Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Pilot Project Begins: New Court Position to Promote Mental Health Treatment, Reduce Incarceration

An ICP Mental Health Working Group idea whose time has clearly come. Kudos to Poulsbo Mayor Erickson for running with the ball on this pilot program and Port Orchard Mayor Matthes for his early support. This program is a small step towards a big goal: getting people suffering from mental health disorders out of jail and connected to the help they need.

North Kitsap Sun coverage: Grant Goal: Mental Health Help, Not Jail

Video of Mayor Erickson's May 6 presentation about the program to the Poulsbo City Council (starts at 53:42).

Click here to read about the "Stepping Up Initiative," a national program to reduce the number of mentally ill people in county jails.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Body Cameras in Kitsap County-May 27 Forum

Public Forum: Police Body Cameras in Kitsap County
Wednesday May 27
Poulsbo City Hall

Police worn body cameras may soon be a fact of life for officers in Kitsap County. Two departments—Poulsbo and Bainbridge—already have programs in place, and the Department of Justice has just announced that millions of dollars will be available to promote camera adoption.  Advocates say that body-cams will improve officer performance, heighten police accountability, and reduce citizen/police complaints—but many questions remain about the cost and use of this technology.

Join us for a body camera forum to consider the costs and benefits of body camera programs in Kitsap County and two pressing policy questions: what should body camera policies look like in our local police departments and what kind of state law about camera use is needed?

Panelists include:

Abraham Alvarez, Product Manager, TASER’s Evidence.com

Representative Drew Hansen (D-Bainbridge Island), author of body camera bill HB 1917 (invited)

Pastor Richmond Johnson, Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, Bremerton

Judge Anne Levinson, Independent Auditor, Office of Professional Accountability, Seattle Police Department

James McMahan, Policy Director, Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs

Al Townsend, Chief, Poulsbo Police Department

Kylie Purves, Prosecutor, City of Poulsbo

Sponsored by the City of Poulsbo and Islanders for Collaborative Policing

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Douglas M. Ostling Act--passed!

Washington State now has law in place that mandates at least eight hour of crisis intervention training for all new officers going through basic training--and a two hour training course as part of annual training requirements. And the state police academy has been told to "make efforts" to give enhanced CIT training to at least 25% of patrol officers.

Bill and Joyce Ostling turned their personal tragedy into something positive for residents and police throughout the state. High praise to them, Senator Rolfes, and Representative Appleton for their support of this important legislation.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

How much would you pay to change the culture of policing? How about 15k?

If you want to change policing, change the way police respond to people with behavioral health issues. Policing skills learned in the crisis intervention training context--de-escalation, communication, strategic thinking, collaboration--are exactly the skills many of us want to see our officers use more of when dealing with the general population.

So how much does it cost to change a culture? More specifically, how much does it cost to train most officers in Kitsap County in at least some basic CIT skills, and encourage more interest in this style of policing? 

In early 2014, the estimate was 333k. That's the amount the Bremerton Police Department requested to provide all officers in the county with some level of CIT training.

In late 2014, the estimate was 117k. That's the amount the County Commissioners approved to get Bremerton started on its program.

Now it's 2015 and we know the answer is far less than that. According to Poulsbo Officer Dave Shurick, who has taken the lead on CIT training for the county, this is what has been done, over the past ten months or so, with less than 16k:

-175 road deputies and officers have been trained in the 8 hour CIT course and 30 officers have received 40-hour CIT training.  

-23 Crisis Intervention Officers (CIO's) have been appointed by law enforcement agencies.

-Cencom/911 has been integrated into crisis response.  All CIO's on the road at any given time are seen on the Mobile Communication Terminal with a touch of a button.  Their train-the-trainer training is around the corner and 911 CIT will be integrated into their basic call taker/dispatcher training.

-Where there were less than full trust amongst county agencies in the past, we are now seeing multi-agency cooperation and collaboration. Representatives from Harrison Hospital, Kitsap Mental Health, NAMI and ICP sit with Crisis Intervention Officers at their meetings and discuss issues and best practices.  

Now: some of the reason so much progress has been made with so little money is because Officer Shurick--and many other officers in the CIO program--have done more with less and been extremely restrained with taxpayer money. And, of course, the CIO program should be expanded, and we have yet to give CIT training to every officer in Kitsap County. 

But the larger point remains: big changes in policing can be made with a relatively small amount of money. Culture change depends on police leadership, dedicated officers, and people outside of police departments who want to make a difference. Our thanks go out to all of them.

Getting Closer: Bainbridge Island City Council Proposes Public Safety Committee

At a study session on April 8, the Bainbridge Island City Council affirmed its commitment to police oversight. An ad hoc committee appointed to consider the topic recommended that a Public Safety Committee be established and filled by councilmembers serving on a rotating basis. 

Islanders for Collaborative Policing fully supports the proposal to create a Public Safety Committee.  We are appreciative of Council's interest in creating a forum where policing issues can be considered and problems discussed.

In the spirit of moving things forward, we would like to offer a few recommendations.

First, we believe that the City Council/Public Safety Committee should issue a clear statement regarding its purview. There appears to be some confusion about the kind of policing issues Council can and should consider under our city manager form of government. It would be useful for the PSC to clarify expectations by articulating its scope of authority.

Second, we approve the PSC’s role, as described in your proposal, for “advis(ing) the Chief of Police and the City Manager on key police issues.” To this end, we believe the PSC should:

-Conduct meetings that are open to the public and in which public comment is welcome. A key source of information about policing concerns on Bainbridge Island is from the community.

-Take advantage of access to a recognized authority on policing issues. We support the suggestion that Council utilize a representative from WASPC’s “loaned executive” program, at least on an occasional basis.

-Obtain specific information from the police department about key indicators. Chief Hamner’s 2014 recommendation includes a useful list of items that might be reviewed on an ongoing basis: specific areas of department policy, particularly in areas of high interest to the public (complaint processing, use of force, mental health response, body cameras), officer training, complaint summaries, state accreditation standards, hiring practices, community outreach programs. We also would like to see the PSC to monitor the handling of officer discipline.

-Solicit information from people whose volunteer or professional roles give them meaningful experience with the BIPD, and who may offer perspective on the department’s operations.  For instance, feedback from the Civil Service Commission, other public safety organizations, the Municipal Judge, and school district/fire department personnel might be useful to the Committee.

Finally, the PSC, as described, recommends a day of training at the BIPD for participating council members. We recommend that PSC members also spend (at least) a day with police oversight professionals to get a better understanding of their orientation.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

New body camera bill, new ICP position

In February, 23rd Legislative District Representative and Bainbridge resident Drew Hansen introduced a state police body camera bill that many people, including board members at ICP, found objectionable. The motivations behind HB 1917 were great—get more police officers wearing body cameras, protect the privacy of people filmed in police encounters—but the results were pretty awful. The original bill dramatically limited public access to police recordings, did away with the consent requirement to record, and would have permitted local police departments to have camera programs without any rules or requirements.  

If you don’t succeed, try try again. Instead of digging in his heels when hit with criticism about his bill, Rep. Hansen made some changes. A new bill was put forward as a potential amendment, and may be considered by the House as early as this week. It’s a vast improvement. The new bill:

-guarantees that people involved in police-filmed incidents, oversight agencies, and the general public have access to police cam footage (people directly involved in incidents don’t have to pay for requests; the public may have to pay for costs connected to redaction)

-defines some things that are private, and not available to the public (footage taken in someone’s home, footage of nudity, footage taken of a minor)

-ensures that police departments using body cameras have some basic policies in place (like rules controlling when cameras are turned on or off)

-puts requirements in place that make sweeping, open ended requests for footage near-impossible (requesters need to know something about recordings before they are able to request them—the officer’s name, or the name of someone involved, or a date or case number)

-contains provisions to protect people who bring complaints and/or whistleblowers

-finally, the new bill creates a task force to consider the law’s effects, and sunsets much of the bill in two years. This increases the odds that problems can be identified and remedied.

ICP commends Rep. Hansen for being open to criticism, and flexible in his approach. We support the increased use of police body cameras--and his amended bill.

 The Amended Bill is referred to as striking amendment H2247 and is available here

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

ICP Letter to the House Public Safety Committee in Support of the "Douglas M. Ostling Act"--Statewide Crisis Intervention Training

Dear Representatives Orwell, Hayes, Klippert, and Goodman:

When a police officer encounters a person in mental or behavioral crisis, the outcome can be awful or inspiring. We all know horrible stories about officers killing people with mental illness because the person in crisis acted erratically or failed to obey commands. But we know, from working with officers in Kitsap County, that police with crisis intervention training are better prepared and often de-escalate frightening situations, keeping confused and agitated people safe while protecting those around them.

We also know, from working with police in our county, that CIT-trained officers do more than stabilize scary situations. We are proud to know officers who provide comfort to people tortured by their mental conditions, counsel family members desperate for advice, and take personal interest in finding people assistance. At a time when the news is focused on officer use of force across the country, it’s worth acknowledging that many police officers use their intelligence and their training to help people in need, and resolve incredibly difficult situations every day.

Will a few hours of state mandated CIT training eliminate tragic outcomes when police encounter people suffering from mental illness? It would be foolish to think so. But the new training requirements will make good outcomes more likely.

As importantly, passing SB 5311 sends an important signal—both to the Criminal Justice Training Center and to police agencies across the state—that policing in Washington is about helping people as well as promoting public safety. We support SB 5311 because we support efforts—promoted by CJTC’s Executive Director Sue Rahr--to promote a “guardian” style of policing. SB 5311 will improve police response to mental illness, and, in doing so, it will improve overall police performance and enhance the safety of Washington citizens. The state legislature has the opportunity, with this law, to remind police and the public that policing is a humane, service-oriented profession. We strongly encourage you to support SB 5311 when it comes before the Public Safety Committee tomorrow.


Scott Anderson
Kent Bridwell
Kim Hendrickson
Dennis Tierney
Board Members, Islanders for Collaborative Policing

Information about the Douglas M. Ostling Act/SB 5311 here.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Results of Officer Survey Released

In January and February, ICP surveyed police officers throughout Kitsap County. Our goals were to get a better sense of how often police encounter people with mental and behavioral health issues, to gauge how new mental health initiatives are being received by front line officers, and to find out what new programs and resources officers think are most needed to help people suffering from mental illness.

The results? A vast majority of officers (67%) think a crisis triage center is the thing most needed, right now, to help people suffering from acute mental illness. 71% tell us that their interaction with people with mental/behavioral issues has increased in the last year. And there is overwhelming support for the new, county wide, Crisis Intervention Officer program which kicked off last year.

See the full results here

ICP Opposes Shortsighted Body Cam Bill

A few months ago, President Obama expressed strong support for police body cameras, and asked Congress to fund local camera programs. This week, he took a different approach, talking about the problems that arise when cameras are used and cautioning the public not to expect too much from developments in this area. The Community Police Commission in Seattle has aso modified its thinking on the issue, first supporting a pilot program for Seattle police officers and now advising against the broader adoption of cameras by the SPD ("the issues are complex, the CPC explains, and "there is a need to engage our communities before rushing to a final position").

With these concerns in mind, the Board of ICP opposes House Bill 1917. This bill was written to encourage more police departments to use body cameras by changing the Public Records Act to dramatically limit who gets to see camera footage. If this law passes, police departments would have near-complete discretion over who can, and can't, look at recordings. The right to view would be restricted to those directly involved in an incident and those tenacious enough to obtain access by court order. 

 We agree: a new state law is needed to protect the privacy of those who are recorded in police encounters. But HB 1917 goes too far. We urge our state representatives to vote against this bill and find a better way to balance privacy and accountability interests.

Save the date: ICP forum on police body cameras coming in May
Details to follow.

Sunday, January 11, 2015