“There was no evidence that the officers’ interactions with subjects of color differed from their interactions with white subjects,” Tara Parker, Olympia police auditor, asserted that during the city council meeting yesterday,
Parker delivered a summary of her office’s accomplishments as an independent investigator on police-related incidents.
Olympia’s city council recently passed an ordinance expanding the police auditor’s duty to look into all incidents where police used force, which include using handcuffs on suspects.
In her 17-page report, Parker revealed that there have been 59 incidents where police used force during 2021: with 41 involving white male suspects; 11 concerning white female suspects; 4 with black male suspects; one instance with a black female suspect; an incident involving an Asian male; and another with a Native American suspect
Caucasians make up 82.1% of Olympia’s population, with African Americans amounting to 2.6% and Asians totaling 7.1%.
Parker admitted that while there seems to be a disparity between the city’s racial demographic and the cases involving people of color, she said that such a small data set could not show conclusive evidence of bias happening during these confrontations.
“Can we infer bias on the [police] department based on the disparity?” Parker asked rhetorically. “The experts have all basically said we can’t.”
Parker also noted that she would pay extra attention if an incident involved a person of color and that she would note if there was any difference in how the case was handled.
“Which is not to suggest the others closely,” she clarified.
Individuals in Crisis
The police auditor also noted that most incidents involving use of force dealt with confrontations involving “individuals in crisis.” which are usually dealt with by the city’s crisis intervention units, but are sometimes not enough.
Parker added that in the past six months, police have made sure that the crisis intervention units are on the scene before considering use of force.
Mayor Pro-tempore Clark Gilman acknowledged that most police interventions dealt with people in crisis, citing conversations with “long-experienced officers.”
“They have very seldom encountered a really sane criminal mastermind,” Gilman pointed out. “That’s not a common occurrence.
The police auditor recommended continuing de-escalation training for officers to deal with the trend.
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