Public safety members from various employers across Washington state convened on July 29 for the first meeting of the PROTEC17 Law Enforcement Task Force. As workers who’ve dedicated their lives to safe communities, the group aims to address how our union can support them as well as to help shape the future of law enforcement.
With members representing the Washington State Patrol (WSP), the Seattle Police Department (SPD), Tacoma Police Department (TPD), and Seattle Municipal Court, the committee of 15 talked about their jobs, their challenges, and the opportunities they have to be a part of positive change.
For many, a career in public service and safety is a calling and a privilege.
“I care about people and want to do my best to help them stay safe,” said Matt Corey, a Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Offier at WSP in Spokane who enforces laws and regulations on our roadways to keep drivers safe. As a former member of the U.S. Coast Guard, he added: “Also, I like serving our community, state, and country.”
For Jonny Fong, a Video Specialist II with the SPD, he wanted to use his skills to give back to the community.
“I like being able to use my skills to provide transparency to our citizens and to help people interpret information in the most accurate way possible,” said Fong, who processes and enhances forensic, crime, and other video, including officer body camera footage, which is being used with increasing frequency.
After the civil unrest of last summer in response to several incidents of police brutality around the country, public safety professionals found themselves the focus of calls for drastic changes to policing and community safety. PROTEC17 Executive Director Karen Estevenin brought the task force together with the aim of using the collective wisdom of those performing the work to contribute to solutions and a way forward. The group has already created a survey for PROTEC17 members working in law-enforcement related positions and will dive into the results in the coming months.
Many of the task force members agree that more resources need to be devoted to mental health response and treatment, and to strengthening relationships with the community.
Jeannette Blackwell, a 30-year employee at TPD who has newly joined our union, knows the importance of community relationships. Blackwell keeps her own community connections strong so that she can link the Chief of Police – to whom she provides direct support – to the right leaders. Her ideal safe community is one of equity, empowerment and companionship: “a community full of folks who want to see each other do well.”