Local law enforcement officials grieve their fellow officers

The events of last week will not be forgotten, here or anywhere else. But for law enforcement agencies in Kitsap County, they were greeted with a response that might have taken some a bit by surprise: almost universal support, compassion and sympathy.

BREMERTON — The images from Dallas are seared into the nation’s collective consciousness for all time: rifle shots screaming into the dense crowd, which had just completed a peaceful protest march. Uniformed police officers lying dead or wounded on the street. Five died, and seven more were critically injured.

Even as officers dropped to the street in agony, other Dallas officers surrounded small children to protect them using their bodies as a shield.

The events of last week will not be forgotten, here or anywhere else. But for law enforcement agencies in Kitsap County, they were greeted with a response that might have taken some a bit by surprise: almost universal support, compassion and sympathy.

On July 8, the chiefs of the eight local law enforcement agencies in Kitsap County issued a joint statement of concern and support for the people affected by the Dallas shootings. Those officials were Geoffrey Marti, Port Orchard chief of police; Matthew Hamner, Bainbridge Island chief of police; Steven Strachan, Bremerton chief of police; Gary Simpson, Kitsap County Sheriff; Sam White, Port Gamble chief of police; Shawn Delaney, public safety director for the Poulsbo Police Department; Michael Lasnier, Suquamish chief of police; and Chris Old, Washington State Patrol District 8 commander.

For Port Orchard Chief Marti, there simply hasn’t been any angry or confrontative responses from the public.

“There has been nothing negative at all,” he said. “It’s nice to get positive feedback from the community we serve.”

For Steve Strachan in Bremerton, the response his department received has been a ray of light for a devastated department.

“The encouraging part of this has been the personal interactions with the public,” Strachan said. “People have done things like bring us flowers and give us hugs.”

Strachan also noted a strong awareness of the divide between local reactions and the dialogue taking place at the national level.

“In my opinion, the national dialogue is dominated by uninformed and anonymous individuals, many on social media. But at the local level, I sense a very positive mood.”

An as the national debate turns to finding next steps, Strachan is acutely aware of what lies ahead for everyone in uniform.

“The national debate is not aimed at bringing people together,” he said. “We do not want to be pawns in this.”

The full text of the joint statement is below.

Joint statement of law enforcement concernment

It is difficult to comment on the events that we’ve witnessed or personally experienced in our country over the past several weeks. The attacks on our peace officers is unprecedented, uncalled for and unacceptable.

Law enforcement officers commit themselves to a vocation, and to the profession of service. We are willing to stand in the face of danger to protect the people of our communities that we’re pledged to serve. This means everyone, not just those whom we may choose.

And, with these commitments, our families and friends stand with us.

Collectively, we are saddened and angry at what transpired in Dallas Thursday evening. Yet, we’re now further dedicated to continue serving as we strengthen our resolve to stand against the evils that face us in our world … domestic or foreign.

We must remember that peace officers and protestors alike were respecting each other and, like many of us, engaged in constructive dialogue. The secretive sniper (did) what too many are trying to accomplish right now — create more extremism and division amongst us.

All citizens and police officers have a duty and obligation to do the right thing, not just when we want to, but always. We live in our neighborhoods, our communities, our cities and our county. Officers and citizens alike must stand up and look out for each other, and keep the well being of our families, friends and neighbors at the forefront.

If you want to engage positively — call people out when they generalize about any group or when they make anonymous and unsupported statements in social media. We must come together and actually talk to one another.

And, together, we support law enforcement nationwide as they protect all.

Alongside our partner law enforcement agencies in Kitsap County, we are sending our condolences, thoughts and prayers to the citizens, officers and families of the fallen and injured officers of the Dallas Police Department and the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Police. We are understandably upset by the assassinations upon our colleagues in service. We pray for these communities, for the officers and their families as they live through these tragedies.

May God bless them. May God bless the United States of America.

Very respectfully,

Matthew Hamner, Chief of Police, Bainbridge Island Police Department

Steven Strachan, Chief of Police, Bremerton Police Department

Gary Simpson, Sheriff of Kitsap County

Samuel White, Chief of Police, Port Gamble Department of Public Safety

Geoffrey Marti, Chief of Police, Port Orchard Police Department

Shawn Delaney, Public Safety Director, Poulsbo Police Department

Michael Lasnier, Chief of Police, Suquamish Police Department

Capt. Chris Old, District Commander, Washington State Patrol (District 8)