Yes. Police caused deaths are a tough conversation to have in Whatcom County / Facebook post, Bellingham Racial Justic Coalition, Joy Gilfilen

latinos killed by cops

1 hr July 14, 2016  Joy Gilfilen

Yes. Police caused deaths are a tough conversation to have in Whatcom County – for it is happening here. Is it justified or not? I do not know. How do we look at it from a healthy community standpoint?

I am aware that in just the past couple years we have had three police-caused deaths of a Latino, a Russian, a Black. There are Natives and others in the recent past as well – but I was not aware at the time of their circumstances.

I am aware however, now. These last three cases were involving people who were poor. The media stories indicated they were causing a problem…but did they need to die? Is it disproportionate and biased enforcement , or just coincidence? I don’t know. Has it been investigated by people not from the rank and file of our local law enforcers and our Prosecutor’s office? I don’t think so – but I have not looked into all of them.

I am just aware that I have a question about the numbers, and I am also aware that people have also died inside the Whatcom County jail…and they have not been investigated outside of “the system”. It feels like a possible “scuttling of responsibility” – but I do not know what the trends of other communities have. I know that the jailing and over-incarceration has been disproportionate…that has been reported and fact checked.

So are these deaths normal? Who would look into this pattern?

I think these questions are disquieting, and the questions need to be asked. We also had students fired upon at WWU, and a jail sales tax being pushed with inadequate public discussion, and people have been experiencing pushback to over-militarize.

Of course, this is my opinion – based only on what I know. And, I am a concerned citizen of Whatcom County.

To me, these “hard truths” conversations are best held as a preventive measure by our leadership and our public citizens, rather than after the next police caused death. We need to find some method, some venue where we can address this without violence having to happen again.

Anyone want to help a broad coalition of people put together a conference on the bigger systems questions? I am willing to participate and use my knowledge if we can come together for the betterment of the community…and agree not to incite more violence.

Perhaps we can do a ‘societal interception’ and ‘restorative community circle’ that is preventive? By preventive, I mean a hosting a forum where we are focused on looking at the systemic challenges, not on specific cases, where our focus is finding better ways to do things? What if we came together as a leadership community…in a public venue where we can work together across divides, to find out what questions are useful to change our future?

There are models to follow and I would be willing to help facilitate this.

I figure that our kids deserve our leadership. Our country deserves our logic, our decency, our commitment to serve the greater whole, as we work to keep all our police and our citizens as safe as possible.

What is there to lose by standing forward? Who might help this happen?

Read Joy’s post in the Bellingham Racial Justice Coalition Facebook group here.

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