Community calls for police accountability at Poulsbo council meeting

It was a full house at Poulsbo City Hall on July 10, the first Poulsbo City Council meeting since a fatal July 3 police shooting at Muriel Iverson Williams Waterfront Park.

The meeting opened with comments from Mayor Becky Erickson regarding the incident.

“It has been a tragic week, it’s tragic for everyone. For a family that has lost a loved one, for a community that has expectations for quality of life, where things like this just don’t happen here. We are all grieving,” Erickson said.

Erickson then opened a public comment period, for which there were multiple speakers.

A common theme among the speakers were requests for accountability on behalf of the Poulsbo Police Department and all law enforcement in Kitsap County.

Dana Jackson was one of the first to ask and mention what steps are being taken by the city and law enforcement to comply with Initiative 940 and House Bill 1064, legislation that was passed in February related to de-escalation, mental health and non-bias training for law enforcement officers.

HB 1064, requires law enforcement to participate in de-escalation training that focuses on using less-lethal means of force when appropriate. It also requires law enforcement to facilitate first aid to any injured persons, until medical services can arrive. The bill also requires that in situations where deadly force is used, an independent investigation be conducted. Additionally law enforcement is required to contact the governor in cases where lethal force is used on a member of a federally recognized tribe.

I-940 created a “good faith” test to determine when the use of deadly force is justifiable and supplements what is already required in HB 1064.

The Kitsap County Incident Response Team (KCIRT) is investigating the July 3 incident and is made up of law enforcement officials from all over Kitsap County, except for the Poulsbo Police Department in this instance.

Tina Janoles, Madeline Squires, and others at the council meeting called into question the independence of the investigation. Janoles suggested that there should be community representation as well as members of the Suquamish tribe involved in the investigation, for additional oversight.

Squires noted that this case won’t just impact Poulsbo, but it will impact greater Kitsap County and western Washington.

Many commenters stated that there had to be a better option for the officer involved than discharging his weapon while surrounded by a crowd.

Another woman, Felicia Cortez, stated that she hopes the family of Stonechild Chiefstick, the man killed by police, will pursue a wrongful death lawsuit.

Poulsbo Police Chief Dan Schoonmaker reiterated that the investigation is still ongoing and that the community needs to be patient with the results.

Editor’s note: a previous version of this story stated that Cortez said the family might be pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit, in fact Cortez said she had hoped the family would pursue a lawsuit. Kitsap News Group and staff with the North Kitsap Herald regret this error.

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