Diversity report stings Bremerton
June 11, 2008 · Updated 11:00 AM
"The Kitsap Human Rights Network levied a stinging indictment against Bremerton last week, accusing the city government of consistently failing to protect citizens from discrimination and hate crimes.The network evaluated the City of Bremerton and the Bremerton Police Department, Kitsap County Sheriff's Office and the South Kitsap School District in the first phase of its Diversity 2000 report, an examination of county agencies' adherence to human rights missions.Responses to hate crimes and discrimination in Bremerton have been negligible, the report asserts, and most, if not all, of the city's agencies failed to produce inclusion or diversity statements.During discussions, it became evident that the city administration of Bremerton does not raise the importance of creating an environment of intolerance of hate and bias crime to the level of importance that the subject demands, according to the report.It adds that Mayor Lynn Horton responded with less than enthusiastic support of instituting a strategy to prevent future hate and bias crime in Bremerton.Kitsap Human Rights Network Chairman Jerry Hebert said investigating teams were particularly disconcerted when Horton failed to raise inclusion strategies with the city council after indicating she would.After a two month delay, the team contacted members of the city council and discovered that this subject had not been presented (at) the meeting and interviews had not been mentioned to the City Council, according to the report.Among its recommendations, the Diversity 2000 team called for the City of Bremerton to convene a citizens' council to evaluate, in great detail, all of the policies of Bremerton relating to inclusive hiring and workplace practices around inclusion and respect.The team suggests Bremerton officials set up a response plan outlining guidelines for investigation and prosecution of hate crimes. A city follow-up team should evaluate progress, the report states.Bremerton City Attorney Glenna Malanca called the report disappointing.It appears to be exceptionally subjective and narrow in scope, Malanca said.City officials willingly investigate complaints regarding human rights or discrimination, though she said officials would have to review the various mission statements to determine which ones currently contain inclusion or diversity clauses.The Kitsap Human Rights Network admitted getting the Bremerton Police Department to convene an independent citizens' review committee of police action might prove difficult.The committee would have the authority to (review) police practice as it relates to the public and to review all records and interview all parties involved in complaints from citizens.At an April 26 Kitsap County Council for Human Rights community forum, a panel of law enforcement personnel responded negatively to the idea of establishing citizens' review committees.Most said citizens don't know the ins and outs of policing, limiting their ability to make accurate judgments about police policies and practices.The Diversity 2000 team wants to see Bremerton police begin more extensive data collection, including an officer log of all police activities during patrol and collection of profile data on all routine traffic stops. The Poulsbo Police Department currently has such a program in place.Bremerton Police Chief Rob Forbes did not return phone calls seeking comment by press time.The Diversity 2000 report also calls for the Kitsap County Sheriff's Office to convene a citizens' review committee, though Sheriff Steve Boyer opposed the idea. I was elected as sheriff to run a first-class office and I will not abdicate my responsibilities, he said.Hebert said law enforcement personnel need to change their attitudes about public involvement. Boyer echoed a similar sentiment, though he said mandates will not necessarily result in that change.In the past, we haven't reached out as much as (we) should, but it's a cultural change, he said. It's gotta be in your heart. You can mandate all kinds of things, but I want a culture. That comes from the heart, not policies and mandates.The Diversity 2000 report is the result of a two-phase process. One team interviewed county entities and another team reviewed the information gathered, looking for areas of improvement or commendable strides taken to protect diversity or act on harassment or discrimination.The next report will cover Poulsbo, Bainbridge Island and the Bainbridge and North Kitsap school districts.Central Kitsap will be covered in the final report. A countywide report is expected in December. Follow-up interviews will be conducted on an on-going basis to monitor improvements following the reports."