PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County Sheriff Joe Nole said he wants to diversify an advisory group to his office during a two-hour panel discussion on race and law enforcement.
The forum was hosted by KPTZ Radio 91.9 FM on Thursday night.
“The previous sheriff organized a citizens advisory committee,” Nole said. “it’s an official committee that was approved of by the county commissioners and it’s made up of people from different parts of the county.
“I agree that I need to have POCs (people of color), people of different economic levels, criminal histories,” he added.
“I’d like to see it change to where we have more representation from the actual people who live in Jefferson County.”
The panel included members of the black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) community as well as local government and law enforcement officials. It was moderated by Darrell Thomas, a Jefferson County Probation Officer.
In addition to Nole, panelists consisted of Sabrina Hill, Cameron Jones, Victor Paz, Port Townsend Mayor Michelle Sandoval, and interim Police Chief Troy Surber. Paris Jade was set to be a panelist as well but was unable to attend the radio forum.
“The goal tonight, as discussed at length with the BIPOC panel you’ll be hearing from, is to center this conversation on the experiences of brown people in Jefferson County, to amplify their voices, which are often dismissed or silenced and in the words of one panelist, to burst the white bubble that is thinking we as a community are any less racist than other places,” said Kate Dean, Jefferson County District 1 commissioner.
Dean worked with the BIPOC panelists for over two months to put this forum together following the May killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and the protests that followed.
Much of the discussion was a question-and-answer session with Nole on a variety of topics. The central theme was how to make Jefferson County safer and more equitable for the BIPOC community.
Nole said his department is taking steps to make meaningful changes.
Among the training now required of deputies are classes in implicit bias, he said.
“I know this isn’t a lot, but it’s way better than what it has been,” Noles said.
“They are getting classes in implicit bias and that may seem like a baby step but it’s better than before. We are going to make sure that all of our officers, as a minimum, have had some kind of training like that,”he said.
Cameron Jones, a member of the Jefferson County chapter of Black Lives Matter, said that the sheriff’s office must understand its history and that of law enforcement in general as an inherently racist system.
“Honestly, it really doesn’t matter any kind of new training you have, any kind of new laws that are put in place, when the origin of law enforcement comes from this colonized, white supremacist paradigm,” Jones said.
”You really have to take a hardcore look at the systems in place to really make a permanent change in our structure and our society as a people and how we go about our business,” Jones said.
Nole was asked what he personally feels about the conversations that are being had about race and law enforcement nationally now.
“I’ve always thought everybody is created equal, everybody should have the same chances in life, everybody should be treated the same,” Nole said.
“I think at the end of the day everyone wants to have a community, everybody wants to have harmony and everyone wants to be protected and to be served,” Paz said in response.
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected]