Over the last year, the Olympia Police Department has had the pleasure of working with the Black Alliance of Thurston County to engage our community in meaningful conversations about the difficult, yet essential, topics of bias, policing and community trust.
Titled Community Cafes and billed as “Courageous Conversations,” three events took place over the year. Each event was attended by over 100 community members and a variety of police officers, corrections officers, and police department staff. Participants from the police department and the public listened to learn from each other, instead of listening to react. At each event, the conversations were forthright and significant as both police and community members gained a thoughtful understanding of what it means to be a community and what our community expects of their police department.
Following the Community Café of October 12th one community member wrote the following:
“I do not hesitate to acknowledge commendable actions. Last evening’s Courageous Conversation was an excellent forum. It was smart and effective… We each have a role in rebuilding that trust and it too will take steady, intentional, bold and subtle incremental changes. Thank you, Chief Roberts, for being both a leader and a player on this journey.”
And another attendee wrote:
“Last night’s Black Alliance of Thurston County and OPD-hosted community café was the most successful I’ve ever seen…the evening started with a panel of the officers explaining one by one what they’d learned from the department’s implicit bias training and how it’s changed their approach to the job and the community. They also shared how it affected their conversations with their families at home. The evening then turned to a more traditional community café format and there were some real connections and genuine listening. I’ve never seen anything like it…I’m both hopeful and impressed.”
Our partnership with the Black Alliance also helped our department gain funding for important training for our staff. The Olympia City Council set aside nearly $300,000 specifically for police training in 2016. We are pleased to announce that our Officers and staff completed training in Fair and Impartial Policing, Crisis Intervention Training, and Blue Courage Training this year all of which were designed to help our employees recognize the needs of our community, clarify our purpose and shape our culture.
Chief Roberts stated,
“We are at a time in our history, in our profession, where leaders need to be courageous and stand up for what is right so we can move forward. I am proud to lead a purpose driven organization with many courageous people.”
We are pleased that the Black Alliance of Thurston County chose to partner with us in creating these truly courageous conversations. We are honored to be your police department and part of your community. We look forward to more meaningful engagements in the future.