Actions that are underway
In April and May this year, the Founding Member Work Group hosted five community listening sessions with Black, Indigenous, People of Color and intersecting marginalized groups (LGBTQ+, immigrants, disabled and unstably housed).
Out of these sessions came input on different areas and ways in which the City can contribute to addressing inequities and bias for marginalized community members. The Founding Member Work Group and conversation participants have asked: What’s currently being done at the City in response to what was heard in the sessions?
While the Founding Member Work Group and staff are continuing to review the input received, there are actions that are underway to address some of what was heard in the sessions. This list is not complete; it does not encompass all that was heard or all that is being done and will continue to evolve.
Equity in Hiring
Session participants asked for more diversity and representation of marginalized communities among City staff, and specifically City leadership. Diversity and Equity Coordinator Tobi Hill-Meyer is working to address the percentage of Black, Indigenous, People of Color and women who work at the City so as to better represent Olympia’s demographic make-up. This includes adding equity questions to all City job applications and interviews, identifying opportunities for collecting more employee demographic information, adding an equity statement to all job postings, and providing additional training and guidance to Hiring Managers.
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Leadership Training
Session participants wanted to see City staff and City leadership do more to acknowledge, learn about and address systemic racism. The City has hired a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion consultant to facilitate multiple work sessions with both the City Council and the City’s Executive Leadership Team.
Guidelines and Plans for Protests
Participants in the listening sessions called for the City to investigate its response to protests and establish new principles and policies. In light of the 70+ demonstrations the Olympia Police Department (OPD) responded to in 2020, the department has produced the following guidelines and future actions needed for how they plan for and approach demonstrations: olympiawa.gov/~/media/Demonstartions-CrowdControl-Guidelines.pdf?la=en
In addition, the City is currently undertaking a comprehensive review of OPD policies, practices, and training related to public demonstrations and crowd control responses in 2020. This study will provide specific recommendations on policies, training, mutual aid agreements and pre-demonstration communication protocol to ensure OPD responds to public demonstrations in a way that is unbiased, ensures public safety and upholds the first amendment rights of all individuals.
Reimagining Public Safety
Session participants discussed wanting the City to better understand and address the safety needs of marginalized community members, as well as host safe spaces for continued discussions on racism. The City has launched the Reimagining Public Safety process to define what public safety means for Olympians, and to reduce inequities and bias to create a public safety system that works for everyone. A Community Work Group made of 10 community members has been formed to lead this process and will be hosting community listening sessions in late summer and early fall.
Improving the Complaint Process
Session participants called for an easier and more transparent way in which to file complaints about City staff. An April 19, 2021 report from the City’s Police Auditor recommends that the City expedite the review and revision of the Olympia Police Department complaint process in order to “maximize public confidence in the Department.” In response, the City’s Office of Performance and Innovation is launching a project aimed at improving the OPD’s process, and also the City’s overall complaint process.
Improving Alternative Criminal Justice Programs: Familiar Faces and Olympia Community Court
Session participants asked for more programs that provide an alternative to conventional criminal justice. When it began, the Familiar Faces peer-navigator program was a pilot project. As of June 29, 2021, this program is now permanently funded and fully housed within the Olympia Police Department. Familiar Faces identifies people who have complex health and behavioral problems and frequent contact with the City’s first responders and provides them with daily, wrap-around care to help connect them to the services they need.
In June, Olympia Community Court was named one of seven recipients of a grant from the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. Already recognized as a national model, Community Court will use the money to increase its number of case managers, assist with housing and shelter costs, and launch an innovative peace-making program that brings participants together with the victims of their crimes. Community Court began operating in Olympia in 2016 and is a non-traditional approach that works to provide practical, targeted justice solutions rather than traditional punishment for its participants.