Reimagining Public Safety

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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 August 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 involvement

Throughout April and May, the Community Work Group on Reimagining Public Safety held a series of six virtual and in-person community listening-and-learning sessions and collected input through an online survey. Over 300 community members participated in either small group discussions at the sessions or through the online survey.

The Work Group is still seeking to hear from community members with a diversity of perspectives and life experiences, and in June will host a series of small focus groups to gather input from community members underrepresented in the listening-and-learning sessions and survey.

View the Document Library to review summaries of the community input being gathered by the Work Group and that will inform their recommendations.

The Work Group will participate in a joint work session with the City Council Community Livability & Public Safety Committee on November 9, during which they will share the community input received and discuss possible recommendations with the Committee.

Poet Laureate project

Each Reimagining Public Safety listening-and-learning session opened with a poetry reading and included an "Artistic Refresh" activity with the City's Poet Laureate, Ashly McBunch.

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 August 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 involvement

Throughout April and May, the Community Work Group on Reimagining Public Safety held a series of six virtual and in-person community listening-and-learning sessions and collected input through an online survey. Over 300 community members participated in either small group discussions at the sessions or through the online survey.

The Work Group is still seeking to hear from community members with a diversity of perspectives and life experiences, and in June will host a series of small focus groups to gather input from community members underrepresented in the listening-and-learning sessions and survey.

View the Document Library to review summaries of the community input being gathered by the Work Group and that will inform their recommendations.

The Work Group will participate in a joint work session with the City Council Community Livability & Public Safety Committee on November 9, during which they will share the community input received and discuss possible recommendations with the Committee.

Poet Laureate project

Each Reimagining Public Safety listening-and-learning session opened with a poetry reading and included an "Artistic Refresh" activity with the City's Poet Laureate, Ashly McBunch.

  • Reimagining Public Safety listening session for Black community Oct. 27

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    In a continuation of its ongoing outreach efforts, the Reimagining Public Safety Work Group will host an additional listening session for Black community members on Thursday, Oct. 27. Black community members are invited to attend and share their experiences and the impacts of anti-Black racism in our community from 6 to 8 p.m. at Risen Faith Fellowship, 2149 4th Avenue E. Olympia, WA.

    The Reimagining Public Safety Community Work Group has been responsive to community participation needs and concerns. The addition of this listening session reflects a continuation of this aim and recognizes this moment of heightened interest in the Reimagining Public Safety process.

    Since spring, a diverse eight-member Community Work Group has hosted a widely shared digital survey, community-wide listening and learning sessions, and dozens of focus groups with marginalized communities to hear from community members with a range of perspectives and life experiences.

    The work group is on track to use this community input, and other information, to craft recommendations for City Council throughout November and December

    For more information about the Reimagining Public Safety process, visit engage.olympiawa.gov/publicsafety.

  • Planning for Oct. 27 Black Community Listening Session in Progress

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    The City of Olympia and its Reimagining Public Safety Work Group are continuing to listen and learn about how people feel, what they experience, and steps that can be taken to reimagine public safety. We’re in the process of creating a safe space and moment for Olympia’s Black community to come together and share. It’s an opportunity to contribute additional knowledge and understanding to what the Work Group is gathering and learning from our community, and to continue to inform the recommendations they will develop for the City Council.

    The listening session will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 27. The location is still being confirmed. If you are a member of the Black community, we invite you to stay connected and informed by contacting Reimagine Public Safety Project Manager Stacey Ray at sray@ci.olympia.wa.gov.

  • Ongoing community outreach

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    The Work Group is still seeking to hear from community members with a diversity of perspectives and life experiences. In July, August, and September, the Work Group is partnering with community groups, individuals, faith communities, and others to host small focus groups to gather input from community members underrepresented in the listening-and-learning sessions and online survey. The Work Group views this outreach as critical to meeting the goals they established for this process:

    • Include diverse and inclusive perspectives and experiences
    • Hear from historically marginalized community members
    • Listen and learn from those with lived experience; and
    • Create brave spaces for honest sharing and dialogue

    The Work Group will next share the input they've gathered and talk about possible recommendations with the City Council Committee on Community Livability & Public Safety on November 9.


  • Updated community input summary

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    A high-level summary of input collected from listening-and-learning sessions, focus groups, and surveys is available now. This is an updated summary that reflects input collected as of June 9, 2022. This data update provides a window into what has been heard so far, and it can change as more community input is collected.

  • Virtual Town Hall with new Police Chief

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    The City of Olympia will host a Virtual Town Hall with new Police Chief Rich Allen on Tuesday, June 28, 2022, at 6 p.m.

    The Town Hall is an opportunity for the community to learn more about Olympia’s new Police Chief, the work the Police Department is undertaking, and Allen’s plans for the Department’s future.

    Olympia’s Virtual Town Halls provide a safe gathering space for the community to learn and understand the issues and topics important to the City. Attendees will be able to submit questions live through a moderator during the event.

    Residents can attend the Virtual Town Hall over Zoom using the following link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88315612985.

    Read Allen’s article on OPD’s efforts to bring more transparency to its work in the debut issue of the City’s new blog, Actually, Olympia.

    For further information on the Virtual Town Hall meetings, contact the City of Olympia at cityhall@ci.olympia.wa.us.

  • Rich Allen named Olympia’s permanent Police Chief

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    Olympia City Manager Jay Burney has named Interim Police Chief Rich Allen as the City of Olympia’s new, permanent Police Chief. Allen has led the Olympia Police Department as interim chief since October 2021. Allen has worked in law enforcement for 30 years. His first experience in the field came as a 15-year-old volunteer with the Olympia Police Department’s Police Explorers Program. His professional experience in law enforcement includes serving as a patrol officer, training officer, motorcycle officer and detective. He has been promoted to the ranks of sergeant, lieutenant and served as Deputy Chief from December 2019 through September 2021. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and has earned an Executive Level Certification from the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission.

    “We’ve had a lot of twists and turns on our two-year search for a new Police Chief. We looked across the nation for the best, most qualified law enforcement leaders at a moment in time when recruiting such leaders was particularly difficult,” said Jay Burney, Olympia City Manager. “In my conversations with the community and the Department, it was clear that we needed a chief who would bring a new perspective; whose natural default was to openness, transparency, and accountability; and who embraced reimagining public safety.

    “What we learned is we have that leader right here in Olympia,” Burney said. “Rich Allen didn’t initially seek the Chief’s job. But I watched him, as interim, do and support innovative work in the Department. I saw that he was a confident, smart, innovative, humble leader, who defaulted to and modeled the transparency and openness we are seeking. When the formal search didn’t lead to a new candidate, I was disappointed. But I also had a sense of peace because I knew the Department was in good hands.”

    The Olympia Police Chief position has been filled on an interim basis since December 2019, when former Police Chief Ronnie Roberts retired. Through the challenges of a global pandemic and civil unrest around racial justice, the Olympia Police Department was led by two interim chiefs: Chief Aaron Jelcick, from December 2019 -September 2021, and Allen, October 2021 – present. The City conducted two national searches for the next police chief. Neither resulted in a new chief.

    “I’m humbled and honored by the City Manager’s appointment,” Allen said. “I appreciate the confidence he has shown in me, and the support I have received from the members of the department and the City’s executive staff. Our Department is filled with professionals who are dedicated to serving the City, and I’m proud to lead them.”

    Allen leads the 110 employees of the Olympia Police Department, overseeing 76 commissioned personnel, 13 corrections officers, and 21 civilians, and managing an annual operating budget of $21.8 million.

    Virtual Town Hall
    On June 28, at 6 p.m., the City will host a Virtual Town Hall, where Allen will discuss his plans for the Olympia Police Department and answer questions generated from the community.
    Residents can attend the Virtual Town Hall over Zoom using the following link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88315612985.

    Read Allen’s article on OPD’s efforts to bring more transparency to its work in the debut issue of the City’s new blog, Actually, Olympia.

  • High-level summary of community input available

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    A high-level summary of input collected from listening-and-learning sessions and responses to a community-wide online survey is available now. The summary reflects input that has been collected as of May 18, 2022. This data update provides a window into what has been heard so far, and it can change as more data is collected from additional listening-and-learning sessions, focus groups and survey responses.


  • Seeking Input from Faith Community Members and Leaders

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    The City is seeking input from faith community members and leaders at our next “Listening-and-Learning Session” on Tuesday, May 31 | 6-8 p.m.* Register now >

    We want to understand how you have experienced Olympia’s public safety system as a religious community or through your ministry programs and outreach efforts.

    • What does feeling safe and being safe mean to you and those you serve?
    • What should the City keep doing? What could we change?
    • How will we know if our safety system is improving?

    Your insights will help our diverse, nine-member Community Workgroup form their recommendations to the Olympia City Council this summer.

    Please join us!

    Reimagining Public Safety
    Listening-and-Learning Session: Faith Communities
    Where: The United Churches of Olympia
    When: Tuesday, May 31 | 6-8 p.m.

    Register now >

    Unable to attend? You can still share your perspective HERE.

  • Olympia seeks feedback on body-worn camera and in-car video systems policy

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    The City of Olympia Police Department (OPD) has begun policy and implementation planning to support the addition of body-worn cameras and in-car video systems into its work.

    As part of this process, OPD is developing a policy to govern the use of video cameras and the management of collected video and audio content. The policy will reflect industry best practices, current State law, recommendations from the City of Olympia Police Auditor, and public feedback to ensure implementation is equitable, inclusive, and addresses the needs and concerns of our community.

    “We know from other communities that video and audio footage recorded from a police in-car or body worn cameras can provide valuable evidence from a dynamic incident,” said interim Police Chief Rich Allen. “This can lead to increased transparency and enhanced public trust.”

    Members of the public can visit the City’s Engage Olympia website to provide their feedback: engage.olympiawa.gov/opd-body-cams-car-video.

    The Olympia City Council, OPD, and community members first began serious discussions of body-worn cameras in 2015-2016, and the City has been tracking the legal, funding, privacy, and other considerations associated with incorporating the technology since that time. State legislation enacted last year (HB 1223), combined with new funding made available by City Council have made it possible to now integrate cameras into OPD’s work.

    The public may stay informed on how the final policy will be applied from the City’s website: www.olympiawa.gov or by signing up to receive OPD news updates at www.olympiawa.gov/news.

    The Olympia community can expect to begin seeing officers wearing video cameras in the summer of 2022, with in-car video cameras coming in mid-2023.

  • Reminder: Take 5 min to share your perspective on public safety in Olympia

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    As you may know, the City recently launched an effort to “reimagine” public safety in Olympia. Our goal is to make sure that all community members trust the City’s public safety system and that it works for everyone.

    That includes you.

    Without your voice, we can’t reach that goal.

    If you haven’t been able to attend one of the virtual or in-person listening sessions, you can easily share your perspective by taking this brief survey.

    • No registration required
    • Your responses are anonymous (unless you choose to share contact info)

    Don’t just wait to see what happens in your City...

    Join the conversation. Take the survey now. >

Page last updated: 30 Sep 2022, 02:28 PM