FROM JACL PRESIDENT:
To the Honorable Mayor Ed Murray, the Honorable Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, and the Honorable Seattle City Councilmembers:
The Seattle Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), the nation’s oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organization, is deeply alarmed by the lack of Asian Pacific Islander (API) representation in the Seattle Police Department’s (SPD) upper echelon and leadership positions.
APIs are the largest ethnic group in Seattle. As such, the SPD should reflect the community that it serves at all levels from the top down. There have been multiple opportunities for Police Chief O’Toole to hire API candidates for her command staff, but as it currently stands, we have not seen any special recruitment take place. This is an issue that has continually been brought up, but has yet to be addressed.
What steps are being taken to place more API officers in SPD leadership? Why have we not seen any movement on this important issue? As evidenced by prior emails from other API groups and prominent individuals and leaders, this is a problem that our community takes very seriously. With frequent crimes in the International District and the death of local icon, Donnie Chin, APIs ask for action now. The API community needs representation not only by allies, but by people that look like us.
— Sarah E. Baker
Japanese American Citizens League
Seattle Chapter President
RESPONSE FROM SPD CHIEF:
Dear Ms. Baker,
Thank you very much for your letter. As indicated in previous communications and recent meetings, I am absolutely committed to a police service that reflects the community we serve. Otherwise, we will not succeed. Last year, we significantly increased the diversity of the SPD candidate pool and we’ll continue to work very hard to hire and promote officers who represent all the communities in our city.
When I was establishing my command staff last year, with the assistance of [Seattle Department of Human Resource], job specifications were developed and the positions were widely advertised locally and nationally. While we hoped to attract a broad candidate pool, it was important to have a diverse selection panel as well. The three-member group included Deputy Chief Carmen Best, then COO Mike Wagers, and a private sector manager who identifies with the API community. Of the 94 internal and external candidates who applied for the assistant chief positions, there was only one external applicant who identified with the API community. Unfortunately, I was informed that individual did not meet the minimum requirements in the job specifications.
I have not appointed any sworn command staff members since that one competition. Currently, including myself, there are six sworn SPD command staff members: two white females, one African American female, one African American male, and two white males.
I have also recruited senior civilian members to my team. In fact, in a more recent competition for the SPD communications manager position, there were 146 respondents. That very competitive process produced three exceptional finalists. Two of them were so impressive, I hired them both; one for communications manager and the other for an equivalent management position. I am pleased to inform you that both identify with the API community.
As vacancies emerge in both sworn and civilian positions, I assure you that developing and maintaining a police service reflective of the community we serve is extremely important to me.
As I have indicated on previous occasions, at meetings and in writing, I genuinely want to work with the API community on this and other important issues. Also, I am always available to meet or speak by phone to address your concerns and to hear your input and feedback.
Again, thank you.
— Kathy O’Toole
Chief of Police
FROM COMMUNITY LEADER:
Dear Ms. Baker,
Thank you for your letter Sarah, I support it 100% and I’m proud of JACL! The Chief has to “walk her talk.” Also, how effective was her recruitment if it resulted in only one “unqualified” API candidate? I would have expected her to re-open the search and told the recruiter to come back with more diverse candidates.
— Alan Sugiyama