Below is a joint statement released from Kirkland Police Chief Cherie Harris and city manager Kurt Triplett.
On Dec. 20, Kirkland Police Chief Cherie Harris issued a final report for Investigative Complaint PO #2019-0027 related to the arrest of a young suspect by the Kirkland Police Department at the Kirkland Teen Union Building (KTUB) on Sept. 5. The report is available in its entirety on the city website. Below is a summary of Harris’s conclusions:
• After carefully reviewing the investigative file, including witness statements, officer reports, 911 calls, KTUB video surveillance recordings, radio traffic and computer aided dispatch (CAD) logs, Harris determined that officer’s use of force was found to be within department policy and procedures, professional training, applicable law and was not motivated by race.
• Harris has determined that one officer’s use of profanity violated department policy and this has been dealt with in accordance to the police guild collective bargaining agreement.
We recognize that there may be some members of the community who will not agree with these conclusions. We appreciate that the YMCA brought this incident to our attention so that we can learn from it and improve. We understand that the incident at KTUB had a significant emotional impact on KTUB staff and teens, and many others. 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. Like many other organizations, we may not always do things perfectly, but we are committed to always working toward success. We want to prevent such events in the future as much as possible. In partnership with our officers and the city council, we will continue to identify real, tangible actions that will strengthen our relationships and trust with the public. As mayor Sweet pledged at the Nov. 19 council meeting, “If mistakes are made, we will fix them. If improvements are identified, we will implement them.”
There are several actions already underway. Chief Harris has reaffirmed with the department that the principles of “contact and cover” could have resulted in interactions with staff and other teens that might have been different. This incident has already been reviewed and discussed at police command staff meetings and patrol briefings. Officers have provided thoughtful comments and insights on how similar incidents could be handled in the future. One important suggestion we will explore is to create venues for officers to provide police perspectives to the community on how they are trained and the challenges they face in volatile situations. We also want to use these events to partner with the YMCA on how the police respond to incidents at KTUB. There is an immediate need to restore trust between KTUB staff, youth participants and officers. Kirkland police officers have already met with YMCA staff at KTUB to begin reestablishing a cooperative relationship. We also believe it is vital that officers and staff come to mutual agreement on a written understanding for responding to incidents involving youth at KTUB. The agreement would start with the premise that in most cases, police would make contact with an adult staff member in charge and seek assistance when entering KTUB. There are important public safety exceptions to this proposed practice such as when officers are responding to a 911 call from within KTUB. We have shared a draft written understanding with KTUB and the YMCA for their review and comments. Our desire is that the conclusion of this investigation will catalyze ongoing efforts between KTUB and the Kirkland police to make sure that a stronger relationship is developed between the two agencies.
We are evaluating similar written understandings for other organizations that serve young people, such as Friends of Youth and the Boys and Girls Club. The City of Kirkland recognizes that every interaction gives us an opportunity to learn and grow. We remain committed to our efforts to support safe and healthy spaces for Kirkland teens.
The events at KTUB highlight that we must always strive to improve the relationships that we continue to build between police, Kirkland’s youth and members of the community who have experienced marginalization. Improvement starts with introspection and communication. Please know that the city of Kirkland and the police department are listening to all concerns and we are eager to engage directly through mutual respect and collaboration. Our goal is to better understand our differing perspectives and overcome shared challenges, because what profoundly impacts part of the community, ultimately impacts the entire community.
Even as we tackle this difficult work, we want to thank the exceptional men and women of the Kirkland Police Department for the diligent work they do to keep our community safe and the leadership and staff at YMCA and KTUB for their dedicated work with youth in our community. These events highlight how complex the job is and remind us how fortunate we are that we have a police department and community leaders that always strives to learn, connect and improve. The city and the KPD are steadfast in our resolve to keep our community safe, welcoming and inclusive for all.