April 22, 2024 12:26 pm

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Lynnwood city leaders hold listening session on Race and Equity

By: Erin Freeman | Lynnwood Times Staff

The City of Lynnwood’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Commission (DEI) held a live stream community listening session on July 2, to hear community concerns and recommendations related to race and equity work. 

“The City of Lynnwood is committed to being a safe, welcoming, and equitable community for all people,” said Mayor Nicola Smith. “We’ve come a long way in implementing racial and social equity measures, but we fully recognize the work is ongoing and there’s still a long way to go.”

Alongside DEI members and Mayor Smith, Lynnwood City councilmember Christine Frizzell was on the virtual panel, while the other councilmembers and members of the Lynnwood Police Department (LPD) attended the event as viewers. In total, upwards of 70 community members participated in the town hall to listen in or have their voices heard.  

During community comments, Ashley Kay Smith, a Lynnwood resident and a Black Student Union advisor in the Edmonds School District, told the panel that she doesn’t always feel safe to move freely within city limits.  

“Safety, welcoming, and equitable is the question which you all had [tonight], and my immediate reaction was ‘yeah Lynnwood’s fine, I feel safe’ but then… I realized all those things are not true,” said Smith. “When I hear safety, I hear ‘can I move freely anywhere… without feeling like I will be stopped and questioned by police, or do I even feel safe in my workforce?’ Both of those answers are no.”

Lynnwood resident Pete Pretorius suggested that the LPD identify one to three upcoming goals that demonstrate their commitment to reflection and constant improvement in the wake of the death of George Floyd. 

“In the very first sentence of the mission statement, they mention the word proactive,” said Pretorius. “I would encourage the council to challenge the LPD to back that up.”

Continuing, Pretorius proposed increased mandatory training for all officers, referring to information available on the LPD website that from 2015 to 2021, a cumulative 40 hours over six years of training are required for crisis intervention, with no specification to the time commitment to bias training. 

“I would encourage the committee to create an initiative to reflect on ‘what is the goal-what is the commitment of law enforcement in Lynnwood?’,” posed Pretorius. “If it’s centered around serve and protect, are our current training priorities reflective of those goals?” 

Another resident named Ashkan voiced questions regarding a statement made earlier this month by LPD Chief Tom Davis about police plans to partner with the DEI. 

“This is a very big statement,” said Ashkan. “What does that look like and sound like…what influences do you have?

Referring to the LPD’s only Black officer A.J. Burke recently being a victim to a racist rant, Ashkan was inquisitive if the DEI commission and city council held any influence on the LPD’s hiring practices to recruit more officers of color to serve the community. 

He also urged the DEI and council to commit to increased representation in government positions. Ashkan pointed to discrepancies in the city leadership’s racial diversity, proposing that up to 50% of the most senior members of the city council who identify as white resign immediately, opening up their positions for others. He distinctly advised making room for DEI commissioner Naz Lashgari, who lost the 2019 election to Jim Smith for council position #4. 

“We are all very well aware the city council is all white, except for one woman, which is unacceptable,” stated Ashkan. 

A community member who identified herself as someone involved in continuous diversity work, Jean Crevier, suggested that the DEI and city council develop a diversity lens to analyze the city government and management through the perspective of all forms of diversity. 

“That means to look at every aspect…and determine ‘how would this feel if I was different from who I am?’,” said Crevier. “The next step in my mind is to create a lens that puts focus on how different groups perceive objectives being pursued.” 

Elisabeth Lunsford, a resident, wants the city to invest in increased staff and support for the DEI committee, referring to the appointed members as volunteers with understandable obligations elsewhere. 

“I think it’s more costly if we don’t start investing in resources to hear what you all have to say,” said Lunsford, addressing the DEI committee members present. 

The session ended with DEI members thanking the community for their participation and recommendations: “We appreciate the constructive criticism we got, and I think that we have a better idea of our blind spots and where we need to look,” said Vice-Chair of the DEI Jared Bigelow. 

The DEI is currently looking for members to join the commission who live within Lynnwood city limits. To apply visit https://www.lynnwoodwa.gov/Government/Boards-and-Commissions

To learn more about the City of Lynnwood’s efforts to be safe and welcoming for all, visit 

https://www.lynnwoodwa.gov/SafeAndWelcoming and https://www.lynnwoodwa.gov/LPDCommunityResponse

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