Sunday, October 4, 2015

Black Alliance of Thurston County Has Message

Above: Karen Johnson of Olympia is spearheading the Black Alliance of Thurston County.

by Janine Unsoeld

Many individuals and community groups are working harder than ever on issues and conversations about race, racism and police issues ever since the Olympia police officer involved shooting of two young African American men on May 21.

An Olympia Police Department shooting review board issued its conclusion earlier this week that no policies had been violated by Officer Ryan Donald during the incident. Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts reviewed the board’s decision and concurred.

The Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office is pursuing assault charges against the men, Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin. Subject to change, their pre-trial date is scheduled for November 4.

Along with over 30 other community members, Dr. Karen Johnson, Olympia, spoke out in front of the Olympia city council about the shooting on May 26.

“I was invited to come to that meeting to speak about these issues from my perspective. So, I accepted the invitation. I went to listen to what others had to say and spoke my truth.”

Johnson read the poem, “The Cold Within,” by James Patrick Kinney, and said that she fundamentally believed that she was there to speak because of unconscious bias on the part of Officer Donald. She referred to a book published in 1952 called, “The Invisible Man,” by Ralph Ellison, which talks about the phenomena of not seeing or hearing people of color.

“….We, in this city, have an opportunity…. In the words of a book by Dr. King, ‘Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?’ I would encourage us to go ‘community.’ Build a place where people are heard, valued, and respected, and then it doesn’t matter what the color of our skin and we can really live out the content of our character,” concluded Johnson.

Later, she and a group of African American community leaders formed the Black Alliance of Thurston County. 

The Black Alliance of Thurston County has met with Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts several times since the officer involved shooting and issued a press release on September 2 calling Thurston County Jon Tunheim’s decision to not charge the police officer as “lawful, yet unjust.” 

Drawn by her faith to a life of service, Johnson is also president of the Olympia Capital Centennial Rotary Club, whose vision is to reduce homelessness in Thurston County by 50 percent by 2020 and to put a book in every child’s hand.

The Rotary motto is to put service above self and Johnson lives out that motto. The Rotary group has given substantial financial support to the Family Support Center, SafePlace, South Sound Reading, Madison Elementary School for after school enrichment programs, and more.

For her day job, Johnson is employed as a strategic initiatives executive for Washington State’s Department of Social and Health Services.

“Chief Roberts asked me, probably towards the end of July, to set up a meeting with Black leaders of Olympia and Thurston County to discuss plans for holding community conversations about race and racism, more than just within the police department. In that meeting, we also talked about addressing implicit and explicit bias and the use of body and dash cameras,” she said.

“Fundamentally, while body and dash cameras will be helpful to record excessive use of force, cameras alone won’t solve the problem.  Case in point, in July 2015, we watched Eric Garner get beaten to death…and the Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict the officer. Recordings alone won’t stop the behavior. We have to deal with the unconscious bias that automatically and unconsciously results in the merciless beating, unjustifiably shooting and killing of Black and brown boys and men at a higher rate than white boys and men.”

Asked whether or not the Black Alliance is commenting on Officer Donald’s actions, Johnson said the Black Alliance officially informed Chief Roberts that the comment he made after the shooting, that race was not an issue, was not helpful.

“Since our subconscious controls 96% - 98% of our perceptions and our behaviors, and since we live in a country where it was once lawful to enslave, lynch, beat and kill Black men simply because they are Black, we can only wonder whether Officer Donald’s behaviors and perceptions would have been the same if he had encountered two young white males. It is time to have the public dialogue since this behavior has been occurring across the nation,” Johnson explained.

“We’ve had several conversations with Chief Roberts about addressing implicit and explicit bias among the police officers….We envision police officers and community members participating in fair and implicit bias training. We will use the information we learn from these trainings to frame community conversations around unconscious bias, institutional and structural racism and concrete steps police officers can take to systematically ensure that their behavior results in Black and brown people receiving ‘guardian’ instead of ‘warrior’ treatment from police officers, ” said Johnson.

In a May press conference, the Thurston County Prosecutor Attorney Jon Tunheim stated that police officers cannot be prosecuted for excessive use of force under Washington State law when they operate in “good faith and without malice.”
In a statement issued on September 2, the Black Alliance called the standard imprecise, immeasurable, and impossible to prove. 

Johnson said the Black Alliance will work to change the state law.

“Now is the time to set precise and provable legal standards when dealing with human life.  It’s time for us to speak up and step up to change this law and other laws, statutes, policies, procedures and practices until it becomes self-evident…to all…that all people are indeed created equal and endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights: the opportunity to live an abundant life, liberty without oppression, and the opportunity to pursue happiness.”

Asked about the internal review process by the Olympia police department, Johnson said, “We plan to question the whole police review process, especially as it relates to deadly force. The recent internal review process led by the Olympia police department basically requires law enforcement officers to sit in judgment of each other.  This does not provide the public with true police accountability.  It is time to change the relevant laws, rules, and civil service procedures governing police conduct.  It is time for independent oversight and review of police conduct in cases where excessive use of force may have occurred.”

Little Hollywood noted that Johnson has not attended any meeting of the city’s Ad Hoc Committee on Policing and Community Relations.

“There are many voices and many groups addressing the issues they see as important. The Ad Hoc group has its charge and we have defined our charge. We will connect with them when it makes sense to do so,” she said.

“Soon, we will hold a community meeting to talk about why we formed, what we are about, what we seek to achieve, and invite others to partner with us to take action and be a catalyst for change. The May 21 incident may have been the catalyst that brought the Black Alliance of Thurston County together…but it is not what keeps us together.

“….Just look at any statistic…educational achievement, suspension and discipline rates, incarceration rates, home ownership, employment, health disparities, board rooms…Black people are either disproportionately, adversely impacted or severely underrepresented or non-existent. So, although all lives do indeed matter, this is a situation that we believe is our responsibility is to change…to be that village that helps Black people achieve optimal excellence and prosperity.

“Now is the time and Thurston County is the place…We’re not doing this work for show, for the press, or for personal ambition. We’re doing this work because our foremothers and forefathers have shed too much blood to get us where we are…We must take up the mantle for this generation and the generations yet unborn,” said Johnson.

As for next steps, Johnson said, “We’ll be meeting with Chief Roberts to discuss the internal review process, to define the parameters of a deadly use of force citizen advisory board, connect with the facilitator who will be conducting the fair and impartial trainings and to schedule our police and community forums around race and racism.”

“It is time for the people of Thurston County to help the Olympia police department achieve its mission: to consistently earn the trust of the residents and visitors to our community. The department will need ongoing investments in training, technology, and solid community partnerships. The Black Alliance of Thurston County stands ready to support them in this important work.”

The Black Alliance of Thurston County is committed to building trust and promoting fair and impartial policing in Thurston County.  They support courageous and respectful conversations between communities and law enforcement about race, ethnicity, and income status.  

For more information about the Black Alliance of Thurston County, email Dr. Karen Johnson at

Above: Karen Johnson carries the United States Constitution with her at all times. Here, she is reading the 13th Amendment.

The Cold Within by James Patrick Kinney

Six humans trapped by happenstance
In bleak and bitter cold.
Each one possessed a stick of wood
Or so the story’s told.

Their dying fire in need of logs
The first man held his back
For of the faces round the fire
He noticed one was black.

The next man looking ‘cross the way
Saw one not of his church
And couldn’t bring himself to give
The fire his stick of birch.

The third one sat in tattered clothes.
He gave his coat a hitch.
Why should his log be put to use
To warm the idle rich?

The rich man just sat back and thought
Of the wealth he had in store
And how to keep what he had earned
From the lazy shiftless poor.

The black man’s face bespoke revenge
As the fire passed from his sight.
For all he saw in his stick of wood
Was a chance to spite the white.

The last man of this forlorn group
Did nought except for gain.
Giving only to those who gave
Was how he played the game.

Their logs held tight in death’s still hands
Was proof of human sin.
They didn’t die from the cold without

They died from the cold within.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Olympia Police Clear Officer Donald in Shooting Case

By Janine Unsoeld

Many individuals and community groups are working harder than ever on issues and conversations about race, racism and police issues ever since the Olympia police officer involved shooting of two young African American men on May 21.

Those conversations are expected to intensify.

An Olympia Police Department (OPD) shooting review board issued its conclusion on Wednesday afternoon that no policies had been violated by Officer Ryan Donald during the incident. Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts reviewed the Board’s decision and concurred.

The board determined that Officer Donald’s actions were within policy and that they did not precipitate the use of force. The decision was unanimous. According to the release, Officer Donald will return to duty in the next few weeks.

“Because of the trauma of the event and the length of his absence, the Department has a plan to reintegrate Officer Donald before assigning his routine duties,” it states.

The review board was comprised of OPD Deputy Chief Steve Nelson, OPD Lieutenant Aaron Jelcick, Deputy City Attorney Darren Nienaber, OPD Officer Jason Winner and Executive Director for the Commission of African American Affairs Edward Prince.

In a brief memorandum from Lt. Aaron Jelcick to Chief Roberts, Jelcick says that between September 21 and 29, the group reviewed more than 600 pages of investigative reports. 

On September 29, the group visited the site of the shooting near Cooper Point Road on Olympia’s westside and interviewed Officer Donald.

Chief Roberts stated, “Although the review process is complete, our conversations about this incident - our conversations about our police department and our community - are very important to us and will be on-going for some time to come.  As an agency, we pride ourselves on being open, honest and transparent in what we do and how we do it.  We hope that we’ve proved that to you again during this difficult time.

“Amongst many different venues, you can find us talking with you in your neighborhoods, schools, faith groups, business groups, civic organizations and government assemblies.  Please join us in these important conversations so that we can be the type of agency that you would like to see serving our community.”

For a copy of the official memorandum from the shooting review board follow this link and more detailed information about the Shooting Review Board, go to:

Ad Hoc Committee on Policing and Community Relations

The next meeting of the city’s Ad-Hoc Committee on Policing and Community Relations is Monday, October 5, 5:30 p.m. at Olympia City Hall, in the council chambers.

The committee will host a public community forum on Saturday, October 10, 1:00-5:00 p.m., at Risen Faith Fellowship, 2129 E 4th St, Olympia.

For more information about the Olympia Police Department, the officer involved shooting on May 21, the Ad-Hoc Committee on Policing and Community Relations and other police related news, go to Little Hollywood, or the City of Olympia website at

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Olympia’s Mayoral Candidates: A Distinct Choice

Above: Marco Rosario Rossi is a candidate for Olympia city council's mayoral position.  

“I think there is a misconception of just how pervasive poverty is in Olympia. So I look at the statistics from the county (Thurston Regional Planning Council), and Olympia has the highest poverty rate of any incorporated city in the county. Olympia actually has the third highest poverty rate of any area in the county – the only two that are higher are the reservations,” says Rossi.  

By Janine Unsoeld

Olympia voters will have a distinct choice in who will preside over the city: current city councilmember Cheryl Selby, 54, a homeowner in the historic South Capitol district, or political newcomer Marco Rosario Rossi, 34, a renter in the southwest neighborhood area of Olympia.

She is a downtown business owner, and he is a fulltime medical assistant at Planned Parenthood.

Little Hollywood conducted two, separate, on-the-fly interviews with each candidate as each went door to door introducing themselves to potential voters in two different neighborhoods: Selby in her South Capitol neighborhood and Rossi in Olympia’s eastside neighborhood. Little Hollywood strove for balance but did not necessarily ask the candidates the same questions. 

Ballots will be mailed to voters on October 14.

Above: Cara Stimson, left, a South Capitol resident for 20 years, meets mayoral candidate Cheryl Selby, right. Stimson was enthusiastic about Selby and said she voted for her two years ago. Stimson is active in her neighborhood and serves as a lead moderator for an online neighborhood networking group called Nextdoor.

Mayoral Candidate Cheryl Selby

I met Selby at her home in a neighborhood where many historic Craftsman style houses were for sale, ranging from $650,000 to $268,000. 

On this recent Saturday afternoon, Selby had four teenagers helping her: Aspen, 16 and Jake, 16, who attend Capital High School, and Mackenzie, 16, and Aly, 16, who attend Olympia High School. Selby said she and her team have doorbelled about 7,000 homes since early June.

She is endorsed by a long list of elected local leaders and the firefighters union, Local 468, the latter of which Selby credits to her background in public health and safety training.

Selby has owned an upscale women’s clothing shop near the Olympia Farmer’s Market for nine years. She’s lived in Olympia since 1994.

As of this writing, her Washington State Public Disclosure Commission reports show that she has raised a whopping $21,837.49. Many of her highest donations are from real estate related individuals and associations, such as the Olympia Master Builders. She admits that she heard from known Democrats about that, and defends her choice to accept their donation. The mayoral and city council positions are nonpartisan; Selby is a Democrat. 

“Their current president is on the board of Sidewalk with me and he’s rallied so much support for rapid rehousing and Homes First! and all those kinds of approaches. We need those people supporting affordable housing options, so why push them away?

“I do have a broad range of support…I bring everybody to the table…I will be collaborative…. Ideology is not a good a good basis for government, certainly not on a municipal level - we can’t afford it. Our resources are so small! If we get caught up in every single global issue…and bog down city government on every national issue, it is not productive.”

Overwhelmingly, the top issue on voter’s minds is the condition of downtown Olympia.

A woman who just moved here last year asked Selby about the artesian well area and said she doesn’t go down there anymore.

“That’s a situation where everything that could go wrong did go wrong…. ” started Selby. She said that they are working on programs to help many of the people who hang out down there, and explained the role of Community Youth Services. The woman was unconvinced.

Moving along, an old timer bluntly told Selby, “The only thing the city council has done in 40 years is screw up parking.”

“…Well, there hasn’t been a business owner mayor since Tom Allen Sr., in 1976, so we need that perspective of our city on the council….” she responded.

“Well, I don’t think the city is going to do anything to improve downtown, other than to chase the bums out now,” he retorts.

Selby continues, “Well, I’m not going to give up…I want an opportunity for our kids to find family wage jobs and a quality of life….”

“Define family wage jobs,” the man demands.

“Well, we can’t just rely on the state for that….we’ve got county jobs, but we have to go after high tech industry, just like everyone else, right, but we’ve got amazing recreational and cultural assets. We just hired our economic development coordinator…and she is our tool in the toolbox for recruiting businesses,” she says.

“Well, I’ll be surprised if it happens…private enterprise is what’s going to make that sing…Like I’ve been saying for 40 years…what have we got? We lost Penney’s, we lost Miller’s….” he says.

“Yeah, well, the mall opened…” Selby responds, and picks up speed. “We have to be more creative with what we do with our downtown. We’re not alone. There are cities very similar to Olympia that have Main Street corridors, and that’s an asset. We have arts, recreation, cultural, and heritage assets….” 

Finally, she closes the conversation with him, saying she’s not a one trick pony and has a lot of energy.

Selby says the lack of mental health services and oxycodone/heroin use has created the perfect storm. Selby serves on the board of Sidewalk, which works to place people into rapid rehousing – 500 people in the last three years.

“If it wasn’t for Behavioral Health Resources, the Dispute Resolution Center, and rapid rehousing, downtown would look a lot worse…We’re doing as good a job as we can,” she said.

Addressing the frustration heard about downtown, Little Hollywood asked Selby about city ordinances that aren’t being enforced.

“I feel that our community wants one thing, and when it happens, they push back against it, and so the police are like, ‘Where do we stand?’ and with the police shooting, that elevated that feeling of them reassessing their support in the community…I think they feel like they’re walking on eggshells right now. They need to feel supported by their community, and supported by the business owners, and that’s going to happen through a lot of relationship building. Chief Roberts is probably the best thing to ever happen to the city of Olympia. I think he is a community justice advocate…I think he was just about there when the officer involved shooting happened and that set us back.”

Little Hollywood asked Selby what she is looking for in Chief Roberts’ report regarding the internal review investigation into the May 21 shooting of two men by Olympia police officer Ryan Donald.

“I’m looking for a better understanding of how our agency, individually, treats situations like this, what we can learn from it. I’m looking for a real tough look at that situation, internally. I want to know how we handle pulling our gun out of our holster. I want to know more about that.” Selby said she thought a citizen review committee would be a bit of an overkill.”

“What I’m waiting for is the findings of the Ad-Hoc Committee on Policing and Community Relations. They are going to dig in on it….”

Moving along, I asked if the city will see a leadership style from her that’s different than Mayor Buxbaum’s. She says yes, that she will run city council meetings more efficiently. She said she will try to limit public comment to 30 minutes.

“If we have more than ten people show up for a single issue, which is about a half hour, it’s in our council guidelines that the mayor has the authority to reorder people, so if someone has never been to city council before, they can speak first. And if we have 20 people wanting to speak on one issue, I’m happy to meet with them and ask them to speak for two minutes each, or otherwise, have them pick two or three spokespeople,” she said.

She agreed that such a process could get sticky. “….We do need to get a handle on it. When those occasions happen, they hold us hostage. Stalwarts can wait until the end….”

On the proposed $15 minimum wage campaign, Selby said, “I would love it if we could make that across the nation. Again, it’s one of those issues where just can’t cherry pick a city and make it happen…It’s not fair…Let’s pressure the state to get to $12 minimum. Let’s start with $12.”

“When I started my business, I didn’t even get a paycheck for a couple years. I would just have to shut my doors if I had to pay $15 an hour. There’s no way…I’ve been open nine years and I pay my employees between $13 - $15 now. I’m a dying breed…retail is just so hard, the margins are just so tight. My competitor is not down the street, it’s Amazon. People will come into my store, take a picture, and look it up online and buy it. I can’t raise my prices like a restaurant can….I’m kind of locked in….harsh reality.

Asked if she’s particularly frustrated by any issue, Selby mentions the Deschutes Estuary vs. Capitol Lake issue. “We haven’t been able to get forward on it…”

When asked her opinion on whether or not the lake should revert to an estuary, she says, “Honestly, I don’t have one….”  She says she’s met with all groups associated with the issue.

“As someone who is not a biologist, a wildlife specialist or a water quality specialist, what I see is that both sides have conflicting science. What’s that about? So, with the $250,000 that the Legislature appropriated to talk about it again, I’ll be happy with whatever comes out of it. We just can’t leave it the way it is. Either way…I just want it to be logical and then I want to advocate for whatever position comes forward….”

Mayoral Candidate Marco Rosaire Rossi

Marco Rosaire Rossi is the last one standing in what had originally been a platform of three candidates for city council under the banner of Olympia For All. 

Rossi has raised $5,137 to date, and is being endorsed by Olympia Mayor Stephen Buxbaum, several local unions, NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, and the Thurston-Lewis-Mason Central Labor Council.  

Rossi first moved to Olympia in 2000, and has lived on the westside most of that time.

He has been involved in community bicycle outreach with the Emma Goldman Youth and Homeless Outreach Project (EGYHOP) and currently volunteers with the Interfaith Works Emergency Overnight Shelter.

For the last six years, he has worked as a medical assistant for Planned Parenthood, and is a steward for UFCW 21, the largest private-sector union in Washington with members working in grocery store, retail, health care and other industry jobs.

Earlier this month, Rossi said he had been busy doorbelling renters in apartment complexes, a traditionally marginalized, transient population often overlooked by candidates for public office. He has since narrowed his focus to those who are more consistent voters.

I asked him what he is hearing at the door.

“It depends on what neighborhood we are doorbelling in….Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t vote…so at the door, you do have an opportunity to educate people and talk to them. People are curious and want to find out more about the campaign.

“The estuary vs. lake issue has come up with some people, mostly on the westside. Nearly everyone is interested in it becoming an estuary so it’s just a matter of figuring that out, and that’s a position I support too.

“....The issue of downtown can be broken up into different issues: how is downtown going to develop, and safety issues….I found that people respond to issues of poverty….Usually when I talk about that, a lot of people are in agreement.

Asked about the need for a day shelter for the homeless in Olympia, Rossi said, “The city passed up a great opportunity to work on something like the People’s House to be located downtown. That type of low-barrier model is critical for pulling people off the street. Parts of that program did end up in the basement of the First Christian Church - that’s really good - I volunteer there - but we need an area that is close, and can provide multiple services: shower, laundry, all those things.

“We have to get out of this model of thinking that the homeless population can access services where they are and be more strategic and efficient about it, figure out the most cost effective way to do it, and make it easier for people to access. I want to concentrate services in the downtown, and adopt a Housing First! strategy. Cheryl Selby’s model is more incremental, with services more dispersed.”

Asked about the $15 minimum wage campaign, Rossi says the majority of people are really positive or interested in the issue.

“I’d like to adopt the Seattle strategy - if you are a large business with a high margin, you have to transfer over to a $15 minimum wage really quickly. If you are a small business with fewer employees, you have a longer period of time to make that transition….We’ve reached out to local businesses. Once we lay out the numbers and show them how they can make the transition, they tend to come around and say, ‘Yea, we can see how this can be a good thing.’” 

Rossi says the livable wage numbers say it all.

“The MIT Livable Wage indicator, which gives extremely conservative estimates…sets the livable wage in Olympia for a single person at $10.77. That's for someone working 40 hours a week. However, if that same person has one child, that figure jumps to $22.32. If that person has two children, then a livable wage is $26.47. Considering this context, we need to recognize that the fight for a $15 minimum wage is really the starting point for many single mothers, not the end goal….”

Asked about other issues, and specific downtown development proposals, such as the proposed community renewal act, Rossi said he does not have strong feelings about how to develop the isthmus area.

“It’s a very divisive issue and there’s a lot of proposals on the table. We just need a good process for exploring all those issues and what’s most beneficial for the city. Why the city is focused on that area is because in terms of development, it’s essentially the low hanging fruit…the reason the city isn’t going after smaller areas like Griswold’s is because it’s just not worth it for developers….It would be great if we could push the development of downtown northward toward the Farmer’s Market. The problem is that that area is owned by a lot of different developers, and much of it is on fill and contaminated….”

Asked about the proposed Metropolitan Parks District (MPD) ballot measure, Rossi expressed concerns.

“An MPD could be good for the city, but I do have some concerns. Olympia’s parks do need some critical maintenance. Yauger Park needs repairs in many areas, Bigelow needs improvements in its bathrooms and shelters, and Woodland and West Bay trails need to be completed. However, there is no guarantee that the revenue raised…will be used for these projects….Before we raise revenue for parks we should have a strategic plan for our park system that emphasizes density and equity….When we think about where we’re going to put a park, we need to put them in areas that are most dense. That tends to be areas where a lot of poverty is concentrated….I want to make sure that people who come out of their home onto concrete can walk to a nice park and enjoy it just like someone who lives in the suburbs.”

In that context, Rossi also wondered about other city needs.

“Unfortunately, there appears to be a misconception that we can spend endlessly on parks. Sadly, we can’t. We have to make prudent decisions if we want to have a park system that truly works for everyone in the city.…Are we going to push other things off the table which need critical investment? The city needs investments in infrastructure if we’re going to accommodate the growth we’re going to see and if we’re going to have the kind of density that will be beneficial for the environment….”

Moving on, Little Hollywood asked Rossi what he is looking for when Chief Roberts’ report comes out regarding the investigation into Olympia police officer Ryan Donald.

Rossi said it is critical to have a thorough investigation into the matter.

“No one should be assumed guilty of wrongdoing without evidence, whether it is Office Donald or Andre and Bryson….Regardless of the outcome of the investigation, the passionate feelings people have about this event, and the innate tragedy of the event itself, means that we as a community need to have a grand dialogue about police, race, and our criminal justice system.”

Asked if he would he like to see a citizen review committee overseeing the police department, Rossi said, “Citizen review boards for police are as essential to a democratic and well-functioning city as open elections and public records. I have long supported a civilian review board for Olympia and will continue to do so. Ideally, the board would have legal powers and its own independent investigator. It would have the ultimate authority regarding disciplining officers, including the ability to fire, and its members would be accountable to the public through elections or a transparent appointment process.” 

Upcoming Opportunities to Hear the Candidates

Subject to change, there are several upcoming opportunities to hear Olympia mayoral and city council candidates. Service organizations may charge an entrance fee that includes a meal. Not all candidates can attend all forums.

September 28 – 12:00 p.m., Kiwanis Club of Olympia, Tugboat Annie’s

October 1 – 7 p.m., Green Party of South Puget Sound, Traditions Fair Trade

October 5 – 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m., Downtown Rotary Club, Red Lion Hotel

October 6 – 12:00 p.m., Rotary Club of West Olympia, Tugboat Annie’s

October 11 – 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m., PFLAG, United Methodist Church

October 14 – 7:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m., Olympia Timberland Library, facilitated by the Thurston County Auditor’s Office

For more information about the mayoral candidates for Olympia, contact:

Cheryl Selby at 120 State Ave NE PMB 211 Olympia, WA 98501, (360)7543954,,

Marco Rosaire Rossi at PO Box 6133 Olympia, WA 98507, (312) 9613825,,

Above: A view of downtown Olympia from the Washington State Law Enforcement Memorial on the Capitol Campus.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Training of an Olympia Police Officer

Postscript to Man with a Gun: A Night in the Life of an Olympia Police Officer

By Janine Unsoeld

In light of the May 21 Olympia police officer involved shooting of two men, the community is asking questions about general police training, tactics, use of force, and the discharge of a firearm.
On Saturday, September 12, Little Hollywood spent four hours shadowing two officers with the Olympia Police Department and reported on the experience in a story posted September 17 at

That night, at about 10:30 p.m., Officer Jeff Davis responded to a call involving a man with a gun at the Emperor’s Palace restaurant located on Cooper Point Road.

At the scene, Officer Davis drew his duty weapon on the suspect and then holstered it within seconds. He did not fire his weapon.

Little Hollywood later asked Officer Davis why he pulled his gun from his holster and what the protocol was for such an action.

Davis replied, “When we responded to the man with a gun, we were the third responding unit on scene. As we drove around the northwest corner of the building, I observed two officers with the suspect and immediately exited my vehicle. Yes, the suspect was down on his knees with his hands up, but the suspect was not in hand-restraints and/or yet in custody and still represented an immediate deadly threat to officers and the general public.

“When I exited my vehicle, I immediately armed myself with my duty weapon and moved toward the two officers and the suspect in order to provide cover to them and assist with restraints. 

Once there, I observed another officer place the suspect into hand-restraints and remove a large black semi-automatic handgun which was lying just inches from the suspect’s feet. An officer requested I double-lock the restraints so they would not cinch down and hurt and/or damage the suspect’s wrists. My duty weapon was holstered and secured as I moved in to double-lock the restraints.

“We are trained that action beats reaction every time. It is my training and experience that even though a suspect is kneeling and facing away from me, he still represents a deadly threat until completely secured. He could still reach for and/or grab for the weapon that was lying mere inches from his feet. 
“We, as officers, are trained to use ‘Contact’ and ‘Cover’ principles when responding to calls for service as well as contacting suspects. The two officers were ‘Contact’ while I was ‘Cover.’ The main protocol for this type of call is a combination of officer safety and scene security. Our main goal is to do things as safely and efficiently as possible. We, as officers, cannot investigate until we have established a safe and secure scene.”

In his official incident case report, Davis writes, “….Once secure, I immediately removed a large fixed blade knife and leather sheath from his left pants pocket. Officer Bronson arrived and together we assisted the suspect up to his feet in order to complete the pat down for weapons.” 

Asked how often he has felt compelled to take similar actions to draw his weapon, Officer Davis said, “So far, while being on dayshift, I have yet to remove my duty weapon from its holster. However, when I was working graveyard, it was fairly common for me to remove my duty weapon multiple times per shift. We are trained to keep our weapons in the low ready position and off target until a deadly threat presents itself.”

It is a long process to become a police officer. There are 272 recognized law enforcement agencies in Washington. To attend the Basic Law Enforcement Academy in Burien, you must be hired first by one of those agencies.

City of Olympia police Lt. Aaron Jelcick says less than five percent who apply make it to the streets. He explained the screening process in rough terms.

“Out of about 100 men or women who apply, the initial written and physical test will immediately filter out about 30 percent of applicants. Next, the psychological screening will reduce that number about 50 percent. About seven or eight will move forward to the oral review board process and background screening, but half of those individuals will wash out.

“About four are left out of the initial 100 to get an interview with the police chief who will have a conversation with the officer about post-traumatic stress disorders, bias, and other issues. At this point, they need to sign a waiver allowing the department to access their military files, if any. After the interview and reviewing those files, half will not pass. Two individuals are left to take a polygraph test.

“At this point, the one or two who are left are hired, go to the police academy to get trained for five months, go through rigorous mock scenarios involving legal issues, contact, level of force, search and seizure, and more. After this, an officer is on probation for one and a half years from the date of hire.”

A workbook called Blue Courage and a little book called The Nobility of Policing: Guardians of Democracy sat on Jelcick’s desk during our interview. 

The latter book features inspirational quotes by famous leaders and poignant stories of officers who have found themselves in challenging situations. The police academy uses these books to help officers review why they became officers in the first place. 

Plato described the policing profession thousands of years ago as the ‘guardian of democracy.’ He said, “It does not matter if the cobblers and the masons fail to do their jobs well, but if the Guardians fail, the democracy will crumble.”

When asked if there are quotas for citations or arrests, Jelcick said that that is a common myth.

Jelcick said he used to be a walking patrol officer in Olympia in the late 1990’s, and he would write about 10 criminal citations in one night for nuisance behaviors such as public urination and disorderly conduct because that was the strategy to get people off the streets.

“We went through, writing tickets, without thinking of the unintended consequences….We can’t arrest our way out of problems. The result was that most tickets turned into warrants for arrests and our jail was full….Now, we ask our officers to ask themselves, ‘How can I solve this problem?’ Writing tickets is our last resort….”

Little Hollywood observed officers on the evening of September 12 being quite tolerant of known violations such as Olympia’s pedestrian interference ordinance that restricts sitting and lying on public sidewalks.

Jelcick described how last week officers directed social services staff to the artesian well area to meet a man who needed treatment, knowing full well that the man was not going get it on his own.

“We’re thinking outside the box…and taking a qualitative approach rather than a quantitative approach,” said Jelcick.

Jelcick said that at any one time, there are about 15 – 20 persons in the city jail for felonies, driving while intoxicated, domestic violence, or awaiting arraignment on charges.

For more information about Olympia police tactics and protocols, see