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 >
  • Vancouver Police Department moves toward implementation of police camera program in 2022

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    25 Mar 2021

    Press Release Date:

    Wednesday, March 24, 2021

    The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) is moving forward with next steps toward implementing a comprehensive police camera program in spring of 2022, which is planned to include body-worn, dash and in-car cameras.

    VPD is working on developing a request for proposals (RFP) to identify vendors that can provide equipment, training, and other needed features to support establishing the camera program. The city is also engaging with the Community Task Force on Policing, as well as organized labor groups on the crafting of department policy regarding a camera program.

    The process of establishing a camera program for VPD requires multiple steps. The Vancouver City Council adopted budget capacity in the 2021-22 biennial budget to fund a program, and the city has engaged the task force regarding the approach to establishing a camera program. Reaching agreement with labor unions and selecting a vendor to supply the camera systems are early steps. Hiring staff to manage the program, testing the cameras, training the police force, and installing cameras in police vehicles will all be part of the plan to launch a comprehensive and fully operational camera program.

    “A camera program for the Vancouver Police Department is an important step to enhance the safety of, and improve interactions between, police officers and the public and increase protection of evidence during criminal investigations,” said Vancouver Police Chief James McElvain. “My hope is that these tools will not only assist in strengthening relationships between police and the community but will also help make Vancouver a safer community for all.”

    The city’s Community Task Force on Policing, which was formed in summer of 2020, is tasked with reviewing and assuring accountability during the implementation of the 84 recommendations in the Police Executive Research Forum’s (PERF) use of force report – in addition to reviewing and advising the city on establishing a police camera program, which was already under consideration by VPD. The task force represents the community’s voice in discussions and issues related to use of force, training, and data collection policies.

    "We are committed to serving the public safety needs of our community with transparency and accountability in this effort," said Eric Holmes, city manager of City of Vancouver. "Chief McElvain and I are committed to establishing a successful police camera program for VPD as part of our ongoing commitment to build confidence and trust with Vancouver residents."

    The City will continue to report on the progress of implementing the police camera program. For more information, visit www.cityofvancouver.us/VPDCameraStudy.

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  • Statement from Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle on the recent shootings in Georgia and violence against Asian Americans:

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    23 Mar 2021

    “I want to acknowledge the pain being felt throughout our community and our nation. Last week our country experienced another tragedy when a gunman in Georgia killed eight people in the Atlanta area. This horrific event is being widely recognized as a hate crime against Asian Americans. We share in the sorrow and anger of the friends, families and communities of the victims of this senseless violence, including our Asian American and Pacific Islander employees and members of the wider Vancouver community. These events are sad and tragic evidence of the importance of our responsibility as leaders to denounce hate wherever it arises and to stand resolute in our commitment to advance equity as we become a more inclusive and just Vancouver. Each of us shares in making our community a safe place for all. I encourage anyone who experiences or witnesses an act of hate to please report the incident.” -Mayor, Anne McEnerny-Ogle

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  • 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
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    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 >