Statement from Bellingham Mayor Seth Fleetwood:
The horrific killing of George Floyd lays bare the shocking ease by which a black man’s life can be taken away. It is yet another underscoring of the systemic racism that pervades our country.
I was appalled and grief-stricken as I watched the video of his death. I followed the weekend protests and riots across the nation with deep sadness for our country.
I am grateful for and support the peaceful expressions we have seen in our own community, including vigils held and memorials set up in front of the Central Library downtown. I visited the Friday afternoon vigil in front of the library and was very moved.
We must continue to stand up and act against racism and injustice, for those who have been injured and killed, for those who are openly discriminated against, and for those who have not shared in the American dream.
We must build awareness, facilitate dialogue, create opportunity, and share a place at the table with historically marginalized members of our community.
We must prioritize the safety, dignity and humanity of all people.
Regarding the Bellingham Police Department sign
Some community members have asked about the sign that stood in front of the Bellingham Police Department building, which featured an image of the “thin blue line.” The symbol has meaning to the law enforcement community, connotating sacrifice, honor and service. It is intended to honor, not divide, but has been co-opted by other groups for less honorable purposes. Bellingham Police Chief David Doll made the decision to remove the sign and personally took it down himself late Sunday morning, May 31. I support Chief Doll’s decision and share his interest in making sure our symbols are inclusive of all.
Bellingham Mayor Seth Fleetwood
June 1, 2020
Statement from Bellingham Police Chief David Doll:
Like most of you, I have watched the footage of the officers’ actions in Minneapolis. As a police officer, I have tried to understand the reasoning and tactics, but simply cannot. I am deeply saddened and disturbed by the actions taken by the officers, which resulted in the death of George Floyd. While I typically reserve judgement until there is complete understanding – this one seems clear. The officers’ use of excessive and unnecessary force is evident and is an act – and a tragic outcome - for which they should be held accountable. As such, it is not a time for silence among our police leaders; rather it is time to unify, speak out and proactively address these important issues. Our profession comes with challenge as well as honor; and with that comes great responsibility. A responsibility in this case to act swiftly and decisively to hold accountable those in our ranks who did not act honorably.
I am thankful to lead an organization that promotes transparency and community collaboration, especially as it relates to any use of force in response to a threat upon our officers. In fact, our mission statement is simply “Committed to Community.” And we are – completely. When a Bellingham Police officer needs to use physical force in response to a threat, that action is reviewed at multiple levels to ensure the amount of force used was reasonable, necessary, and within our organizational policy, Washington State and federal Laws. This begins with an immediate first-line supervisor review of the incident, continues with a thorough review of written reports by and body-worn camera footage of all officers involved in the incident and ultimately ends with me. It is documented at all levels.
Here are more ways Bellingham Police Department strives to achieve transparency, the highest level of training and continue to build community trust:
- Bellingham Police Department was the first in Washington State to require our front-line personnel to wear body-worn cameras.
- Our response to threat policy and statistics are published on our website every month for review
- Bellingham Police Department is accredited through the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs
- We exceed the state-required number of hours of crisis intervention training per officer, along with continued training on de-escalation.
- Regular training and review of our response to threat policy, state and federal laws and use of physical force.
- Our officers have saved lives through their use of tourniquets, Narcan, automatic external defibrillators (AED’s) and other medical care.
- We provide continued updated training on understanding implicit bias, responding to, identifying, investigating and documenting hate crimes and crimes involving bias.
This tragic and terrible event is a big step backward in our profession’s hard work in building community trust and support. It highlights the importance of our continuing hard work to create positive relationships, which begins with every contact we make with each community member. I have spoken to local advocates who share our collective pain, because they know us.
I am proud of the work Bellingham Police officers do every day; that pride resonates from the culture we have built over the past century – a framework passed down and built upon by every officer who protects and serves our community. I am very proud of our Police Department and the men and women who act with a servant’s heart and have compassion for all citizens of Bellingham.
Bellingham Police Chief David Doll