Wednesday, April 22, 2015

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.