Published June 11 2020
Pledge advances broader community discussion on social justice
The Bellevue City Council is taking a fresh look at the police department’s public safety practices, and how it can better serve the community. The new pledge, signed by Mayor Lynne Robinson on behalf of the council, commits the city to the following actions:
- Review - police use of force policies.
- Engage - the community by including a diverse range of input, experiences and stories in the review.
- Report - the findings of the review to the community and seek feedback.
- Reform - police use of force policies.
“The disturbing events of the last two weeks have made it clear that systemic racism and injustice continue to permeate throughout our country, and that Bellevue needs to be a part of the solution,” said Mayor Robinson. “I urge the community to stand with us as we examine our actions and embark on this meaningful public safety review. We want all parts of the community to be a part of the conversation as we move forward.”
The police department’s ongoing community outreach efforts are consistent with the city’s Diversity Advantage initiative, which the City Council launched in 2014. The initiative’s guiding principles include a commitment to enriching the quality of life for all through promoting access, equity, inclusion, opportunity and understanding cultural competence. As part of that effort, city staff receive cultural competence training.
In 2016, Police Chief Steve Mylett formed police advisory councils that represent Bellevue’s African American, Muslim, Latino, LGBTQI, Interfaith and Asian/Pacific Islander residents. Each of these councils meets with the chief and other department staff on a routine basis to identify and address issues in police services.
In 2015, according to the U.S. Census update, Bellevue's population was evenly split between non-Hispanic whites and people of color, making the city one of the most diverse in Washington.
“I welcome this review and appreciate the ongoing support of the City Council and City Manager Brad Miyake,” Chief Mylett said. “The Bellevue Police Department has worked hard to engage with our communities of color, and this is an opportunity for a credible, Eastside-focused framework to go along with the call to action we all feel.”
As the city’s review of police practices gets underway led by the City Manager’s Office, residents will be invited to provide input in a variety of ways. Next steps, including updates to council, will be announced in the coming weeks.
“I appreciate Chief Mylett’s leadership and responsiveness to resident feedback, and our dedicated officers and staff who work hard to keep this city safe,” Mayor Robinson said. “I’ve seen firsthand their efforts to build community connections and de-escalate tense situations. I also want to recognize our residents who have joined in the peaceful protests and helped spark this process.”
“The City Council is uniquely positioned to help move this pledge forward, engage with our residents and businesses, and further the department’s review of its use of force policies and commit to reporting and implementing planned reforms. As a nationally accredited department built on the foundation of community policing, Bellevue Police are already a model for reforms that should be incorporated into other cities’ police departments. There are always opportunities for listening, learning and improving in our diverse, thriving community. I’m proud to live in and represent a city that sets the bar high for collaborative policing.”
- Deputy Mayor Jared Nieuwenhuis
"Our community has been deeply impacted by the injustices across the country that have culminated in the recent killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, and Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia, among many others. It's a sobering reminder that we must be vigilant about ensuring Bellevue is welcoming and fosters a sense of belonging. This means doing all we can as individuals and as a community to combat racism and racial injustice. Taking this pledge is a first step to creating meaningful change that improves the lives of blacks and people of color in our community. I support this pledge and invite our community to authentically engage to learn about racial injustice and its corrosive impacts."
- Councilmember Jeremy Barksdale
“I am saddened to see how Mr. George Floyd’s life was taken away. His last breath gave us new and renewed breath to continue what many people in this nation struggle for – the ever-vigilant fight for justice, equality and freedom.
Law enforcement is now the focus of attention. Our police department is under scrutiny. The Bellevue Police Department has always been the model of keeping the community safe and maintaining peace and order for the benefit of us who live, work and visit here. The dedicated men and women of the department are the pride of our community. There is, of course, room for improvement, especially when the community grows and values change. Although I can confidently say that Bellevue is a city always striving to get better, Mr. Floyd’s death is beckoning us to look harder and change sooner. The time is now.
"Therefore, I support the City Council pledge to ‘engage’ all diverse populations to review, report and have a direct role to reform relevant policies to strive for justice, equality and freedom, the symbols of this great nation!”
- Councilmember Conrad Lee
“I am very pleased that the City of Bellevue is fully engaging in the nationwide discussion about the proper role and scope of a police department in a city. I agree with Mayor Robinson's comments here as an assessment of where we are at this time. We will build on this platform and take a fresh look at what community policing means today and for the future, in light of the many legitimate and thoughtful requests from citizens of all color to do better and make honest and effective real changes to address the needs of the whole community.”
- Councilmember John Stokes
“I’m proud of Bellevue’s nationally accredited police department and the fact that much of their ongoing public safety work already incorporates the important themes advocated by peaceful protesters. The City Council’s pledge further demonstrates that Bellevue embraces proactive, community-based solutions. We are always looking for opportunities to improve and better serve our residents and businesses.”
- Councilmember Jennifer Robertson
“I thank the many community members who reached out with your thoughts and ideas. Please know that we heard you. Structural and systemic racism is real. It continues to devastate and negatively impact the quality of life of many black, indigenous and other people of color in our community. I stand united with my fellow councilmembers in signing this pledge; united in making Bellevue even better for our residents, workers and visitors. I am proud of our chief and our police officers, who risk their lives daily to keep us safe, and are continually open to being a part of the solution.
“While this pledge is focused on our police department, we must continue with a review of our city policies and systems, with input from those who have historically not been a part of the decision-making process. Only then will we eliminate racial disparities, heal racial divisions and build more equitable communities. Moving forward, I invite all of us to engage in this crucial and uncomfortable work to end structural racism and achieve racial equity, as Bellevue continues to serve our community with a culture of utmost respect, dignity and care. As a united Bellevue, we can and will lead the way during this unprecedented and momentous time.”
- Councilmember Janice Zahn