Olympia to create law enforcement oversight model, seeking co-designers


Olympia's Community Livability and Public Safety Committee was briefed on the Community Oversight of Law Enforcement project, which would create a model that improves transparency and accountability.

At the committee meeting on Wednesday, May 24, City Assistant Manager Debbie Sullivan said the project would involve research, a co-design process, communication, outreach, and community engagement to achieve its purpose and outcomes, including:

  • Accessible complaint process with minimal barriers to filing
  • Fair, thorough, and objective investigations without bias
  • Confidence and trust in the police department
  • Increased transparency and accountability
  • Improved policies, practices, and training using data
  • Better public understanding of the police department

According to Sullivan, community engagement is crucial in developing recommendations. The project will start with evaluating the current police oversight model and assessing if it still meets the community's needs.

In November, the city made a request for proposal (RFP) for consultation services to help the city council's appointed 11-member Social Justice and Equity Commission develop a model for civilian oversight of the Olympia Police Department.

Co-design process 

Sam Martin of SDM Consulting said the project is taking a particular approach that keeps community members at the core and use their knowledge and expertise. Another method is to have a constructive dialogue across diverse stakeholders.

Martin said they seek to co-create an oversight model with all stakeholder groups. They would examine and evaluate various oversight models that address the needs of marginalized communities, including racial minorities, individuals experiencing mental health crises, and those with disabilities.

SDM Consulting would begin its research by analyzing the work of the Olympia Police auditor and the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, which has established oversight laws in various municipalities.

The research areas include appointing authority, powers and duties, staffing, reporting requirements, community oversight structure, and composition and authority.

"We intend to combine the co-design with the research to ensure that we bring together the best of both worlds. When we link community members, we will make sure that they have access to all this research and data in a digestible and usable way to bolster their expertise to help them form this process," Martin told the committee members.

The co-design groups would be composed of:

  • Community co-designers – community members with varying experiences with law enforcement who can help build a community-centered model from the perspective of folks with diverse lived experiences.
  • Olympia Police Department co-designers – a variety of officer representatives from differing shifts and levels of leadership within the department who can help apply the challenges and needs experienced by officers to building an oversight model.
  • Social Justice and Equity Commission co-designers – the aim is to bring an equity perspective to the co-design process and apply their learning about the city's current oversight model to co-designing.

For the first phase of the process, they would work with the Social Justice and Equity Commission, OPD, and recruit community members to do the work with them.

They will launch individual co-design sessions in each stakeholder group.

For phase 2, the three co-design groups will collaborate to share their concerns and ideas about police accountability measures in Olympia. They will integrate research and analysis of other models into the co-design process.

For phase 3, there would be a large group assembly. The co-design team will present their recommendations and gather feedback from the community on the developed model.

Co-design recruitment

Strategic Planning and Performance Manager Stacey Ray said they are looking for eight to 10 community members to be part of the process. She said they want folks from marginalized communities.

"We are trying to expand our level of engagement to the folks that may have had a history of distrust with the city or have not had involvement in decision-making or planning process," Ray said.

To read about current Police Oversight in Olympia, and to get contact information about the proposal, click here.


2 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • Honestyandrealityguy

    We need to figure out how to get a solid police force for the betterment of our society. Building unreasonable roadblocks that are viewed differently by many has helped all crime grow.

    Wednesday, May 31 Report this

  • Southsoundguy

    Why not spend the money on effort to solve more crimes?

    Thursday, June 1 Report this