According to Julie Beard, exchanges with law enforcement can go a long way.
A positive exchange can go far, but a negative exchange can go a lot farther in terms of attitudes, the Redmond Police Department (RPD) community engagement sergeant said. Furthermore, a person’s attitude toward law enforcement can be influenced generationally as well as culturally.
“Every interaction matters no matter how small,” Beard said.
To help with this, RPD has formed the Community Equity Action Team (CEAT), a group Beard said acts as an advisory council to the police chief.
“I am aware some communities have had negative interactions with police officers, causing some communities to distrust or even fear the police,” Redmond Police Chief Darrell Lowe said. “The CEAT is a way for me to provide a voice to those underrepresented segments of the community and make sure their perspectives are included in my decision making processes.”
CEAT is the result of a project Beard worked on with seven other people through Leadership Eastside, a nonprofit focused on leadership development for community engagement and leadership engagement for community development.
The group is made up of members from the greater Redmond community — people who live and work in the city. They started meeting in February 2018.
In addition to Beard, Lowe or a representative from RPD’s command staff are also at each meeting. They sit at the table alongside the community members and a professional facilitator runs the meetings, Beard said.
Team members spent the initial CEAT meetings getting to know each other, creating working agreements and norms — building trust among the group as they would be discussing topics and issues that could leave people feeling vulnerable.
Since then, the group has provided feedback to law enforcement on various topics.
The first thing CEAT had input on was the RPD Safe Place program, which “creates areas around our city for victims of [hate or bias-based] crimes to seek refuge and assistance,” according to its website. The model was adopted from the Seattle Police Department’s program, which was born out of a need to address “low reporting of anti-LGBTQ crimes and school bullying incidents by increasing public trust in law enforcement and feelings of safety in the community,” the website states. The program was expanded to include anyone who may have been a victim of a hate or bias-based crime.
Beard said RPD would have launched the Safe Place as it was, but when they brought it to CEAT to discuss, members asked police some tough questions about the program.
“The launch went way smoother,” she said, as the group’s questions allowed them to do meaningful prep work before bringing it to the public.
Filling in the gaps
The group has also asked police questions regarding immigration and what role — if any — that local law enforcement has. As immigration is not part of RPD’s jurisdiction, they don’t have a role.
“If they call 911, I’m not going to deport them,” Beard said.
These discussions around immigration also led police to realize a gap in their outreach work.
Beard said in their “welcome to Redmond” literature, they now include information about domestic violence, what it is, how police respond to calls as well as resources for people.
“That was big,” she said about filling in that particular gap.
Lowe added, “I know that some people may be hesitant to reach out to the police, but I hope by building these trusting relationships, we can have conversations about how we can better serve our entire community.”
CEAT members provide police with various perspectives, which Jennifer Karls appreciates. The Redmond resident said that is what makes the group powerful.
Karls, who is the director of Roots of Inclusion in Bellevue and has a daughter with a cognitive disability, brings that point of view to the table. She said it has also been powerful to share back to her community the work RPD is doing.
For Cassandra Butler, it has been great to see how invested people are in Redmond.
“People really take ownership of their space and community,” she said.
Butler, a Kirkland resident who works at Friends of Youth in Redmond, is another member of CEAT. While speaking about the group, she also mentioned its members’ diverse backgrounds and perspectives.
She said bringing everyone to the same space has required them to maneuver some bumps here and there, but they have also learned about where people are coming from and their perspectives.
An educational opportunity
Another topic the group discussed during its meetings was the Kirkland Menchie’s incident in November 2018, during which police were called on a black man who was supervising a court-ordered visitation between a mother and child.
“I asked for that conversation,” said CEAT member Janet Richards, who lives on Redmond Ridge and serves on the city’s human services commission.
In that conversation, Richards said police took the time to explain how they are trained to respond to such a call. She shared her thoughts and feelings on how it feels — as a black person — to be part of the targeted group.
While police explained that in some instances, it may be easier for the person to be arrested and they can sort things out in the process, Richards said, “the trauma already happened” to the person who is arrested. If a person is arrested in a public space in a community where they have a standing, she said that community is not going to know that things were sorted out later in the process.
For Richards, the biggest takeaway has been getting to understand the different sides of various situations. Personally, she joined CEAT to counteract fear. With the ongoing discussions of Black Lives Matter, she thought about her son, who has health challenges and residual brain injuries that have led to him having delayed reactions. This made her think about if he were to have an encounter with police and did not respond to them right away.
“Would he, because of the color of his skin, be at risk?” she asked.
CEAT was an opportunity for Richards to educate herself to better understand things. It has also been an opportunity for her to raise awareness to others that sometimes a policy is the problem and that is what needs to be addressed.
And that is the purpose of CEAT — to advise the police chief on such issues.
“As the chief of the Redmond Police Department, I am proud to serve a diverse city and I am dedicated to constantly improve policies and ensure we employ best practices while remaining culturally aware,” Lowe said.
There are about 15 people on CEAT. Beard’s goal is to have 25 team members. Anyone interested in joining can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Beard said potential CEAT members do not need to live in Redmond or be U.S. citizens.
“My goal is that you care about Redmond,” she said.
And for those who are not citizens, she said, “their voices still matter,” acknowledging that people may have questions and concerns regarding issues such as work visas and immigration status.
Beard added that she is also looking for a youth member, about high school aged.
CEAT meetings are held from 6-8 p.m. on the first Wednesday of every other month at the Redmond Community Center at Marymoor Village, 6505 176th Ave. NE. The next meeting will be in March.