Sequim police chief Bill Dickinson speaks at a Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce meeting Tuesday. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Sequim police chief Bill Dickinson speaks at a Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce meeting Tuesday. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Sequim police chief talks about changing attitudes toward police

Bill Dickinson tells Sequim Chamber meeting he’s seen even local attitudes toward law enforcement shift in recent months.

SEQUIM — Sequim police chief Bill Dickinson invoked a 19th century British statesman to explain local law enforcement philosophy and a critical chasm in American society in 2016.

One of the hallmarks of an ethical police force that Sir Robert Peel popularized in 1829 is that the ability of the police to perform their duties is “dependent upon public approval of police existence, actions, behavior and the ability of the police to secure and maintain public respect” — a matter of growing concern nationally, Dickinson told the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce audience on Tuesday.

National opinion toward law enforcement as a whole is varied, but Dickinson said he’s seen even local attitudes toward law enforcement change in recent months, following a series of court cases and protests about police action across the United States.

“It’s hard right now. There are spouses of police officers all across America right now telling [their spouses], ‘Get out of it,’ ” Dickinson said of the profession.

“We in law enforcement have lost a lot of confidence in the community. Fortunately, not everyone has lost confidence in us.”

Mistrust is forming toward police departments across the country for a number of reasons, Dickinson told the Sequim group, from skepticism regarding ethical hiring practices to what is seen as poor police management, to sensationalized stories in national media organizations and on social media sites.

But much of that mistrust has little foundation, Dickinson said, both locally and across Washington state.

Police officers in this state go through the civil service exam process, a move that Dickinson said is aimed at removing possible corruption via political appointments.

Officers-to-be go through a thorough vetting process and background check along with drug test, medical exams, a lie detector test and more, he said, along with completing 720 hours of training at the Basic Law Enforcement Academy in Burien, followed by three months under a training officer.

“I think the process in Washington is pretty thorough,” Dickinson said.

Tests don’t measure everything, he noted, including the intangibles such as patience and courage and intuition.

Tests also cannot guarantee how officers will change during a career, Dickinson noted. Police officers are not unlike soldiers who, after serving in a war zone, can be fundamentally changed by the experience.

“In the end, police officers are human beings,” Dickinson said. “I think we have to accept that [change] is going to happen.”

Additionally, Dickinson noted, residents in Sequim and Clallam County can make a change if it’s needed.

“I’m appointed. If I do something bad … I’m gone,” Dickinson said.

“It’s a somewhat similar situation with the Clallam County Sheriff position. The sheriff is elected so voters have absolute control.

“It’s a good thing, I think, to retain local control,” he said.

For more information on the Sequim Police Department, see http://tinyurl.com/PDN-sequimpd or call 360-683-7227.

________

Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at[email protected].

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