Not yet. And not for a while.
The city of Olympia announced Monday afternoon it will not resume its search for a new police chief until late this year.
It gave no timeline for the actual hiring of a new chief for the city’s Police Department, which has been operating under an interim chief since late 2019 and has been beleaguered by allegations of racism, mismanagement of multiple protests in the city over the past year, and unequal treatment of those involved in them.
Olympia City Manager Jay Burney, who will select the police chief, said the search will resume after the city’s work to “re-imagine public safety” is complete. It is part of the city’s multi-pronged effort to address police department reforms, civil rights, racial justice and public safety. All of that work is to be done by the end of the year.
The delay is good news to Mayor Pro-Tem Clark Gilman, who said Monday afternoon it gives the community time to weigh in on what reforms are needed and what it wants to see in the next chief. Absent that, he said, chances for changes are slim.
“The community really needs to come together to call for racial justice and unbiased policing,” Gilman said. “I am feeling very strongly that there needs to be a really organized effort to get the city to consider changing anything about OPD. We need a ton of community voices.”
Neither the mayor nor other council members responded to a request for comment Monday afternoon.
Council Members Renata Rollins and Lisa Parshley previously had called for a search process that is heavy on community involvement and Rollins had urged a new search wait until the re-imaging work is complete.
Burney paused the search March 26 after the Tribune brought to the city’s attention that one of the four finalists had been reprimanded in 2017 for a use-of-force incident in Kalamazoo Michigan, where he worked at the time. A week later, a local newspaper reported that another finalist, OPD Lt. Amy King, received two “written warnings,” in 2016, one after she pulled out her gun and pointed it into the air during a “briefing” and another having to do with monitoring a vehicular pursuit.
City spokeswoman Kellie Braseth said Monday afternoon that King remains on the list of finalists, which also includes Interim OPD Chief Aaron Jelcick and Anchorage Police Department Capt. Sean Case. Jelcick will remain in the post, Burney said.
Burney said in Monday’s news release that a new search firm will be used and the city will hold the applications of the current finalists and “invite them to remain in the process without the need to reapply.”
Braseth said the process for determining the search firm will take shape as we get closer to the relaunch, which is more than six months away.