I have had the honor of being the Chief of Police for the City of Hoquiam for 14 years. During my 32 years in law enforcement, starting as a reserve officer in Oakville, I learned the value of community policing and how it is our job as peace officers to help make the community stronger — because a strong community is a safe community.
This is the basis of our department mission statement and is a guiding principal in all we do at Hoquiam PD.
Our five Department Focus Points reflect and support our mission by providing direct guidance in addressing issues important to citizens and our responsibilities to our community:
1. Target drug dealers and drug locations;
2. Proactive traffic safety enforcement and education;
3. Chronic nuisance abatement;
4. Responding to persons in crisis; and
5. Operation of a safe, clean and efficient City Jail.
The video I watched this week from Minneapolis, and asked each of our department members to watch, with three Minneapolis officers holding down a handcuffed African-American man on the pavement next to a patrol car, with one officer with his knee on George Floyd’s neck for eight minutes until Mr. Floyd died, was one of the most disturbing things I have ever witnessed.
I commend the swift action of the Minneapolis police chief in terminating all four officers — either because they participated in this use of force, or because they failed to stop it.
As a chief of police, I seldom weigh in on the actions of other officers, of other departments, in other communities because I was not there. They are not our officers, it is not our department and it is not our community. I don’t feel I should tell another community what to do any more than we want them to dictate our lives in Hoquiam.
I can only hope those other communities do the right thing.
But there is no way to rationalize, justify, explain or comprehend the actions of the Minneapolis officers, especially the white officer who held Mr. Floyd down with his knee on his neck, until he died. This was not proper police procedure; this was not an acceptable application of training; this was not justified; and this was not humane.
In my experience working and living in Grays Harbor as a peace officer, I have seen many things. I have experienced trauma personally, witnessed trauma to our officers and shared in the trauma to the citizens and families we work so hard to serve every day. We see every aspect of the impact of crime, to include dealing with the suspect through the criminal justice system and trying to console victims and their families.
There have been so many incidents over the years that I am at a loss today to often understand why human beings treat others the way we do. The actions of the Minneapolis officers being yet another.
Police officers are people and we get it wrong sometimes. But in the millions of interactions between officers and citizens each day in this country, most of the time we get it right — things like this (thankfully) do not happen.
But yet again, it has happened. Now this incident in Minneapolis, compounded by rioting, looting and arson in the very neighborhood where Mr. Floyd lived and was killed, just drives another wedge between the people who wear a badge and the people we try so hard to serve.
We are not at war with our community. We have a job to do, often a job no one else wants to do, and we do it to the best of our ability every day, night, holiday and weekend of the year.
As peace officers, we understand no one likes to get a traffic ticket and being arrested can be humiliating. Our actions cause some people not to like us — we get it and we live with it because we believe we are serving the community and helping to make it stronger by taking a unified stance against crime, violence, disorder and disregard for the law.
We enforce the laws your elected representatives pass. We understand sometimes people don’t like it — that is okay.
What is not okay is what happened this week in Minneapolis. The actions of one white police officer against one handcuffed citizen of minority will resonate across our country for years to come. Mayor Ben Winkelman heard from citizens who shared their concerns about the Minneapolis incident the day after it happened.
Albeit thousands of miles from Hoquiam, it makes a difference here, too.
The actions of this officer, and his apparent disregard and disrespect for basic human life, has damaged the relationship between the community and the police as well as endangered the lives of every peace officer because we rely on the voluntary cooperation and support of citizens.
Without your support, we are not safe. We cannot do this job without you.
As the Chief of Police for the Hoquiam Police Department, I am proud to hold our department to the highest standards of professional law enforcement. We are an accredited agency through the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs and we are constantly learning, training and improving.
We conduct annual management reviews, to include every use of force incident involving our officers (which is defined as any force beyond compliant handcuffing) as well as impartial policing as reflected in the enforcement action we take. We review all enforcement, to include civil drug seizures and forfeitures, to make sure no race, ethnicity, age, gender or other protected class is being targeted or singled-out.
All of our leadership team, including the deputy chief, our five sergeants and our office manager lead by example and make sure we are doing the right things for the right reasons every shift of every day.
Our department members have grown-up in a culture over the last 14-years to understand there is a difference between what we”CAN DO” and what we “SHOULD DO.”
I only wish for Mr. Floyd, his family, the citizens of Minneapolis as well as the men and women of the Minneapolis Police Department, on Monday these four officers would have recognized the same.
I am confident they will be held accountable for their actions.