Racial Justice in Vancouver

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Racism is an issue that can no longer be ignored ─ not by organizations, leaders, or the people who live in our community.

We the City of Vancouver recognize the existence of systemic inequalities and structural racism, both in our country and our community, and these issues demand our engagement and attention.

We are committed to fighting against racism and working toward a more equitable and inclusive city.

We invite every member of our community to join us in this work. Share your personal experiences with racism, offer ideas about what the City can do to address racism in our community, or sign up to speak at a future remote listening sessions using the engagement tabs below.

Page Ground Rules:

  • There are no bad questions or ideas here
  • No racism, bullying or harassment will be tolerated
  • Comments are subject to the page moderation policy >

Racism is an issue that can no longer be ignored ─ not by organizations, leaders, or the people who live in our community.

We the City of Vancouver recognize the existence of systemic inequalities and structural racism, both in our country and our community, and these issues demand our engagement and attention.

We are committed to fighting against racism and working toward a more equitable and inclusive city.

We invite every member of our community to join us in this work. Share your personal experiences with racism, offer ideas about what the City can do to address racism in our community, or sign up to speak at a future remote listening sessions using the engagement tabs below.

Page Ground Rules:

  • There are no bad questions or ideas here
  • No racism, bullying or harassment will be tolerated
  • Comments are subject to the page moderation policy >
  • City Attorney's Office Announces Second Equity-Based Change to its Prosecution Practices

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    20 Jan 2021

    The Vancouver City Attorney’s Office is pleased to announce another equity-based change to its prosecution practices aimed at assisting those suffering from substance abuse disorders.

    The City Attorney’s Office has long been a participant in the Clark County Substance Abuse Court. This program provides intensive supervision to individuals charged with misdemeanor offenses who have been diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder. However, historically, participation in the program has required individuals first plead guilty to the underlying charged offense.

    With the new equity-based changed, the Substance Abuse Court has transitioned to a pre-plea model. In qualifying cases, individuals who successfully complete the year-long treatment program can have their misdemeanor cases dismissed without having to plead guilty to a criminal offense. Participants will be able to avoid the barriers that a criminal conviction can pose for individuals seeking housing, employment and other opportunities for advancement.

    This is the second equity-based change in prosecution practices announced recently by the City Attorney’s Office. The first is a pilot project changing the way the city prosecutes the crime of driving while license suspended in the third degree (learn more).

  • Vancouver Attorney’s Office to pilot equity-based changes to its prosecution practices.

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    31 Dec 2020

    Press Release Date:

    Thursday, December 31, 2020

    Beginning January 2021, the Vancouver City Attorney’s Office will make equity-based changes to the way it prosecutes the crime of driving while license suspended in the third degree (DWS-III) as part of a year-long pilot program.

    DWS-III charges often arise due to a driver’s failure to pay fines from a traffic ticket. Trends increasingly suggest DWS-III charges cause disproportionate impacts to Black, Indigenous and people of color within the community, as well as those who are of low or moderate financial means.

    “The Vancouver City Attorney’s Office is committed to advancing our understanding of who is, and is not, benefitting from the institutions our society has created,” said City Attorney Jonathan Young, “Where possible, we seek opportunities to lawfully balance and repair inequities that exist in our systems.”

    The 2021 DWS-III pilot program will bring two important changes to the City Attorney’s Office’s prosecution practices:

    • Individuals charged with DWS-III who meet certain requirements will have the opportunity to participate in a pre-citation diversion program designed to educate and empower unlicensed drivers to get their license back. If completed, no charges will be filed.
    • Where appropriate, prosecution standards for those who do not choose to participate in the pre-citation diversion program will call for the use of civil tickets, rather than criminal, charges.

    These changes are particularly significant as DWS-III cases account for a quarter of all criminal cases filed by the city.

    After one year, the City Attorney’s Office will review the results of the pilot program and decide if further changes are needed or if the changes will be made permanent.

    For more information on this change, read a more detailed fact sheet.

  • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Update

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    19 Nov 2020

    The City’s commitment to advancing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion continues.

    Two important components of the City’s work to address racial justice are currently in progress:

    A Request for Proposals for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Training for all City employees, City Council and Boards/Commission was sent out this fall and the City anticipates beginning DEI training with the final selected firm by the end of 2020.

    Hiring of the City’s FIRST Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Manager is underway. This new position will champion and coordinate internal and external efforts to promote social equity and justice causes. The City anticipates filling this role by January 2021.

    On Monday, Nov. 16,City Council approved the City’s 2021-22 budget, which will allocate $1.5 million per year to support the Community Task Force on Policing in implementing its work on the Use of Force Study’s recommendations and a body-worn camera program in the Vancouver Police Department. To learn more about the Community Task Force on Policing please visit: https://www.beheardvancouver.org/vancouver-community-task-force-on-policing

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  • Vancouver Fire Department works to discover, address inequities in emergency medical service delivery.

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    24 Aug 2020

    Vancouver, Washington ─ In October 2019, the City of Vancouver, Vancouver Fire Department (VFD) and American Medical Response-Clark County Operations (AMR-CCO) contracted with Healthcare Equity Group to conduct evaluate equity in emergency medical service (EMS) treatments in Vancouver. This research was initiated by VFD as part of the city's ongoing efforts to improve equity in the delivery of its services.

    "Ultimately, these findings will help us to be a better and stronger organization, one that is responsive to the needs of our increasingly diverse patient populations in Vancouver and ensure equitable care for all the patients we serve," said Vancouver City Manager Eric Holmes.

    The research conducted by Healthcare Equity Group consisted of:

    • An assessment of internal systems, policies and organization practices to identify gaps and opportunities in providing an environment where equity in performance can be better understood and modified.
    • A series of benchmark data analyses to evaluate equity in EMS treatments provided by VFD and AMR-CCO. The first two EMS treatments selected for analysis were pain management and cardiac chest pain.

    The report and findings were presented to the city, AMR-CCO and the Clark County Medical Program Director earlier this month. Major findings and recommendations from the report include:

    • The treatment equity analysis for both pain management and cardiac chest pain found treatment disparities in EMS services to some marginalized communities in Vancouver.
    • Recommendations for organizational improvement in several areas that have a direct impact on improving the treatment equity of EMS care, including reporting, training topics and resources, community outreach, language and interpretation practices, and data collection and management practices.

    "This analysis was a necessary first step to helping us to become aware that these inequities exist, examine the effects that inequities have on EMS patient care, and gain an understanding of the disparities that exist in our services," said Vancouver Fire Chief Joe Molina.

    "The research initiated by the city and VFD parallels the work being done by AMR Portland surrounding the identification of treatment disparities and development of health equity initiatives to better serve their community," said AMR Regional Director Rocco Roncarati. "The findings and recommendations from the research done in both Vancouver and Portland presents an opportunity for us to make a major change in how emergency medicine is delivered and potentially improve patient outcomes for future generations,"

    "I respect the professionalism and dedication of each and every one of our EMS providers, and I look forward to working together on eliminating treatment disparities for impacted communities in Vancouver," added Molina.

    A copy of the report can be found on the city's website at www.cityofvancouver.us/fire.

  • Racial Justice Listening Session Notes with One America.

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    13 Aug 2020

    City of Vancouver: Racial Justice Listening Session with One America

    July 28, 2020, 5:30-7:30 p.m.

    The City of Vancouver held a community forum via webinar for the City to listen and learn about race, racism and racial justice issues with members of One America. The following summary reflects high-level notes from the participant comments. Nine members of One America shared comments and approximately 14 members joined the webinar. (Note: there may have been duplication for some who joined by both webinar and phone and translators were also participating).

    The meeting included both English and Spanish language interpretation through Zoom. Since the technology was not working for Spanish into English translation, this summary includes key themes from comments provided in English. In addition to the notes, observations and recommendations are offered for any future City listening sessions.

    One America comment highlights:

    Overview

    • One America is the largest immigrant and refugee organization in Washington state. It was founded immediately after September 11, 2001 to fight against discrimination and promote democracy and justice in communities of color.
      1. In Southwest Washington, members are focused on community organizing and elevating members into positions of power. One America’s theory of change model begins with community organizing, promoting leaders, and creating the space to form policies, institutions, and political movements, and that impact the lives of immigrants and refugees.
    • In 2017, when the current administration took office there was a lot of hate against immigrant and refugee communities. One America has put in a lot of work to push back against these attacks and to advance immigrant rights, which is exhausting.
    • One America is eager to be part of community conversations leading to real change. A member shared it was a tragedy that their Black brothers and sisters had to die because of racism and discrimination.

    Immigrant and refugee backgrounds and experiences

    • The Latino community is a diverse community with different needs.
    • Members shared that during the meeting the City would hear the voices of documented and undocumented immigrants who are Vancouver residents. Residents serve essential functions and are represented in many ways throughout the community, such as:
      1. Store employees
      2. Business owners
      3. Classmates
      4. Co-workers
    • Participants providing comments had diverse backgrounds including:
      1. A 20-year Vancouver resident
      2. A 3-year Vancouver resident
      3. Graduate student at Washington State University Vancouver
      4. First generation Indigenous Mexican immigrant
      5. Immigrant from El Salvador
    • Participants shared their individual experiences as an immigrant and refugee:
      1. Their U.S. born children have more privileges than they do.
      2. Some have challenges with identity, heritage, and belonging that stem from racism in this country.
      3. Some made a long, difficult journey to get to this country and fled from violence in their home country.
      4. While working every day, it is a challenge to have time remaining to learn a new language and new skills.
    • Immigrants and refugees pay taxes, they are entrepreneurs, and contribute to the community. They contribute significantly to business income and make the economy stronger. They are neighbors and an essential part of the community.
      1. Participants shared key statistics about the contributions of immigrants and refugees to society, such as 19% of the labor force in Washington state are from immigrant led households and immigrants paid an estimated $360 million in local taxes in 2018.
      2. Latinos make up 10% of the Vancouver community, yet many are afraid to speak.
      3. Immigrants and refugees want to learn how to participate actively in the community.
    • Immigrant and refugee communities are working hard to provide a better life for their children and their resilience is so strong.
    • Many participants shared how One America has helped empower and support its members through trainings and educational opportunities.

      Racism in Vancouver
    • Participants described barriers with access to services and public benefits.
      1. While there is are asylum opportunities for Latin Americans, there isn't a "refugee-status" designation, therefore people from Latin America (Including Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries) Asylum seekers- have to make the trip to the U.S. border to apply for asylum. Many are intimidated about of the U.S. system, especially those who are undocumented. People can take advantage, such as employers who pay less than minimum wage.
      2. A Vancouver resident wanted to start his own food cart. Information was not easy to find on the City of Vancouver website and was not available in Spanish. It was challenging to navigate the system and is unfair there are so many barriers to opening a business in order to support their families.
      3. A member applied for an opening at the City of Vancouver multiple times and has never made it past the first round of screening. Barriers are experienced by BIPOC that may be invisible to white counterparts. Hiring practices should be revised to encourage diverse candidates to apply. The people who represent the local government should look like the diversity of the community they serve.
    • Immigrants and refugees have been blamed for many issues and have been belittled and humiliated. They have faced systemic racism in workplaces, housing, and school.
    • A member noted they learned of systemic racism for the first time at Clark College, but did not learn about it at Ft. Vancouver High School, even though it is a hub for international students.
    • COVID-19 has exposed many of the issues that BIPOC community members deal with daily.
      1. Many undocumented immigrants serve in essential roles and are not able to work from home. Others have faced job loss during the pandemic due to impacts to the service industry.

    One America’s goals

    • Members shared the following goals to achieve equity and inclusion for immigrant and refugee residents in Vancouver:
      1. Work toward equal access to power and opportunity for all communities
      2. Show communities we care and are here for them
      3. Actively work to dismantle racism
      4. Maximize potential of immigrants and refugees
      5. Promote a sense of belonging and appreciation of differences
      6. Provide a more inclusive role in leadership and policymaking
      7. Eliminate barriers that prevent immigrants and refugees from prospering
      8. Provide materials in languages other than English and centralize information for Spanish-speaking communities so they know where to go, especially using mobile devices

    Commitments and next steps

    • Members shared their appreciation for the listening sessions and hoped to create a real relationship and partnership with the City.
    • One America supported the City of Vancouver’s statement on July 6 acknowledging systemic racism in the community. They felt Vancouver has the opportunity to be a leader in Washington State.
      • They also asked the City to express to Clark County that there is systemic racism in the County. One America was impacted by the Clark County Chair saying that it is not an issue in Clark County.
      • Mayor McEnerny-Ogle said the City would send members a copy of the letter that the City sent to Clark County about this topic. She said they would continue to work toward the City and Clark County working together as partners to address systemic racism.
    • One America offered to help share information among their members.

    One America asked to participate in more conversations in two to three months after the listening sessions conclude. The City of Vancouver will invite One America to future discussions.

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  • Clark County Listening Session on Systemic Racism

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    24 Aug 2020

    On Wednesday, Aug. 12, members of of the public were invited for a moderated opportunity to share their experiences and answer the question, “How has systemic racism in Clark County impacted you?” with members of the Clark County Council.

    Watch the recorded session here >

    Learn more about listening sessions with the Clark County Council >

  • City convenes new community task force to review police use of force policies, procedures

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    07 Aug 2020

    This week, Vancouver City Manager Eric Holmes finalized the appointment of 12 members to the city’s new Community Task Force on Policing, designed to oversee implementation of the recommendations made in the Police Executive Research Forum's (PERF) use of force report on the Vancouver Police Department (VPD).

    The report was completed after a yearlong review by PERF on the VPD's policies, training, documentation and data on use of force and officer-involved shootings.

    The task force is comprised of members representing the Vancouver City Council, City Manager's Office, Office of the Chief, the Chief's Diversity Advisory Team, mental health resources, police labor organizations, and organizations representing communities of color in Vancouver. Below is a list of the task force members that have been confirmed to date, with a homeless service provider and youth representative to be confirmed shortly.

    "We recognize and are committed to making the changes necessary to serve the public safety needs of our community in a more just and equitable manner," said Holmes. "There is much work to be done within the VPD and our community to implement the full range of PERF recommendations. This task force will represent the community’s voice in discussions and issues related to use of force policies and help ensure transparency and accountability in the implementation of these recommendations.”

    The official charge of the task force is to:

    • review and assure transparency and accountability during the implementation of the 84 recommendations in the Police Executive Forum's (PERF) use of force report on the Vancouver Police Department; and
    • review and advise the city on establishing a body-worn camera program for implementation in the 2021-2022 biennium.

    "An important part of making meaningful change is ensuring that we provide our community members and partners a seat at the table as we work through all the recommendations in the PERF report," said Vancouver Police Chief James McElvain. "The community working in partnership with city and VPD representatives will help us build a better and stronger department. I am grateful to all of the community members who have agreed to give of their time to serve on this important task force."

    It is anticipated that the task force will meet for the first time in September. More information will be available on the city's website in the coming weeks.

    Task force members:

    • Ed Hamilton Rosales, Southwest Washington League of United Latin American Citizens
    • Clayton Mosher, Washington State University Vancouver
    • Shareefah Hoover, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Vancouver chapter
    • Dr. Khalid Kahn, Vancouver Police Department’s Chief’s Diversity Advisory Committee
    • Kim Schneiderman, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Southwest Washington
    • Andre Marks, City of Vancouver Resident
    • Jamie Spinelli, Homeless Advocate - CVAB (Community Voices Are Born)
    • Eric Holmes, Vancouver City Manager
    • James McElvain, Vancouver Police Chief
    • Anne McEnerny-Ogle, Vancouver Mayor
    • Erik Paulsen, Vancouver City Councilmember
    • Sarah Fox, Vancouver City Councilmember
    • Commander Dave King, Vancouver Police Department, representing the VPD Command Guild
    • Detective Neil Martin, Vancouver Police Department, representing the VPD Police Guild

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  • Clark County Listening Session on Systemic Racism

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    05 Aug 2020
    supporting image

    On Friday, July 31, representatives from four partner agencies shared information and background on the impacts of systemic racism in Clark County as it pertains to the people they serve. This session was hosted by Clark County and partner agencies: YWCA Clark County, NAACP Vancouver, SW WA LULAC, and the Clark County Volunteer Lawyers Program.

    Watch the recorded session here >

    Learn more about listening sessions with the Clark County Council >

  • Notes from racial justice listening session with Fourth Plain Forward

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    05 Aug 2020

    City of Vancouver Racial Justice Listening Session with Fourth Plain Forward - July 23rd, 2020, 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.

    Fourth Plain Forward and The City of Vancouver held a virtual community forum via Zoom to listen and learn about race, racism and racial justice issues in the Vancouver community. The following summary reflects high-level notes from the participant comments. A representative of Fourth Plain Forward facilitated the event, and approximately 11 additional community members joined the call. In addition, a Spanish translator helped to facilitate the contributions of Spanish-speaking community members. Participants represented a mix of business owners and residents of the Fourth Plain Boulevard ‘international business district’. City representatives included Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle, Councilperson Erik Paulsen, City Manager Eric Holmes, as well as representatives from the Vancouver Police Department.

    Overview

    City Manager Holmes thanked community members and members of Fourth Plain Forward for contributing to this important discussion and stated that this meeting is part of a larger set of listening sessions that will continue to engage with community partners.

    Holmes noted how events such as the tragic death of George Floyd have brought forward the need to address institutional racism, as well as to advocate for racial justice in our community. He stated that the City is committed to change as they look through institutional systems and try to do so in a more equitable manner. Holmes closed opening remarks by noting that he was looking forward to hearing about the lived experiences of people on this call.

    Public Comment Highlights

    Members of the Fourth Plain Forward community introduced themselves and shared their experiences with racism in Vancouver.

    •A community member born and raised in Vancouver shared their perspective on what it is like to be Brown in Vancouver. In sharing their experience in Vancouver schools, they asked participants to think about who is in the room and noted that anti-racism work goes beyond listening, but rather thinking about what security looks like in school. They shared that they have been pulled over multiple times, and feel that it was intimidating, especially as a teenager. They cited implicit bias as an important force in perpetuating racism.

    • A business owner and parent in the Fourth Plain Blvd district described moving to Vancouver in the 1980s and noted the changes in Vancouver since that time. They described the impact of racism as “devastating”. As a parent to biracial children, they shared how their concerns about racism influenced their decisions about where to send their children to school. They noted that progress is made when people of color are a part of the environment, such as utilizing posters of historically important people of color around the classroom. They noted that racism in schools can be perpetrated by teachers too.

    • A business owner who has been in the Fourth Plain district for four years shared that they have heard a lot of people who have suffered from racism. They had the opportunity to listen and cry with them and to support community members willing to share their stories. They related personal experiences with racism in the schools and their experience changing schools for a school with greater supervision and surveillance to feel safe.

    •A long-time community member shared their experience moving to Vancouver over ten years ago without knowing any English or anything about American culture. They described how they experienced racial bias in school, particularly from teachers not being able to assist with ESL students. Beyond the educational system, they suggested that neighborhood relationships with the City has made undocumented residents feel unsafe and has forced families to move.

    •A community member and translator thanked participants for sharing thoughts with City. They shared that as a first-generation Latinx, they saw a lot of discriminatory incidents. In Vancouver, they felt the impacts of implicit bias and racially-informed stereotypes. They shared how, in their experience, the Vancouver Police Department had negative community interactions at a multicultural festival that they attended. They also expressed a desire to stay connected and in good communication with the Police Department.

    •A community member and worker in the area of disability support described how they support families with children with special needs. Most of the families that they support live around Fourth Plain Blvd., and they described the amount of racism they have experienced as “unbelievable”. For example, they have experienced discrimination trying to access medical services and noted that children with disabilities face additional challenges when they are people of color. They shared that while driving, someone has yelled “get back to your country”.

    •A community member shared their experiences working around Fourth Plain Blvd. They stated that they hope that this will be only one of many listening sessions available to community members so that increased participation can be achieved. They shared that there was difficulty getting participation due to COVID and internet access issues. They hope that this will be only one of many listening sessions available to community members so that increased participation can be achieved. They also asserted the City relies heavily on neighborhood association meetings to share information but noted that the demographics of those organization is not representative of the larger community. They urged the Council and City to reach out directly to community members who are not typically included in these types of meetings. They also noted that COVID has disproportionately affected communities of color and that the Fourth Plain zip code has had more COVID cases than other parts of the City and County.

    •A community member stated that the economic hardships associated with COVID require more assistance from the City and asserted that the Free Clinic has been closed since March. That was a critical site for people without insurance to obtain medical services. They also noted that there are language, access, and economic barriers to testing. They described how many of the business owners they work with are businesses with i10s and cannot access federal funding. The organization they work for was able to provide grant funding to 31 of those businesses. They noted that there is a need to help fund that gap. They are particularly concerned about the displacement of undocumented residents and asked that Council value and respect renters with economic assistance; they also stated that Fourth Plain Forward was one of the only organizations that provided grant funding that did not ask for immigration status.


    Community Recommendations

    1. Provide city information and materials translated for communities who do not speak English.\
    2. Increase community engagement by the City to create strong community relationships.
    3. Provide COVID testing sites where community members around Fourth Plain Boulevard live and work.
    4. Increase positive community interactions with the Vancouver Police Department.
    5. Examine partnerships between police departments and schools and look at which kids are getting disciplined in school to increase awareness of racial bias.

    Conclusion

    City Manager Holmes thanked participants for sharing their experiences. He reiterated that the City is here because there is a clear recognition by City leadership that institutional racism does exist. He stated that the purpose of these sessions is to hear about the lived experiences of communities of color, and to address those inequities. He acknowledged that there is much work to do, and that this will be an ongoing conversation. Holmes stated that he is committed to ongoing engagement, and that Community Engagement manager Tony Ramos is looking forward to building connections in the community so that they City can do even better in how they engage in the community. He concluded by stating that he is looking forward to continuing to work with businesses and residents in the Fourth Plain Corridor.

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  • Local Mayors Send Letter to Public Health Officials Calling Systemic Racism a Public Health Crisis

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    27 Jul 2020

    On July 23, 2020, the mayors of Vancouver, Camas, Washougal, La Center and Ridgefield sent a letter to the Clark County Board of Health and Washington State Department of Health Secretary John Wiesman calling systemic racism a public health crisis and asking them to use their expertise and resources to acknowledge the crisis, identify root causes, and suggest policy solutions collaboratively.

    Read the letter>