Chief Fehlman speaks with island community

It was an intimate and small gathering, but all were eagerly listening to the island’s police chief as he spoke frankly, yet politely, about the island’s youth.

Bainbridge Island Police Chief Jon Fehlman spoke with his fellow islanders as the Just Know Coalition hosted a community conversation Tuesday.

It was an intimate room for a small crowd. Attendees sat around a table at the Marge Williams Center, lined with cookies and coffee, and the chief at one end.

The Just Know Coalition was formed in 2003 in response to risky behaviors exhibited by island youth, and with the aim to support Bainbridge families.

The meeting between Fehlman and the coalition was a two-way street. The chief spoke as much as he listened.

“I live on the island, and I’m a father of five sons,” the chief began. “All with one woman — we just celebrated our 25th anniversary.”

The conversation moved between topics ranging from details on gun permits to the most prevalent crimes on the island — property crimes, according to Fehlman.

Most of the talk centered on the island’s youth.

“The stories my daughter hears in her class, there’s no difference than living in a ghetto,” one woman said. “But these kids are rich and they can bring in their lawyers.”

Others raised concerns about adolescent fighting and drugs.

Fehlman listened intently.

He suggested that more should be done to include youth in the island community. His ideas ranged from summer jobs for teens working for the police department, to ice cream rewards for youth caught doing good deeds.

Much was based on the belief that it takes a community to raise kids, and had heads nodding in agreement around the room.

“When I was a kid and

I did something at one end of the block and I lived at the other, I would be talked to by every house on my way home and my dad was waiting at home,” Fehlman said. But his thoughts didn’t end there.

“When it comes to the kids stuff, it’s crimes of boredom,” Fehlman said.

The chief talked about a program he hopes to start called “restorative justice.”

Instead of simply putting youth directly into the justice system after they are caught committing an offense, they enter into a program where multiple parties are involved; the victim, law enforcement, court representatives and the youth offender. Kids can have a chance to change their behavior without having a permanent mark on their record.

“It is one of the most accountable models to get young people to listen,” Fehlman said. “You want the behavior corrected and changed.”

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