organization’s perspectives.

“‘…On behalf of staff, we are pleased with our interaction with police and have many success stories, however, for every success story, there is a story that we hear about….While I’ll add to the praise (such as) the level of responsiveness and the ability to have honest and frank conversations with officers when need be, there are some cases that are troubling…situations that require officers working with severely mentally ill people….I want to work with the department to enhance our capabilities, to enhance training, and preparation for dealing with this populace.’

“Kadden described a group of about 30 street folks who met in this same room a few weeks ago to discuss their experiences with police.”

Read more here.