BI police chief explains sexual assault protocol

Like other police departments around the country, Bainbridge Island’s is under scrutiny.

But instead of police brutality, it is being looked at because of how it handles sexual assault cases. City leaders have received complaints, as has Police Chief Joe Clark.

Clark told the City Council during a Zoom online meeting Tuesday night that he has talked to students individually and at several youth-led rallies. “Sexual assault is complex… sensitive,” he said.

There are three things his department needs to make sure it does every time there is a report of sexual assault, he said.

1. Make sure the victim feels safe during interviews. Make sure they have an advocate if they want one.

2. Better explain the process, next steps. Open the lines of communication. Give them options. “It’s important to give some control back to the victim,” he said.

3. Connect them to support services in the community.

Clark said both BPD detectives received online and in-person training on best practices in June. He said the department needs to be careful about the language used in reports.

He emphasized the need to help victims get the support they need. “What’s feasible for us?” he asked.

He also said police want to reduce the number of interviews. “We want to minimize the number of times the event is re-lived,” he said.

The council also discussed the process of naming applicants to city committees. There was a request by one committee to limit the mayor’s power in the process.

“If there is majority agreement on the panel there’s no reason the mayor should override it,” City Manager Morgan Smith said.

The council still gets final approval.

If there is no a consensus on the panel, the mayor would share that with the council before their vote. If the person is not approved, the panel would have to pick someone else.

Councilmember Kol Medina said that process is not new to him. “When I was mayor I would defer to the panel,” he said, adding they were the ones who would have to work with the individual.

However, he added, there must be collaboration with the council. “It’s an advisory committee” to the council. “We have to have a say.”

He added even the council doesn’t get to pick its members. “The public chooses our members,” he said.

Deputy Mayor Joe Deets thought the entire discussion was unnecessary. “It’s a solution looking for a problem,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mayor Leslie Schneider said, “I’m glad to be off the hook.”

Also, a subcommittee of the planning commission and council gave their recommendations for recruitment and selection of planning commission vacancies.

The five ideas are:

•Add one additional planning commissioner and councilmember to the interview panel. They want to bring more voices to the table because of the importance of selecting well qualified candidates. In the long term, possibly a broader panel would be needed.

•Have a separate announcement/advertisement for the planning commission. Currently, the public is invited to apply for all committees through a generic announcement. The planning commission item should provide detail related to its role and nature of its work.

•Extend an invitation to the Race Equity Task Force to provide a member to participate in the interviews of planning commission candidates.

•Schedule longer interviews. 10 or 15 minutes each is inadequate for this important commission.

•Expand the outreach. The subcommittee believes that outreach will be key to increasing diversity among applicants.

To be more all-inclusive, the council excluded some prior language concerning applicant qualifications but added language to encourage racial and economic diversity. The council will vote on the ordinance Aug. 25.

Also, the council voted to resume reinforcement of the plastic bag ban Sept. 1.