Olympia community's role to be expanded under new Police Oversight Board recommendation


Olympia's Community Livability and Public Safety Committee voted to move to the city council the recommendation to create an independent Community Oversight Board, which enhances the community's role in oversight of the police. 

In May 2023, the city embarked on the Community Oversight of Law Enforcement initiative, which would create a model that improves transparency and accountability.  

On Wednesday, Stacey Ray, the city's Strategic Planning and Performance director, presented draft recommendations to the committee that were developed over the past year through a collaborative process with a community workgroup, Olympia Police District, and the Social Justice and Equity Commission.  

The recommendations call for establishing a Community Oversight Board that would work closely with the existing civilian police auditor to provide a community perspective and enhance transparency in the police oversight process.  

In the presentation, Ray explained the relationship between the proposed community board, the civilian police auditor, the OPD, and the city council in the new oversight system. She said that while each part would maintain independence within their role, they must also collaborate. "It's important balance between each of them maintaining independence within their role, but also at the same time collaborating, and both of those elements are necessary for it to be successful." 

The board would be appointed by the city council and advise them on oversight matters. Similarly, the auditor would be appointed by and accountable directly to the city council.  

Ray further explained that the parts of the system still need to be in relationship with each other. For example, the auditor needs access to data and information from OPD to do their auditing work. The auditor also needs community input from engagement with the community board, and the community board needs training and information from OPD to understand the current oversight system and police department operations.  

Ray highlighted that the OPD already has an existing multifaceted system of oversight in place. This includes the Office of Professional Standards within the department which handles use of force reviews and investigations of misconduct. The city has a hiredhired a civilian police auditor.  

Beyond local oversight, Ray noted there is also the regional Capital Metro Independent Investigation Team and the newly established Washington Office of Independent Investigations at the state level, and the State Criminal Justice Training Commission. She explained this existing system was considered in developing the recommendations to understand what elements were working well and where improvements could be made. 

Ray explained no external pressure for Olympia to implement additional oversight but said the initiative is an opportunity to work collaboratively in designing oversight that meets the needs of the community and enhances community trust and confidence in the police department. She emphasized the importance of addressing negative experiences and perceptions some community members still have of law enforcement.  

"We have a responsibility to consider how our processes and transparency can be improved, how we can increase education, trust, and competence in the department," the Strategic Planning director said.  

Ray underscored that the purpose of the recommendations is to build trust and legitimacy between the community and the police department by enhancing the community's role in oversight of the police.  

Some of the key enhancements proposed to achieve this include expanding community involvement, such as through the proposed community oversight board. The recommendations also aim to broaden the scope of reviews conducted by the civilian police auditor and make their reports more transparent. Additional goals are to make the oversight system and police department operations more easily understood by community members. The proposals seek to ensure the system is responsive to community concerns and works to resolve issues and complaints in a timely manner. 

The recommendation will move forward to a full city council study session on June 11.  


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  • Kruz81

    They should just appoint their officer driving around with a black power blm fist as his front plate for a few years. That's good oversight.

    Tuesday, May 28 Report this

  • Snevets

    Thank you for sharing. Sounds like good first steps.

    Wednesday, May 29 Report this