By Mark Okazaki
Special for Northwest Asian Weekly
“We were totally left out.”
That is how long-time community activist Alan Sugiyama characterized the recent appointment of four Assistant Police Chiefs, none of whom were Asian Pacific Islanders, under the relatively new command of Seattle’s top cop, Kathleen O’Toole. Sugiyama went on to say that there is no one on her command staff who reflects the largest minority group in the city and that he was tired of the “constant bulls***t.”
Sugiyama was joined by about 25 members of the Asian Pacific Directors Coalition (APDC) at their general membership meeting on Wednesday, June 10, 2015. The main topic was a dialogue with Chief O’Toole about issues affecting the Asian Pacific Islander community.
Flanked by other police officers, the Chief defended her actions saying there was only one Asian Pacific Islander applicant in the pool and that candidate did not meet with minimum qualifications for Assistant Chief. Chief O’Toole cited the number of captains and lieutenants of API descent (two and three respectively), and that APIs are represented throughout her department.
Other coalition members chimed in about their on-going grievances. Speaking from his experience living in Beacon Hill, Ron Chew expressed concerns about neighborhood crime and the need for police officers who “know the community and can relate to the community including the large number of immigrants and refugees.” Andrea Akita, Executive Director for InterIm Community Development said that she was discouraged by the attitude of the police toward violent crime in the International District/Chinatown area and that there was more concern about downtown Seattle.
In response, Chief O’Toole said that overall property and people crime in Seattle was down 12 percent and that was significant when you consider her last position in Boston where she commanded more police officers for a city that was smaller in geography and population. She went on to describe all of the steps she is taking to comply with the Department of Justice Consent Degree including bias-free police training and new policies and procedures. She said she is “genuinely committed to have a police force that represents the community.”
When asked about the outcome of the meeting, Dorothy Wong, Executive Director for the Chinese Information and Service Center and Chair of APDC said “It was an important coming together of the API community and SPD to address some long-standing issues and the recent wave of incidents against the API communities. The APDC members were quite thorough in bringing up their issues and offered recommendations. To her credit, Chief O’Toole showed an openness to hearing concerns and that she brought her team to this meeting signaled that she was taking this meeting quite seriously.”
These sentiments were echoed by other members of the Coalition. Frank Irigon, another long time activist chimed in. “We want to be treated fairly and equally.” (end)
Mark Okazaki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.