Recent tragic events involving police and citizens have been weighing heavily on the hearts of some in the local community. For Terrace resident Jason Refsland, he saw an opportunity to engage with local police officers.
“I will be attending our Mountlake Terrace – Coffee with the City – to engage them in initiating a town hall meeting between the citizens of our town and our police. I’m distraught. It’s time for change. I have to do something,” Refsland wrote on Facebook on Tuesday, July 12. “My intention is to hear if our city council is open to the idea of preemptively addressing these issues to our citizens before we do have a problem if there isn’t one.”
Refsland also wrote similar postings on Nextdoor, a bulletin board website that shares posts based on neighborhoods. He and three others who read those postings attended Coffee with the City Wednesday night.
Mountlake Terrace Police Chief Greg Wilson and Cmdr. Doug Hansen were also in attendance. Wilson said it’s his goal to run a department that follows the rules.
“I want to be in a position where, if something happens and people want to investigate, we say ‘go ahead,'” he said. “In eight years, I have not seen anyone use excessive force. I have seen uses of force, but we have investigated and they have all been within policy.”
Refsland said he thinks it can be unfortunate that officers are often thrown into difficult situations, and then also have to deal with the public filming them and scrutinizing their actions.
That doesn’t bother Wilson.
“With videotaping, if you are doing the right thing, who cares?” he said. “Let them film away.”
Hansen said what is most important is remaining professional.
“With recent events, it’s good for people to know that we are human, and we have feelings,” Hansen said. “Despite all of that, we are here, coming to work every day. We shine our shoes and polish our badges and go out to do the work we do every day.”
Resident Tu-Ha Nguyen has been on a ride-a-long with a Mountlake Terrace police officer, and she said she enjoyed the experience.
“I was impressed with their ability to engage with the community,” she said.
Though those present on Wednesday night had positive things to say about the local police department, Wilson said he knows everyone doesn’t feel that way.
“There are people who don’t like the police, and that is okay,” he said. “That is their right. What they don’t have the right to do is not comply with lawful order. They do not have a right to assault us. They do not have a right to kill us.”
The conversation on Wednesday night served as an introduction to a deeper presentation and conversation scheduled during Monday night’s City Council meeting. Wilson’s presentation is titled “Policing in the 21st Century.” The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at Interim City Hall, located at 6100 219th St. S.W., 2nd Floor.
(Note: a special meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the same location to honor state legislators who have helped the city. This is not the presentation by the Mountlake Terrace Police Department–that presentation will happen during the meeting that begins at 7 p.m.)
–By Natalie Covate