Kirkland, Wash – This has been a challenging week for Kirkland. From a Seattle Times column posted on Friday evening, November 16, our community learned that Kirkland Police were dispatched by NORCOM 911 at the request of the owner of Menchie’s in Totem Lake, to ask Mr. Byron Ragland to leave the shop. Mr. Ragland left Menchie’s feeling that he was unwelcome in Kirkland based on his race. We want to reiterate our sincere apology to Mr. Ragland and all parties for the result of this encounter. On November 17, we initiated an investigation of the incident. In reviewing preliminary findings, we have determined that the arriving officers missed the opportunity to mediate between Mr. Ragland and the shop owner to a better outcome.
The incident at Menchie’s has caused us to ask ourselves many difficult questions about race and inclusion. The City of Kirkland is reflecting on what we can do as an organization and as a community to further the dialogue. How do we balance our support of our Police Department, and honor the dedication, hard work and sacrifice made every day by our Kirkland Police officers, and still acknowledge that we can do even better to serve all members of our community?
In times of difficulty, we turn to our values to guide our path forward. In Kirkland, we value being a safe, welcoming and inclusive city. We want to share with all of Kirkland several specific, concrete actions that we are implementing immediately to live up to our stated values.
While our investigation of the incident is not yet completed, we know that this issue goes far beyond the Kirkland Police Department. We want to assure the public that all employees of Kirkland are committed to our values of keeping Kirkland safe, welcoming and inclusive. All of our employees are equally committed to fixing problems when they occur. We do not want to see an incident like this occur at any other business, at City Hall, in our parks, on our sidewalks or at our community centers. We are therefore going to provide every employee in Kirkland with implicit bias training that will be completed in 2019. The Kirkland City Council has asked to be included in this training as well.
Second, we have identified that the policies and practices around “unwanted person” and “trespass” dispatch calls need to be examined and changed where necessary. We have initiated the internal review of these call categories, but the examination also requires engaging property owners and businesses, as well as our NORCOM 911 dispatch center. We have already contacted the Chamber of Commerce and will be attending the Chamber’s November 26 Public Policy Committee meeting to begin the dialogue.
We have also contacted Tom Orr, Executive Director of our 911 dispatch center NORCOM, and asked for a formal review of this 911 call and the protocols around these types of calls in the future.
Most importantly, we recognize that achieving a safe, welcoming and inclusive community requires all of us. We need ideas and innovations from our entire community in order to improve. We will be launching a new community outreach strategy that starts with many of the groups that worked closely with us on our previous welcoming and inclusive initiative, and our gun safety and community safety initiative.
We have already contacted Kirkland’s Inclusion Network and are scheduled to attend their meeting on November 29. We have also spoken with representatives of Kirkland Safe, Kirkland Indivisible, and Leadership Eastside. Our City engagement team is working with these groups on the first such conversation next Tuesday evening, November 27. We will publicly share times and locations as soon as they are available.
We know this is just the start and there is much more to do. We will continue to develop our engagement strategy and action plans after these initial meetings. We welcome any and all ideas from the community on how to make the plan better. We will keep the City Council and the public updated throughout the process. If you would like to participate in these events or be kept informed, please sign up to receive the City’s news releases.
Please join us in this dialogue. Together, we can demonstrate to the entire country that the Kirkland community can face up to these difficult issues and emerge as a stronger, more complete community.