At the Jan. 7 Kirkland City Council meeting, city manager Kurt Triplett provided an update on the aftermath of a controversial September 2019 arrest at the Kirkland Teen Union Building (KTUB).
The situation, which was addressed by YMCA officials at a Nov. 13 press conference in Seattle, culminated in officers arresting a 14-year-old boy.
Kirkland police received a call on Sept. 5 about petty thefts and were directed to KTUB. As shown on security footage released by the YMCA, two police officers enter KTUB and go into an unsurveilled room, with one officer soon emerging with his arms wrapped around the teen.
In what has been described as intense and traumatic force by organization officials, the boy was then swung by the officer and thrown on the ground, where his head was held down as he was handcuffed. Antoine Jackson, KTUB program director, said as he was trying to help de-escalate the situation, one of the officers used foul language against him and pushed him.
As the officers left the building, one of them pointed a Taser at another teen. While the footage contained no audio, the claims made by the YMCA were supported by the recordings. Jackson and the two teens are black. The arresting officers are white.
YMCA personnel subsequently requested a police investigation and a meeting with city officials. The organization also urged that the city of Kirkland work to enact protocols fostering more safety and respect.
“We understand that it is human nature to experience events differently based on our backgrounds and circumstances,” stated a city news statement released after the incident. “We take very seriously the ways in which this event was experienced by the KTUB staff and youth. Kirkland is committed to continuing an ongoing dialogue to increase understanding of our differing perspectives and make any necessary changes to create deeper, stronger relationships.”
On Dec. 20, police chief Cherie Harris released a statement in concurrence with final report conclusions, which found that the officer’s use of force was within the department’s policy and procedures.
But Harris, who penned the statement with Triplett, noted in the release that the findings didn’t mean the department or the city found the handling of the situation satisfactory.
“We understand that the incident at KTUB had a significant emotional impact on KTUB staff and teens, and many others,” the release states. “As leaders, this outcome is not acceptable to us, nor is the fact that there is perception of racial bias in the police department in any part of our community. We want to prevent such events in the future.”
For transparency, the report has been published in its entirety on the city’s website at bit.ly/35RPcd7.
Triplett said that the city’s neighborhood resource officer and school resource officer have been having “positive” conversations with KTUB about how to work toward mending the relationship among the police department, city staff and kids who use KTUB.
“That’s an ongoing process,” Triplett noted.
The city manager said that staff has also reached out to YMCA leadership to gauge what Kirkland can do. He said at the Jan. 7 council meeting that since YMCA is still in the assessment process, the city is waiting on next steps.
Staff is also working on a protocol update, according to Triplett.
“Most importantly, what we’ve also done is we’ve put together a draft agreement with KTUB and the YMCA about the expectations of when the police department enters KTUB, how it will operate,” Triplett said.
He added that the draft is based on what has been used by Redmond Friends of Youth (FOY) facilities and the Redmond Police Department, which has been well-received by the YMCA. Although the draft is yet to be finalized, Triplett said the city has gotten positive feedback from KTUB staff so far.
The city of Kirkland also aims to create a similar protocol for comparable resources like FOY and the Boys and Girls Club, according to Triplett.
Triplett finished his update by sharing that, internally, the city is in the process of looking into what investments and trainings can be put into place for the police department and city employees.
“We’re continuing to move on all fronts,” he said. “The conclusion of the investigation is not the end of our work.”
To watch the full update, go to the council meeting recording online at bit.ly/36YCxXc.