By January 31, tell Bellingham officials what you want in a Police Chief!

The City of Bellingham is asking for our feedback as they consider hiring the next Police Chief. Details about the position, community feedback opportunities, and candidate selection timeline are available at the Community Feedback About Police Chief Selection webpage

The survey questions posed by the City are in bold (see below) followed by potential responses you can use when you fill out the Police Chief Selection Survey (use Community Feedback link to find survey). Feel free to use one or several responses for each question or provide your own.

What qualities are most important to you in our next Police Chief?

  • Ability to build a culture & practice of policing that reflects the values of protection & promotion of the dignity of all, especially the most vulnerable
  • Compassion for the community, integrity, and professionalism
  • Trustworthy and transparent
  • Commitment to eliminating white supremacy and systemic racism in the department and in the community
  • Experience leading a department that achieved decreases in use of force and increases in de-escalation & alternatives to arrest
  • Experience collaborating with communities to identify problems & collaborate on implementing solutions that produce meaningful results for the community
  • Create an environment where officers work as guardians, rather than warriors
  • Supports officer wellness and trainings so they have the skills and bandwidth to respond empathetically to our most vulnerable populations
  • Promote community policing, where police practice and regularly have non-enforcement interactions with the public. Familiar with New Era of Public Safety: A Guide to Fair, Safe and Effective Community Policing, and willing to implement ideas into department

What are the most important public safety needs in Bellingham?

We recommend completing this section based on your own experiences and concerns. If you’re interested in responding to the need for improvements to policing that center around accountability measures to the public, consider the following suggestions.

  • Providing people that are homeless or experiencing behavioral or mental health crisis with an unarmed specialist response or co-responder model that pairs police with a behavioral health expert
  • Providing data on police interactions with community members in an open disaggregated data dashboard
  • Establishing a civilian oversight board for complaints against police
  • Collecting demographic data for all police/individual interactions
  • Honest and unbiased communications by Bellingham Police Department staff

What do you believe should be the top priorities for your next Police Chief?

  • Advancing transparency in data and accountability to the public by having an open data dashboard
  • Civilian oversight of law enforcement to strengthen trust with the community and hold officers accountable
  • Building relationships based on trust with immigrant, indigenous, unhoused,  and visible minority communities
  • Tracking and addressing biased policing
  • Curbing the excessive militarization of the police force by imposing meaningful restraints and adopting best practices
  • Partnering and supporting the City in developing a 24/7 mobile crisis intervention first responder units for behavioral/mental health responses (instead of armed, law enforcement)
  • Reducing incarceration, focusing on rehabilitation, and reducing recidivism

What question would you like to ask the candidates for Police Chief?

  • Which new police practice law from 2021 do you feel keeps the public most safe? Explain why. 
  • What are the top three changes you would make to current police practices to address systemic racism?
  • Would you support and advocate for a civilian-led oversight board with disciplinary authority to address police misconduct? If so, what recommendations do you have for selecting a diverse, well-balanced, community-represented board?
  • How do you think the Chief, as the leader in the County’s biggest city, might be able to influence departments in outlying areas of the county toward more progressive policing practices?
  • Do you believe a series of public complaints against one officer indicates a potential pattern of misconduct or conduct unbecoming an officer? If so, what steps would you take?
  • Would you support and advocate for releasing open data sets about policing? If so, which 3-5 data sets would you first release? Data set examples include incident/calls for service, police department demographics, stops data, assaults on officers, etc. 
  • Do you support House Bill 1202, which would hold officers and agencies accountable for patterns and practices of violating the law?

Please complete the City’s questionnaire by January 31: https://engagebellingham.org/police-chief

We thank the City of Bellingham for improving the police chief hiring process by posting a more descriptive timeline and including a stakeholder/community engagement event. We support these transparency and accountability efforts and look forward to following how they play out.

Part 2b: Ferndale PD’s internal investigation sheds light on an imperfect process

If you missed Part 1 and 2, catch up by viewing them in our Learn Why We Believe Police Reform is Necessary series.

In Part 2 of our Learn Why We Believe Police Reform is Necessary series, the Riveters’ Justice System Committee identified concerning trends in the investigations of complaints against Ferndale Police Department officers. In Part 2b, we continue the story by reviewing the investigation into Officer Langton’s alleged contact with the Oath Keepers. We also examine how thorough Ferndale PD was in their investigation after we obtained three interview recordings and the investigation report.

Ferndale PD took atypical steps for this investigation

In total, the JSC has reviewed records for 20 investigations conducted after a complaint was made about a Ferndale police officer. In all cases, a primary investigator, usually a lieutenant or sergeant with the Ferndale PD, conducts the investigation and the Ferndale police chief signs his approval of the investigator’s recommended result. The Langton/Oath Keepers investigation was handled differently, however, likely because the allegation made national news.

In this case, Chief Turner reviewed the investigator’s completed report, then directed the investigator to ask more probing questions. Chief Turner also provided his own 13-page written review of the investigation. This is not normal practice based on the other complaint investigations we reviewed from Ferndale PD and other local law enforcement. 

The primary investigator failed to properly investigate the allegation

It’s clear Ferndale gave this investigation the utmost scrutiny, knowing journalists and other interested parties would review the results closely. We believe that if this investigation had followed the path of other complaint investigations by Ferndale PD, it would have fallen well short of a thorough investigation.

With the exception of the investigator’s recommendation to train and educate officers about groups like the Oath Keepers, we have the following concerns about his investigation approach and documentation:

  • The investigator tainted the report with bias:
    • The investigator implies that little was known about the Oath Keepers on February 4, 2021, when the email was sent, and therefore determined that a “reasonable person” wouldn’t have known on that date that contacting the Oath Keepers would’ve been “unbecoming a member of this department”. The Oath Keepers, however, made national news prior to the November 2020 election and became a household name well before February 4. 2021. We know this because NPR and CNN reported on January 1 and 27, 2021 about the Oath Keepers’ involvement in the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol. Based on this, we believe a reasonable person should have known by February 4, 2021 that contacting the Oath Keepers would reflect poorly on the department.
    • The investigator highlights three times that the Oath Keepers email was acquired illegally and, therefore, not meant to be made public. This opinion by the investigator appears to be an attempt to redirect readers’ views about the allegation by implying it was an invasion of privacy.
    • The investigator failed to accurately document Langton’s complaint history by leaving out the following information:
      • The August 2020 civil rights complaint lawsuit against Officer Langton filed in federal court. 
      • The previous 17 unsustained complaints on Langton’s record. Instead of acknowledging this complaint history, the investigator noted that “since joining the department in 2012, there have been no observations of Officer REDACTED to suggest a propensity towards a disregard of a person’s civil rights…”. Due to the number of complaints filed against Officer Langton as compared to other officers, the JSC doesn’t agree.
    • The investigator provided favorable information about Officer Langton that is unrelated to this case when he wrote that “Officer REDACTED was awarded a Certificate of Commendation…and selected Patrol Partner of the Year…” in 2021.
    • The investigator used information from a 2012 background check into Officer Langton as evidence that he is “honorable and honest” and that he is “not now, or ever been a member of any foreign or domestic organization, association, movement, or group” that advocates for violence or seeks to alter the form of government of the United States by unconstitutional means. This hardly seems relevant given the amount of time that has passed and the number of hate and anti-government groups (that recruit military and law enforcement personnel) that have gained traction since that background check was conducted.

  • Prior to having his report reviewed by Chief Turner, the investigator failed to ask Officer Langton if the email address belonged to him and, if so, when he last accessed the account. These questions should have been part of the initial line of questioning.

  • The investigator did not appear to investigate whether Langton made inappropriate posts on social media accounts or if he contacted the Oath Keepers (or other concerning groups) by email prior to February 1, 2021 from other personal email accounts.

Chief Turner’s review provided more depth to the investigation

  • Because of Chief Turner’s recommendation to ask follow up questions, we learned the email account belonged to Langton and that he accessed it as recently as the week of September 27, 2021, just days before BuzzFeed News reported on it. Unfortunately, Chief Turner incorrectly stated several people “had accessed” Langton’s email account when Langton only stated people could have had access to his email account when he left it open on his computer.

  • Ferndale PD’s policy narrowly defines unacceptable conduct, which means the Oath Keepers would need to be defined as a hate group or criminal organization for the conduct to be considered unbecoming or reflect unfavorably upon the department.

  • Chief Turner used Wikipedia to evaluate the reliability of groups associated with the released Oath Keepers email by painting both organizations far more negatively than the website describes. He stated that BuzzFeed News is “a largely unreliable internet media news” and highlights portions of the site that call into question their credibility. The website, however, also states that BuzzFeed News “largely follows established rules of journalism” and has won awards and recognition for several news-breaking stories that proved accurate. He takes the same approach with Distributed Denial of Secrets, the group that provided BuzzFeedNews the hacked email. He described them as a “criminal hacker group” and “significant threat”. According to Wikipedia, this group is described by Wired as “a transparency collective of data activists”, by the New York Times as a “watchdog group” and by Business Insider as a “freedom-of-information advocacy group”. Based on these alternative views of these groups, the JSC does not agree with Chief Turner that the allegation could not be credible because it was “unsubstantiated information obtained by illegal means sourced from a criminal hacker group”.

  • Chief Turner requested a search of City and PD servers to determine if anyone within the City had communicated by email with the Oath Keepers. This shows he made an attempt to look into this more broadly, but, unfortunately, the search date range only went back to February 1, 2021.

The JSC encourages Ferndale to take this opportunity to improve

For transparency and accountability, police reform experts advise that police conduct investigations should be conducted from outside the department for which the officer works and by an oversight board that includes civilians. It does not appear from the obtained records that Ferndale sought options or opinions from outside the Ferndale PD.

Following the news that Officer Langton returned to duty after the investigation found the allegation unfounded, the JSC sent Ferndale officials a letter summarizing our concerns about the complaint investigation process and providing resources for improving police policies and union contracts. Mayor Hansen kindly acknowledged receipt of our letter and explained the City’s plans to review their policies and procedures.

We’ve asked Mayor Hansen and Chief Turner to go beyond this particular Oath Keepers incident and evaluate which police policies and union contract language would allow an officer 1) with lengthy complaint histories to be hired, and 2) to continue in this line of work when the public feels harmed or threatened by their behavior. We believe this recent allegation and investigation should indicate failures in Ferndale’s current policies and processes.

Part 2: Tracking Police Officer Complaints, a Justice System Committee series

If you missed Part 1, catch up by viewing it in our Learn Why We Believe Police Reform is Necessary series.

The Justice System Committee research shows that maintaining complaint records and conducting independent investigations are important steps for finding patterns in individual officers or department practices. Prior to July 2021 (when SB 5051 went into effect), complaint records at Ferndale PD, Bellingham PD, Blaine PD, and the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office were destroyed after six years. This practice allowed an officer’s record to frequently be wiped clean, making it difficult, if not impossible, to detect problems. Below we provide an example of how easy it has been for a problematic officer to go unnoticed.

Ferndale Police Department complaint records

The JSC looked at a summary of 52 complaint allegations filed between 2015 – 2020 for Ferndale Police Department officers that were employed at the time of our January 2021 records request. The investigation results shed light on how often the department sides with the officer’s version of events. 

  • 88% of all allegations were determined either unfounded1 or not sustained2, or the officer was exonerated3.

When it comes to complaints from the public,

  • 6% of allegations from the public were either sustained4 or founded5 (94% dismissed).

However, complaints were taken seriously from inside the organization.

  • 98% of internally-initiated allegations were either sustained or founded.

These percentages demonstrate that complaints from the public about an officer’s behavior and conduct mostly go ignored. In fact, it’s common for investigators to recommend “no further action” as a follow up to each complaint. 

Signs of a problematic police officer

When reviewing the list of complaint allegations, one officer’s name stood out – Michael Scott Langton. Officer Langton made the news recently because Ferndale PD placed him on paid leave in early October 2021 for allegedly contacting the Oath Keepers, a far-right, anti-government extremist group, one month after the January 6 attack on the US capital. Contact with this group would seemingly put Langton in violation of the Prohibited Speech, Expression, and Conduct section of Ferndale’s police policy, which prohibits “expression that is contrary to the canons of the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics” (page 1). 

According to a November 2, 2021 Bellingham Herald article, Officer Langton returned to duty after the Ferndale PD conducted a “thorough investigation” of the allegation that Officer Langton had contacted the Oath Keepers and determined it was “unfounded” because “no violation of policy or law occurred”. This determination appears to contradict the Ferndale police policy.

Connect Ferndale immediately responded to the investigation result by making a public statement and demanding that city officials update their police policy, form a community-based police oversight committee, have the allegation externally reviewed, and host a listening session.

Langton began working for Ferndale PD in August 2012 and has 17 complaints on record from 2015 to 2021 – each from a different complainant. (The officer with the next most complaints had three on record.) Most complainants accused Officer Langton of behavior that was harassing, discriminatory, rude, insulting, or overly aggressive. Five believed this treatment was because of the color of their skin. Sixteen were internally investigated and had unfounded results meaning the investigator determined the allegation was “frivolous” or “did not occur”. We noted that one complaint even stated that Langton “is known by many minorities as being The Racist Cop”.

In addition to these complaints, BuzzFeed News reported Officer Langton was named in a 2020 lawsuit alleging he illegally detained a motorist.

(Read our November 10, 2021 letter to Ferndale Mayor Hansen, Chief Turner, and Councilmembers.)

Langton’s prior career with Blaine Police Department

During his tenure with Blaine PD, Officer Langton was named in a lawsuit alleging he used excessive force on a legally-blind man in June 2011. City of Blaine settled the lawsuit in 2015 with a $129,000 payment to the plaintiff. Online research results in scant details about this case. In fact, we couldn’t locate any articles from the press until October 2021 when Officer Langton’s paid leave status made news. 

Records obtained from the City of Blaine indicate other complaints had also been made about Langton, but acquiring those records has been unsuccessful. We know, however, that at least one other Blaine resident alleges a rough encounter with Officer Langton. According to a 2011 court document, “Officer Langton treated the defendant so roughly when he arrested her that at least one witness had to avert his eyes because he could not watch the officer’s treatment of [the Blaine resident]”.

According to a 2013 letter from Blaine’s City Manager to Whatcom County District Court, it appears Officer Langton was also named in a third lawsuit. The JSC has yet to determine the allegation(s) in this case.

Did Ferndale PD know about Langton’s Blaine PD history?

It’s unclear. We know that the “comprehensive screening, background investigation and selection process” described in section 100.2 of Ferndale’s police policy doesn’t recommend reviewing an officer’s previous complaint history. Also, according to September 2012 city council meeting minutes (page 5, part C), the City immediately saved $80,000 by hiring a seasoned officer because Langton no longer needed to be trained through the police academy.

New laws have and proposed bills would address several JSC concerns, but more work is needed to increase accountability and transparency

  • New – SB 5051 added a subsection (4) to RCW 40.14.070, which requires personnel records for law enforcement officers be retained for “the duration of the officer’s employment and a minimum of 10 years thereafter”. Remember, prior to July 2021, complaint records were usually destroyed after six years. 

  • New – SB 5051 requires that departments conduct broader background checks for officers before hiring them, including checking with previous departments for any discipline history or misconduct investigations. At a national level, experts report it’s common practice for an officer to quit before an investigation is complete to keep it off their record. We don’t know if this was the case in Blaine, but the timing of Langton’s arrival in Ferndale is suspicious.

  • New – SB 5051 allows for an officer to be decertified for disqualifying conduct.

  • Proposed – HB 1203 would require any police department of 15 officers or more to establish a community oversight board responsible for fielding complaints, investigating allegations of police misconduct, making recommendations on discipline, and participating in the hiring of new police chiefs.

  • Proposed – HB 1202 would create a state cause of action allowing people to sue police officers in their individual capacity for violating people’s constitutional rights. The measure would allow police to face civil lawsuits in situations where they may be unable to be sued in federal court due to the doctrine of qualified immunity.

  • Still needed – Demographic information about the complainant or officer are not collected as part of local law enforcements’ complaint reporting or investigation process.6

  • Still needed – Complaint descriptions and the status of the investigation process are not publicly available through an open data set.

1 Unfounded = When the investigation discloses that the alleged acts did not occur or did not involve department members. Complaints that are determined to be frivolous will fall within the classification of unfounded.

2 Not sustained = When the investigation discloses that there is insufficient evidence to sustain the complaint or fully exonerate the member.

3 Exonerated = When the investigation discloses that the alleged act occurred but that the act was justified, lawful, and/or proper.

4 Sustained = When the investigation discloses sufficient evidence to establish that the act occurred and that it constituted misconduct.

5 Founded = Undefined in the police policy manual.6 See Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability Complaints open data set for what transparency can look like.

Updated 11/3/2021 to include information about Langton’s return to duty and to correct an error. The previous post included links to the wrong police policy.

Updated 11/4/2021 to include information about Connect Ferndale.

Updated 11/27/2021 to add a link to the City of Ferndale’s Oath Keeper investigation report and correct the date when Officer Langton allegedly emailed the Oath Keepers. The email was sent one month after the January 6 attack on the US Capital, not two days prior. This distinction is important because the Ferndale Police investigator implies a person might not have “reasonably known about members of the Oath Keepers” on February 4, 2021, as compared to the date of the investigation, October 14, 2021.

Watch the New Police Reform Laws webinar!

If you missed the Justice System Committee’s New Police Reform Laws webinar, be sure to watch the recording: https://youtu.be/60Z7ybLlvCA.

In it, you will hear law enforcement, behavioral health specialists, and policy makers share their perspectives about new police accountability laws that went into effect in July. During the event, state legislators described the rationale and intent of the new laws, while local policy stakeholders effectively communicated their concerns. Be sure to watch until the end to hear a powerful message about why we must advocate for better policing policies, from a family member recently impacted by police violence. 

We believe this conversation will inform and lead to collaboration to fine tune legislation and provide funding for local policies and behavioral health programs that will improve safety for all in our community.

Join us October 13 for our New Police Reform Laws: Legislative Intent and Community Impact webinar

Live Webinar and Q&A via Zoom – October 13, 2021, 7:00-8:30pm

Register Now

Confusion and misinformation resulted when new police reform laws became effective in July.  This webinar aims to demystify the intent of the police reform legislation and its impact on local policies affecting our community. The 90-minute webinar will feature a panel presentation with legislators, and representatives from local government, behavioral health services, and law enforcement. It will be followed by a Q and A session between the audience and panelists. 

Panelists include:

  • Legislators:
    • Alex Ramel – 40th District Representative
    • Roger Goodman – 45th District Representative, House Public Safety Chair
    • John Lovick – 44th District Representative; House Pro Tem Speaker; former state trooper, Snohomish County Sheriff, and County Executive
  • Local representatives:
    • Hollie Huthman – Bellingham City Council Member and local business owner
    • Malora Christensen and Tommy McAuliffe – LEAD and Grace Diversion Program Managers
    • Jerilyn Klix – Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, Deputy Behavioral Health Officer

Questions for panelists may be posed while registering for the event or during the webinar.

Learn why we believe police reform is necessary

For decades, people mistreated by police have called for reform that includes, at a minimum, holding officers accountable. Over the past year, the Riveters’ Justice System Committee (JSC) has supported these efforts by contacting government officials, advocating for improvements to police union contracts, and supporting legislative bills. 

To better understand the current state of police accountability within Whatcom County, the JSC obtained officer-related complaint records from Bellingham, Blaine, and Ferndale, and lawsuit settlement information from Bellingham, Blaine, Everson, Ferndale, Lynden, and Whatcom County. A review of these documents provides insight into how complaints are investigated, the degree to which officers are held accountable, and the cost to local governments when the public feels harmed by police conduct.

In a series of posts, we’ll describe how BPD handled a traffic stop and racial-profiling complaint that led to Bellingham recently paying a $100,000 settlement, how much police-related lawsuit settlements cost local governments, and what police complaint records can tell us. We’ll also share recommendations for better policing from national organizations.

***CLICK ON EACH PART TO EXPAND DETAILS***

Read our recommendations for improving local police union contracts

Rep. John Lewis quote:

The Justice System Committee reviewed police union contracts up for negotiation. Bellingham, Blaine, and Lynden will negotiate police union contracts in fall 2021. Ferndale and Whatcom County contracts will renew in 2022.

Learn about the minimum changes needed to ensure accountability to the public by reading these summaries prepared for Whatcom County law enforcement agencies.

Bellingham Police Department Union Contract Summary

Blaine Police Department Union Contract Summary

Ferndale Police Department Union Contract Summary (coming soon!)

Lynden Police Union Contract Summary

Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office Union Contract Summary

Help increase police accountability in your community, contact your city executives, council members, and law enforcement leaders to demand these much-needed improvements.

Check the Status of 2021 Legislative Bills We Tracked

(last updated: September 21, 2021)

Since January, the Justice System Committee has been tracking justice-system related bills filed during the 2021 legislative session. All bills listed below have been signed into law.

Policing

  • HB 1001 – Authorizes the development of a 2-year grant program to encourage a broader diversity of candidates to seek careers in law enforcement. Effective date: 7/25/2021
  • HB 1054  – Requires law enforcement agencies impose new training and policies for vehicular pursuits; bans using chokeholds and neck restraints; establishes guidelines for using tear gas; requires developing a model policy for using police dogs to apprehend or arrest people; bans acquiring or using certain specified military equipment; and prohibits concealing badge identification information. Effective date: 7/25/2021
  • HB 1088 – Requires law enforcement agencies to report officer misconduct, affecting credibility or any act of an officer that may be exculpatory to a criminal defendant, to prosecuting authorities. Effective date: 7/25/2021
  • HB 1089 – Requires the State Auditor to review completed deadly force investigations and allows the State Auditor to audit entire departments for compliance with standards. Effective date: 7/25/2021
  • HB 1109Expands the statutory rights for sexual assault survivors and requires status updates on cases tied to previously unsubmitted sexual assault kits collected prior to July 2015. Effective date: 4/26/2021
  • HB 1267 – Establishes the Office of Independent Investigations to investigate deadly force incidents involving officers. Effective date: 7/25/2021
  • HB 1310 – Requires the Attorney General to develop model use of force and de-escalation tactics that law enforcement agencies must adopt. Authorizes using tear gas only to alleviate risk of serious harm during a riot. Effective date: 7/25/2021
  • SB 5051Establishes the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission to create and administer standards and processes for certification, suspension, and decertification of officers. Removes confidentiality of complaints, investigations, and disciplinary actions; and requires it be maintained on a public database. Effective date: 7/25/2021
  • SB 5055 – Standardizes and improves arbitrator selection procedures and prevents law enforcement personnel from entering into a contract that prohibits civilian review of officer disciplinary actions. Effective date: 7/25/2021
  • SB 5066 Requires an officer to report another officer’s misconduct and immediately intervene when another officer is using excessive force. Effective date: 7/25/2021
  • SB 5259 – Requires reporting, collecting, and publishing information about law enforcement use-of-force interactions with the communities they serve. Effective date: 7/25/2021
  • SB 5263 – Repeals existing laws that create hurdles for police accountability and prevent families and victims from recovering monetary damages. Effective date: 7/25/2021
  • SB 5476 – Temporarily recriminalizes simple drug offenses as misdemeanors (as a “fix” to the Supreme Court’s decision in the State v Blake case) and requires that a person be offered diversion to services at least twice before they can be prosecuted. Effective date: 7/25/2021

Incarceration and Re-Entry

  • HB 1044 – Expands opportunities for postsecondary education in prisons; requires an annual report on recidivism rates post release for those in these programs; and requires the Dept. of Corrections accommodate those with learning disabilities, traumatic brain injuries, and cognitive impairments. Effective date: 7/25/2021
  • HB 1078 – Automatically restores voting rights to felons after they’ve completed a total confinement sentence. Effective date 1/1/2022.
  • HB 1295 – Enhances educational institutions’ ability to extend academic credit for language and general education to youth in or released from secure facilities. Effective date: 7/25/2021
  • SB 5119Requires the Dept. of Corrections to investigate any unexpected death during incarceration and publish a report within 120 days. Effective date: 7/25/2021
  • SB 5304 – Expands the Medicaid suspension policy to include correctional institutions, state hospitals, and other treatment facilities. Requires full reinstatement of Medicaid benefits upon release from confinement. Effective date: 7/25/2021

Judicial System

  • HB 1140 – Provides juveniles access to an attorney before waiving constitutional rights. Effective date: 7/25/2021
  • SB 5118 – Expands the Intrastate Detainer Act to include persons incarcerated in juvenile rehabilitation facilities and allows individuals to request to resolve untried warrants in district and municipal court. Effective date: 7/25/2021
  • SB 5226 – Removes the option to suspend a person’s driver’s license for a traffic infraction, for failing to respond within 15 days, or for failing to appear at a hearing. Provides an option to enter into a penalty payment plan if a person is unable to pay. Effective date: 1/1/2023

Public Safety

  • SB 5038 – Makes it a gross misdemeanor to open carry a firearm at or within 25 feet of a public demonstration, the west state capitol grounds, capital grounds buildings, and other legislative locations. Effective date: 5/12/2021

Tell Bellingham what you want in a Police Chief by this Friday, April 16th!

Tell Bellingham what you want in a Police Chief by this Friday, April 16th!

The City of Bellingham is asking for feedback on priorities to consider in the selection of the next Police Chief. Details about the position available in the job posting (External link) and recruitment brochure (External link).

The survey questions are below in bold; responses are limited to 255 characters. We’ve included some potential responses followed by character counts in italics below each question.  Feel free to use them or provide your own.:

What skills and characteristics do you want to see in our next Police Chief?

  • Ability to build a culture & practice of policing that reflects the values of protection & promotion of the dignity of all, especially the most vulnerable (155)
  • Compassion for the community, integrity, and professionalism (61)
  • Trustworthy and transparent (29)
  • Commitment to eliminating white supremacy and systemic racism in the department and in the community (100)

What background, experience, and/or achievements should we consider when selecting our next Police Chief?

  • Demonstrated collaboration with community members to develop policies & strategies supported by data made publicly available in communities & neighborhoods disproportionately affected by crime (193)
  • Experience leading a department that achieved decreases in use of force and increases in de-escalation & alternatives to arrest (128)
  • Experience collaborating with communities to identify problems & collaborate on implementing solutions that produce meaningful results for the community (153) 

What do you believe should be the top priorities for our next Police Chief?

  • Advancing transparency in data and reporting and accountability to the public (78)
  • Civilian oversight of law enforcement to strengthen trust with the community and hold officers accountable (107)
  • Building relationships based on trust with immigrant, indigenous, unhoused,  and visible minority communities (110)
  • Tracking and addressing biased policing (40)
  • Curbing the excessive militarization of the police force by imposing meaningful restraints and adopting best practices (119)
  • Partnering with the city to develop 24/7 mobile crisis intervention first responder units that are not law enforcement (119) 

What else would you like us to consider when selecting our next Police Chief?

  • Community engagement in this process requires meaningful opportunities to engage including but not limited to open forums with questions from the public, a transparent process, and members of the public enduring disparities on the hiring committee (248)
  • Reducing incarceration, focusing on rehabilitation, and reducing recidivism (76)
  • Review & publicly disclose candidates’ complaint and misconduct records, including lawsuits filed, as an individual and for previous departments prior (151) 

Please complete the survey HERE: https://engagebellingham.org/police-chief

 

Many of these bullet points were borrowed or adapted from:

https://www.acluhi.org/en/news/ten-questions-honolulus-next-chief-police

https://cops.usdoj.gov/pdf/taskforce/taskforce_finalreport.pdf

 

Tell Elected Officials Police Accountability is Non-Negotiable!

Update: On March 26, 2021, the Justice System Committee sent Blaine, Lynden, and Bellingham city executives and police chiefs the following letter signed by nearly 135 Whatcom County residents.

Riveters Collective police union contracts letter (1)