The Poulsbo City Council has put its foot down and said it will not fire police officer Craig Keller despite calls for his removal by some members of the public.
Following the release of reports from both the police department and the Kitsap County prosecutor regarding the July 3, 2019, shooting death of Stonechild Chiefstick, the City Council received comments demanding that Keller be fired and that another investigation be conducted.
“Keller is not going to be fired, so asking for him to be fired it’s just not going to happen. I’d ask you to read the investigations again if you still have questions, reach out,” Councilman Andrew Phillips said.
Calls for Keller to be fired have been coming in since the incident occurred, whereas calls for another investigation have been made since the county Prosecutor Chad Enright concluded his investigation in April.
At the Sept. 2 council meeting, there were several comments made both in writing and via Zoom, and more than half called on the city to fire Keller, while a handful demanded another investigation with oversight from the public and Suquamish Tribe.
“I love this community and I have never been ashamed of Poulsbo until now, ” Raelenea Copus of Suquamish wrote. “Last year Officer Craig Keller made a grave error in judgment, violated police policy and shot ‘Stoney’ at a crowded park, with children at his feet, and for that, he should be fired.
“The failure of the Poulsbo police chief and the city of Poulsbo to stand by our Native American brothers and sister in the pursuit of justice is to increased tensions with the tribe,” Copus said.
Copus is referencing the Suquamish Tribes response to decisions made by Poulsbo police at the conclusion of its internal review of the investigation, which determined that Keller was in the bounds of state law and department policy to shoot Chiefstick.
“The decision to retain officer Craig Keller on the Poulsbo police force is the latest in a series of moves that have shaken the confidence of the Suquamish Tribal community in the Poulsbo police force and the city of Poulsbo,” reads the statement from the tribe.
Over the last year, and particularly in the last four months, as tensions between police and government bodies have grown, the City Council has received several letters, comments and voicemails demanding it take action. Whether that action is to fire Keller, conduct a new investigation or support creation of a permanent monument to Chiefstick the public obviously is fed up, but so is the council.
Councilmember Britt Livdahl said they are tired of being called racist.
“I’m getting tired of being called racist and being called a white supremacist, as I’m sure my colleagues and the mayor are as well,” Livdahl said. “It doesn’t make me want to keep having this conversation. I’m really, really tried, I’m losing steam. So all the threats of replacing all of us, that’s fine. Put forward some fantastic new candidates, I welcome it.”
Livdahl was among several councilors and the mayor, however, that support a permanent memorial to Chiefstick at Murial Iverson Williams Waterfront Park.
Livdahl spoke with Trishandra Pickup, the mother of four of Chiefstick’s children, about putting up a permanent monument called, “The Healing of the People,” to honor Chiefstick and bring some healing to the two communities.
“We spoke on the phone for over an hour, and I got to hear from her personally the hopes and dreams of her kids for this monument,”Livdahl said.
Pickup set up a GoFundMe page with a goal of $100,000; it has raised $1, 670. The description of the fund discusses who he was, who his kids are and the history between the Suquamish and S’Klallam Tribes and the people of Poulsbo.
“The children would like to integrate a waterfall and fountain to honor their father. Water is sacred. Water is life. We want this monument to be a project that includes art from both a Suquamish Tribal elder carved and a S’Klallam Tribal elder carved. These artists will represent the unity between our tribal people. Poulsbo putting this monument of indigenous representation on Suquamish Ancestral land in the city will show much needed respect towards the indigenous people who reside in the surrounding areas,” reads the description.
The page encourages donations from groups such as the city, Port of Poulsbo and Poulsbo police officers associations, as well as the Suquamish and S’Klallam Tribes.
“Tribal people need the city of Poulsbo to make an effort in rebuilding the relationship that has been destroyed,” Pickup said.