Virtual Police Town Hall set for Sept. 30

Chief Joe Clark plans to address use of force policy and engage in dialogue with public

The Bainbridge Island Police Department will be holding a virtual town hall at 6 p.m. Sept. 30.

The event was announced and discussed at last week’s City Council study session where police chief Joe Clark talked about giving the local community a chance to address their concerns and ask questions about the department.

“With COVID(-19), we haven’t been able to get out as much and meet with the community so I’m looking at this as an opportunity to introduce myself to the community, talk about my thoughts and observations about the department, and where I see us going,” Clark said. “I want to start looking ahead to 2021. What I’m really looking for is community input to help shape where we should be going. We want to make sure as many folks can participate as possible.”

Clark said the contents of the town hall would involve a presentation about the work the department has done this year, an update on the department’s use of force policy, and leave enough time for the public to engage in dialogue with the chief.

Mayor Leslie Schneider said: “My goal from the beginning was to not have it be public comment but be public dialogue. I think it does help to put out some strong expectations so that there is fairness, and we don’t have a few people dominating the conversation.”

Schneider also addressed the potential topic of defunding police being brought up.

“I would say that topic doesn’t have to be off-limits for this particular town hall, but at the same time, we could look at that topic as sort of gathering people’s concerns and questions about that,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to spend fifty percent of our time talking about defunding the police but it wouldn’t hurt to hear from people about what their concerns are.”

City staff and councilmembers then discussed the formatting of the questions, public comment and dialogue portions of the town hall. Some wanted commenting sections for each topic addressed. Councilmember Kirsten Hytopoulos did not.

“I actually think that will not utilize the time well,” Hytopoulos said. “I think if you break up public comment that much, you won’t get very much with that many transitions. If you want the kind of dialogue that I think people are looking for…I think you need one chunk of public comment… I think someone like the mayor should facilitate the dialogue between the chief and the public.”

Another key point was brought up by councilmember Kol Medina, who questioned the short length of the town hall.

“It strikes me as just not long enough,” he said. “Forty-five minutes for a public Q&A on this topic does not seem long enough, and I really think it needs to be longer.”

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