By Jackie Fender
If you haven’t heard, Tacoma’s Adult Civics Happy Hour (ACHH) is using informal meet-ups to educate, advocate and encourage civic engagement. The temptation of happy hour helps make talking policy a little more appealing. On September 11, folks filled the Pacific Brewing Co. space for the fourth ACHH gathering with special attention to the subject, Police, Policing and Policy.
Washington State Teacher of the Year, Nate Bowling served as moderator with guest panelists including Public Information Officer of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department Ed Troyer, ACLU Lawyer Vanessa Hernandez and Shannon McMinimee, Assistant Super Intendent of HR of the Yakima School District.
You can rewatch the event on Facebook or listen to the audio of it on the Move to Tacoma podcast. Or, if you just want a quick run-down of who said what and what happened, we’re here for you. (Note: Timecodes are based on the Facebook video, not the podcast)
One: The “State of the Union of law enforcement and community relations”
At Timecode 39:17, the conversation dug right in by acknowledging the current state of affairs on a national level then hyper-focusing on issues locally. Bowling asked for each panelists’ “State of the Union, for lack of a better term, of law enforcement and community relations in 2017.” Troyer began with his stance from within the police force focusing on how Pierce County is succeeding in its efforts to do better than other regions. “A lot of things that are going on around the country, are not happening here,” Troyer stated, though he acknowledged that there are problems in the system, specifically the approach to care for those with mental health issues. Some panelists and folks on Twitter didn’t necessarily appreciate this approach.
Q: “What do you think about [national problem]? County PIO: “Well my department doesn’t do that.” Over and over. #ACHH253
— Joe Izenman (@izenmania) September 12, 2017
This shocks me to hear… “Things going on around the country <in police/citizen relations> aren’t happening here” – Ed Troyer #achh253
— Marguerite ⏳ (@Marguerit) September 12, 2017
Two: 1 in 3 will be arrested in their lifetime in the United States.
At 45:30, Hernandez informed the audience that “1 out of 3 people will be arrested in their lifetime in the US.” These statistics are “historically unprecedented,” she said, and proof that the systems are not working. The crowd erupted in a hearty applause with Twitter rippling with Vanessa Hernandez admiration. (During introduction, Bowling did set lofty expectations by referring to her as “the mother of dragons.”)
I want to be Vanessa Hernandez when I grow up. #ACHH253
— r a c h e l (@racheldrechsel) September 12, 2017
Three: Relationships between community and law enforcement.
At 48:32, the panel began to discuss how to rebuild trust between the community and law enforcement officials. Troyer’s use of the term “felons,” to describe people who have committed felonies generated pushback from Hernandez and caused more ripples on social media. Troyer then spoke about the importance of building a relationship with the kids and schools, educators and community members.
— grant ruby (@grantruby) September 12, 2017
— Kenny Coble (@KennyCoble) September 12, 2017
The panel discussed the importance of training officers to respond appropriately to crisis intervention as guardians and servants of our communities both in our neighborhoods and academic settings. Community engagement, civil oversight, law enforcement training and upholding policies weave throughout the conversation. Ultimately, the dialogue both among panelists and on Twitter reflected that at the core of concerns is how law enforcement might be failing in supporting several specific groups including youth, POC and those with mental illness and how the community can advocate in a change of policies and systems that are in place.
At 1:09:00, McMinimee laid out the use of force on school end and said that even when staff understand policies, the policies in place are only as good as the self-reporting. “When you’re 12 and handcuffed in class it stays with you.”
Four: What are our rights to record a police officer?
At 1:26:00 mark, the panel began to discuss a hot topic on a national level, the rights of a citizen to videotape officers. Hernandez said that the law states that a citizen can lawfully tape in a public space and opine, so long as you aren’t obstructing. Private spaces differ as the property owner can both request you not document and remove you from their property if you choose to violate their request. Things get more complicated at airports and borders.
Law enforcement not allowed to ask you to stop or punish you in any way for filming police encounters. #ACHH253
— GRACE (@graceisdr) September 12, 2017
At 1:43:00 the Q&A began, presenting questions from both audience members and livestream viewers on Twitter using #ACHH253. Mental health training and advocacy are the first of the topics they explore, followed by community building and how we build community and systematic change. McMinimee implores listeners, “Elect officials and aspiring electives who care about the topics.” At 1:51:23 the Shame Bell is rung for the first time when Hernandez used “where do you stand on civil asset forfeiture?” as an example of what one might ask a local elected official. Twitter chimed in with helpful examples.
“Show me what your budget is, and you’ll show me what your priorities are.” #ACHH253
— abbygaloshes (@abbygaloshes) September 12, 2017
— grant ruby (@grantruby) September 12, 2017
Six: What should we walk away with?
In closing, at timecode 2:11:20 each panelist touch on what they hope everyone will consider when walking away from ACHH which include advocacy and civic engagement, the strides we’ve taken so far and continued efforts locally on all levels.