Diversity outreach continues for Seattle, Tacoma police departments

SEATTLE - Two of the state's biggest cities are making a push to add more diversity and inclusiveness. A meeting in Tacoma on Thursday focused on recruiting more diversity to the police force. Another meeting in Seattle pushed for more diverse community voices to be heard.

The meeting at the Garfield Community Center in Seattle was held by the African-American Community Advisory Council. This is a monthly meeting where they hear concerns from the community, or learn different aspects or protocol from Seattle Police.

For example, the meeting had a presentation by SPD on the use of police-worn body cameras. According to Seattle Police, 567,000 police body cam videos have been uploaded to the cloud, which equates to 136,000 hours of video.

Some at the meeting learned for the first time that in order for police to record at your home, they need to ask your permission unless there is a crime taking place or a warrant is being served, they said.

SPD also provided updates about crime in the neighborhoods.

For example, according to Seattle Police, in the East Precinct neighborhoods, property crime continues to be a problem, specifically in the First Hill area. That crime has gone up 2% since 2018, they said.

However, physical crimes like assault, rapes and robbery have gone down 13% since 2018.

The chairperson for the council said that in order for change to happen, more people need to attend these meetings.

"Sometimes it gets heated, and sometimes, like tonight it gets pretty mellow. But it’s a place where the community can have a voice," said Victoria Beach, chairperson of the African-American Advisory Council.

On Thursday, the Tacoma Police Department held a focus group geared toward young minority adults aged 18-35 years old. The goal is to learn how to effectively encourage people in underrepresented areas to apply for law enforcement careers, and stay there.

"The key is really having a long-term strategic plan for not just the recruitment of individuals, but the retention and making sure it's a quality experience, especially when you have law enforcement or any agency, that has been traditionally underrepresented," said L. Denice Randle, executive director of Peace Community Center.

Organizers of the focus group said hearing young minority voices is vital to shaping the department now, and into the future.

Beyond these two cities, the Washington State Patrol through its Strategic Plan for 2019-2022 made an objective to have a qualified and diverse workforce that reflects the population.