Many people and departments across the County are doing the critically important work to create both safe AND just communities for all our residents.
As you may remember, our Criminal Justice Workgroup (made up of leaders from the Prosecutor’s Office, the Sheriff’s Department, the Department of Assigned Council, and the Executive’s Office) has been providing both transparency and reform recommendations to promote a more just system. Previously, they have issued two important reports that provide crucial insight into the criminal justice system. The first report reviewed key policies and procedures as well as an analysis of arrest data Countywide, and the second report was a comprehensive review of the use of force by the Sheriff’s Department. I wrote about this work in a recent blog. These are important first steps in our effort to create a more just County.
These reports have already resulted in key reforms, including: body-worn and dash cameras (fully implemented); a joint Executive-Council letter to the Legislature requesting criminal justice terms be clarified (like “physical force”); and most recently a recommendation, from the Prosecutor, Sheriff and myself, for the Council to adopt the Workgroup’s proposal for a Civilian Review Board. All three of these reforms stem from the principle that transparency both builds trust in community and promotes confidence in our law enforcement’s actions.
And the Criminal Justice Workgroup is far from done! I am looking forward to their next report, which should be available shortly.
At the same time, we are working to create a safer community. You may have heard anecdotes and seen news stories about the rise in crime over the last year both in the region and Pierce County. And we do have the data to prove it. In nearly every category — homicide, assault, car theft, etc. – crime is up significantly.
That’s why last week I brought forward two proposals to help reduce crime.
In the joint letter with the Council, we have formally asked our Pierce County Legislative Delegations to support three critical revisions to laws that were passed last Session. Sadly, some of these well-intended laws were fraught with unintended consequences that made it harder for our deputies to catch and arrest criminals. Basically, they both demoralized our deputies and emboldened the criminals. Correcting these laws is crucial to addressing the crime in our community.
Sadly, we have seen many deputies leave the County – some to other agencies, some to other states, and some to other professions. If this trend were to continue, our core responsibility of protecting our community would be compromised. That is why the Sheriff and I proposed retention bonuses to keep our committed law enforcement professionals serving our County residents – as well as attract new deputies to the County. This proposal needs to be bargained with the Deputies Guild and the funding approved by the Council.
You can learn more about these recent proposals here.
While we’ve made criminal justice a high priority, we are also focusing on broadening economic justice, so that everyone has an opportunity to prosper in Pierce County.
I’ve previously written in this blog about how we have used some of our federal CARES and American Rescue Plan Act funds to create a business accelerator program for new and budding small business owners, with an emphasis on Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and veteran entrepreneurs. Our goal is to have 12 classes completed by Fall.
The next step of this effort is the “navigators” program, which is kicking off next week. With several key community partners, we will be able to support many more small business owners from our communities of color and rural areas. I had the chance to meet with the lead “navigators” last week representing several of our partners: the Korean Women’s Association, the Asia Pacific Cultural Center, the Black Collective, Mi Centro, Business IMPACT NW and PLU.
I can’t wait to share some of the success stories with you in future blogs!
Thanks for reading,