LFP leaders, residents comment on local policing at council meeting June 11

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Lake Forest Park City Council

By Tracy Furutani

The mayor, city council members, the police chief, and residents of Lake Forest Park made strong remarks condemning systemic racism, in a lengthy city council meeting last Thursday, June 11, 2020, held virtually on Zoom. 

“Let me make this very clear: Black Lives Matter,” said Chief of Police Mike Harden, while presenting the annual police department report, “they absolutely matter in Lake Forest Park.”

Mayor Jeff Johnson, in his presentation to the council, said, after noting that the city was already dealing with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the stay-safe order from the Governor, “But to be real honest, when I saw the knee on George Floyd’s neck that day and the Black Lives Matter protests started and then the riots and all the stuff that happened downtown I had to sit on the couch and say to myself ‘I don’t know if I can go anymore.’ 

The mayor continued, "It got to be overwhelming for me; it’s intense for a lot of people. It gets hard on me because when you’re mayor you do feel responsible for the citizens of your city.” But, he continued, “we [the leadership in LFP] are going to have to make some changes, and I’m going to be the first to admit I need to make changes.”
He concluded, “The city of Lake Forest Park will treat everybody with absolute justice, equity and respect, and provide safe community for all residents. Racial discrimination and injustices are unacceptable and will not be tolerated by anybody, including me or anybody on my staff. We must end systemic racism throughout this community and this country.”

Twelve comments from city residents, some self-identifying as persons of color, uniformly demanded the city take active anti-racist steps, including the acknowledgement of the city’s racist housing covenant history, and the persistence even today of racism and micro-aggressions towards people of color by other residents.

“Even at our beloved LFP Elementary where many well-meaning parents ignorantly take an active stance against inclusivity measures; changes around Halloween and other holiday celebrations…are but one example,” a couple of the commenters noted.

The mayor, the police chief and city council leaders had posted “A Renewed Call for Compassion” on June 4 on the city website, a few days after marches protesting the killing of George Floyd began in Seattle. In the post, the city leaders reaffirmed the principles of the Charter of Compassion which, in part, describe Lake Forest Park as a “welcoming, inclusive, and safe city”.

In response to a question by Councilmember Mark Phillips about the use of chokeholds and carotid holds by the LFP police, Harden responded, “I’m suspending the LVNR [lateral vascular neck restraint]. 

"The larger issue is the ongoing review of police use-of-force policies, he continued, “I don’t want to pull away less-than-lethal options for officers, if that option is safe and it’s proven, then we need to review it and understand it…why are we using it? What’s the purpose of it?”

The policy manual for the LFP Police Department is available on the city website.

When asked about “Eight Can’t Wait”, a national campaign to reform police procedures with eight policies to be implemented immediately, Harden said, “most of our agencies in this area have covered everything that’s in there already, but when I did a review, I can see how we’ve matched up, but I also see some language that we can actually tweak to be better and closer to that and it doesn’t harm our officers.”

At the same time, he continued, “I don’t want to be ‘hey, this social media campaign says we should do this’ and then we just go and do it. It’s got to be thoughtful and methodical and understand what’s the importance of it.”

Answering a question by Councilmember Semra Riddle about whether the LFP officers’ “duty to intervene” (one of the eight policies in Eight Can’t Wait) extended beyond city limits, Harden said, “anything that is written in our policy our officers are absolutely responsible for, regardless if they’re in this jurisdiction or any other jurisdiction. An officer sees another officer do something inappropriate, they will intercede and they will report it.”

Councilmember John Resha concluded the discussion by asking the police chief, “Don’t just invite community to the table: hear them, help them to lead us in the review of what we need to [review]. And your vision, as you reestablish it, needs to be not just the vision of the police department, but the vision of the community for our police department.”


Anonymous,  June 22, 2020 at 6:58 PM  

And yet, it's reported that not one of the council members nor the mayor have taken the time in their legislative careers to do a 4 hour ride along with a police officer in their city, to see what is happening at the ground level. If they wish to legislate and comment with real knowledge, then they should do a ride along with an officer in their agency. All city councils and mayors should do that, regardless of location. Most, if not all, don't. I challenge the LFP council members to do a ride along to see things.

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