For the past ten-weeks, all 15 Fellows poured their energy into leading some of the most important campaigns in our area: De-Escalate Washington I-940, Decline to Sign I-1552, Washington Voting Justice, and banning conversion therapy in Renton.
Combined, the Fellows obtained over 3,000 signatures and registered dozens of new voters. This translated into over 3,000 individual conversations around LGBTQIA+ advocacy, voting access, and police accountability.
For those who have ever lead campaigns, you know first hand the difficulties of creating field plans, pulling turf, lobbying elected officials, and canvassing. These tasks were no exceptions for this Fellowship class. Through extreme canvassing temperatures, difficult conversations around oppression, and yes even rejection out on the field, the Fellows continued to be intentional and committed to their campaigns. Nothing wavered them. They went out into the field every week engaging young people and pushing forth progressive policies.
This last Sunday was the final day for the 8th Washington Bus Fellowship Class. It was a bittersweet moment. What started with 15 Fellows sitting around our conference table in the office, nervously making small talk ended with a deep commitment to each other, an understanding of collective healing, and passion for building people-led power. I know they will go back to their schools, workplaces, and communities to continue to put into practice what they learned this summer.
I have said this before, and I will say it again, with these Fellows out in our communities we are going to be ok. The social equity change we want to see will happen. Follow the work they will be doing in their communities.
Read statements from the Fellows below to get a glimpse at their experience this summer.
-Cinthia Illan-Vazquez, Fellowship Organizer
And a word from the incredible staff who led our summer Fellowship program…
Recently, I attended a City Council Committee Meeting on public safety, civil rights, and technology. There were some 60 attendees in addition to Committee Chair, Bruce Harrell, council member, Jean Godden, and Chief of Police, Kathleen O’Toole.
Harrell began by addressing a group of middle school students in the audience, stating, “we have the Chief of Police here today, the highest ranking police official in the city, AND, she is a woman…We are very proud that gender doesn’t make a difference, at least not here in this city.”
Last time I checked, gender makes a difference everywhere – even in a city as comparatively progressive and proactive as Seattle. Harrell, are you familiar with the host of LGBTQ hate crimes happening in and around The Hill these days? Unequal wage gaps? Apparently, you aren’t.
(I’ll revisit later on).
For now, allow me to debrief on a few of O’Toole’s main points on the SPD’s efforts to augment police accountability.
- So far in 2015, the SPD has not been involved in officer shootings and other violent disputes (phew).
- The SPD has implemented an Early Intervention System (EIS) to enhance officer accountability. O’Toole stated, “[the EIS] is a way to identify an officer’s abnormalities before he/she becomes problematic.” And yes, we’ve seen “problematic” from sea to shining sea.
- The SPD mandates de-escalation training as a part of its police academy, in efforts to “use deathly force [only] as a last resort so that officers have the tools to effectively de-escalate a dangerous situation.” While reminiscent of the “talk a man off the ledge” strategy, popularized in films and literary account of sorts, O’Toole argues that de-escalation has been largely successful to date.
- The SPD is going #Social #WorldWideWeb, via “trying to get better at telling [its] story,” says O’Toole. She is proud of the SPD’s new social media presence (FB, Twitter, etc.). Personally, I’d like to see an Instagram account titled, “TheCopCar98105,” but we’re not there yet.
- The SPD is working to align its statistical data with Seattle’s 57 distinct micro-communities. Each neighborhood has its own set of diverse challenges, that O’Toole and fellow officers believe should be uniquely addressed. Kudos!
- A new (mysterious ghost) IT man is working to develop “agile policing,” or the use of data from previous events to render new protocols. O’Toole says that this will help to “rapidly deploy resources through the use of technology” (like drones, but not).
- Community outreach is in. So is police recruitment. The SPD has the most “…diverse police explorer program in the state” for young people (like, 4th graders) to “…learn about policing… and to see if it’s right for them.” Forest Fire Fighting (yes, the FFF) was “right for me” when I was that age, but unfortunately, things change. Anyways, the program is diverse, and “targets historically underrepresented groups,” says O’Toole.
- O’Toole signed off (kind of) with these inspirational words, to soon be etched upon the back of a Pottery Barnes pillow – “I like to emphasize that prevention and intervention are always more important than enforcement.” #True.
Long live O’Toole!
This blog post was written by Natalie, a Public Policy major at Duke University and the Bus’ 2015 DukeEngage Intern.