Reimagining Public Safety

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“I am asking our community to work with us to reimagine the City’s public-safety system. I want everyone in Olympia who engages with us – whether it is a response to a call for service or working through our criminal-justice system – to trust that our public-safety system is just, equitable and without bias.”

- Jay Burney, Olympia City Manager

What's happening?

In February 2021, the Olympia City Council approved a community-led process to reimagine public safety for the City, with a goal of producing a public safety system that fosters trust and works for everyone.

The City launched this community-led and inclusive process in July 2021 to evaluate and make recommendations for enhancing its public-safety system. While recognizing that many far-reaching societal factors can influence public safety in general, this process looks specifically at the City’s public safety system, including areas like policing, corrections, prosecution, defense, courts, and medical and fire response.


The process is being led by a Community Work Group made up of nine community members who represent a cross-section of Olympia’s demographics, expertise and experiences. They are dedicated to listening deeply, working collaboratively with each other and reflecting what they hear from the community.

Continuing through March 2022, the reimagining process will culminate with the Community Work Group delivering a set of recommendations to the City Council for how to ensure the City’s public safety system is based on trust, justice, and equity and without bias.

Community input

To develop their recommendations, the Community Work Group will host listening-and-learning sessions to hear individuals’ experiences connecting to the City’s public-safety system, how the system responds to the needs of community members, and how it supports those who are navigating through it and transitioning into the community.

Stay tuned to this page for details on how you can get involved.

“I am asking our community to work with us to reimagine the City’s public-safety system. I want everyone in Olympia who engages with us – whether it is a response to a call for service or working through our criminal-justice system – to trust that our public-safety system is just, equitable and without bias.”

- Jay Burney, Olympia City Manager

What's happening?

In February 2021, the Olympia City Council approved a community-led process to reimagine public safety for the City, with a goal of producing a public safety system that fosters trust and works for everyone.

The City launched this community-led and inclusive process in July 2021 to evaluate and make recommendations for enhancing its public-safety system. While recognizing that many far-reaching societal factors can influence public safety in general, this process looks specifically at the City’s public safety system, including areas like policing, corrections, prosecution, defense, courts, and medical and fire response.


The process is being led by a Community Work Group made up of nine community members who represent a cross-section of Olympia’s demographics, expertise and experiences. They are dedicated to listening deeply, working collaboratively with each other and reflecting what they hear from the community.

Continuing through March 2022, the reimagining process will culminate with the Community Work Group delivering a set of recommendations to the City Council for how to ensure the City’s public safety system is based on trust, justice, and equity and without bias.

Community input

To develop their recommendations, the Community Work Group will host listening-and-learning sessions to hear individuals’ experiences connecting to the City’s public-safety system, how the system responds to the needs of community members, and how it supports those who are navigating through it and transitioning into the community.

Stay tuned to this page for details on how you can get involved.

  • Update on the Reimagining Public Safety process

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    On September 9, Project Manager Stacey Ray shared an update with the City Council Ad Hoc Committee on the Reimagining Public Safety process. The update included revisiting the project purpose and scope, a summary of what the Work Group has been doing since forming in July, and discussion of some of the challenges to hosting a safe and inclusive process in a pandemic.

  • Statements on September 4 demonstration and shooting incident

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    On Sept. 4, people from around the state and beyond came to Olympia to participate in planned demonstrations, and we were deeply disappointed and angry that those demonstrations resulted in a violent incident and disruptions to our community’s sense of peace and safety.

  • City Manager Jay Burney's statement on police response and HB1310

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    Thanks to the community’s approval of the 2017 Public Safety Levy, the City of Olympia has been able to stay on the forefront of contemporary police practices. The Olympia Police Department (OPD) focuses and trains on priorities like de-escalation, and fair and impartial policing. Olympia is fortunate because our policing priorities already align with the intent of much of the police reform legislation recently approved at the State level.

    We support that legislation and its intent. However, we’ve heard concern in the community specifically about House Bill (HB) 1310 and its requirements around use of force. Some are concerned that, with HB 1310’s implementation, the Police Department would no longer respond to certain calls – particularly calls involving mental health crises or public nuisance disturbances.

    Let me be clear: when our community calls, the Olympia Police Department will respond.

    Because of the Public Safety Levy, OPD has been able to diversify its resources and responders. The Police Department is not just an organization with uniformed officers with guns. Our responders also include members of our Crisis Response Units and Designated Crisis Responders, who are licensed mental health professionals.

    Depending on the nature of the call, OPD’s response may be the arrival of a police officer, or it may mean the arrival of a Crisis Response Unit, or both in some combination. Depending on the seriousness of the call, OPD’s response may be a uniformed officer in a matter of minutes, or a car driving by the situation, or a follow-up phone call. The community will receive a response.

    The Legislature’s actions on Police Reform happened quickly, but those actions are only speeding Olympia up the path we were already taking. While on that path, we already banned choke holds, car chases and shooting into moving vehicles. We already eliminated tear gas. And our police officers already operate under a duty to intervene.

    We have been growing our Crisis Response Unit. Our next step is to expand it to a 24-hour service.

    In Olympia, we see HB 1310 as an opportunity for us to reimagine alternative approaches to response in the community. It’s an opportunity to continue to build more robust new programs in OPD, our Fire Department and across the organization.

    In keeping with these efforts, we are working to Reimagine Public Safety with the community. We invite you to learn more here https://engage.olympiawa.gov/publicsafety, and to participate when you can in this important process.

    When called, the Olympia Police Department will respond. Our commitment is to make sure it is the right response. We believe that is what our lawmakers want, what our community wants, and it is what we want.
  • New presentations on Olympia's current system and recently legislated changes

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    Check out the document library for the Reimagining presentation to the Olympia Police Department, an overview of the changes to criminal justice passed in the recent legislative session, and the most recent presentations to City Council's Ad Hoc Committee for Public Safety.

Page last updated: 04 October 2021, 13:16