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January forum to address questions about Poulsbo police

The city of Poulsbo and the Poulsbo Police Department will hold off on answering questions posed to them during the recent diversity panel to ensure accuracy and to allow new Police Chief Ron Harding to acclimate to the department.

Over 40 questions were submitted to the city’s panel on diversity Oct. 20; of those 40 were directed at law enforcement and the city. The city opted to have those questions read into the record of the Oct. 21 Public Safety and Legal committee meeting to be addressed either by police or by members of the city at the meeting.

The questions were collected by the Kitsap League of Women voters and ranged in categories of police training and procedure, civilian oversight, financial and equipment records to specific questions about how the city and the department continue to handle the repercussions of the July 2019 officer-involved shooting death of Stonechild Chiefstick.

Some examples of the questions asked are:

•“Is there a civilian review board that oversees police budgets, has subpoena power and has the authority to hire, fire and discipline police officers? If not are there plans to introduce a civilian review board?”

•“Is there any record kept of the stops made by police officers of civilians and the ethnicity or race of these individuals who are stopped and not arrested or given a warning?”

•“What military equipment has the Poulsbo Police force accepted or bought?”

•“Is the public able to see and have a say in police union contracts?

•“What steps has the City of Poulsbo taken to ensure that this (officer-involved shooting) never happens again? and what if any disciplinary actions were taken against Officer Craig Keller?”

The committee at the urging of Mayor Becky Erickson opted to wait until January to hold another meeting when they would answer those questions among others.

“I read all of these questions, and I think it is really premature to go into much detail about what those questions are asking,” Erickson said. “It’s not fair to our new chief. It is not fair that we have not had time to research and develop accurate and honest answers.”

Poulsbo city attorney Alexis Foster, who participated in the diversity panel, recommended that the city hold a forum when answering the questions.

“It would sort of be an opportunity for the community to meet Chief Harding as well as allow for there to be a discussion with the community that the council would sit in on. Where these questions could be answered at once and sort of as a whole,” Foster said.

With the holidays fast approaching, the committee is going to host the event the second week in January.

“I thought a January date would be appropriate. That would give Chief Harding some time with the department under his belt in order to understand where we are in things like training,” Erickson said.

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