Tacoma police have released data about officer-involved shootings and citizen complaints in hopes of creating a better relationship with the community.
The information was made available online Tuesday at data.cityoftacoma.org.
On Wednesday night, the Police Department hosted a public forum at The Evergreen State College in Tacoma to discuss the data and how it’s used.
Former Mayor Harold Moss encouraged police Chief Don Ramsdell to not lose perspective on community engagement in a sea of numbers.
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He wanted to know how the department would prepare for an event similar to what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, in the wake of the fatal 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown.
In part of his reply, Ramsdell said, “It is important to us to be as open, honest and transparent as possible.”
Moss went on: “My concern is that we are not sharing that event. We’re not actually visualizing what the Police Department is going to do.”
The data cover police shootings from 2012 to 2015, the time span most easily captured by its digital program. Complaints from 2015 were included.
In that four-year span, police shot at 12 people. The data do not say how many people were killed or hurt. The only shooting in which an officer was found to have acted outside department policy was in 2012.
Half of those shot at were white. Two were Hispanic, two were Native American and two were black. All but two were men.
All officers who fired their weapons were white, except one.
Last year, 147 people filed complaints against police for a range of allegations, mostly unsatisfactory performance or courtesy.
Eighteen of them — 12 percent — were found to be sustained.
“I think that’s on the low end,” Assistant Chief Kathy McAlpine said, adding that officers respond to an average of 155,000 calls for service each year.
Once a complaint was found to be sustained, discipline for the officer varied. Sometimes it meant more training. Other times it meant a written reprimand. Sometimes it meant a day off without pay.
“We do progressive discipline, depending on the history of the officer and level of egregiousness,” McAlpine said.
Wednesday night’s event started with addresses from city Councilman Keith Blocker, Brendan Nelson of the Hilltop Action Coalition and Ramsdell.
“Transparency and accountability — that’s why we’re here tonight,” Ramsdell said. “One of the things that we want to do is provide you with information that again everybody can see on our website that’s available to you. This is the beginning for us. We’re at the start.”
After Ramsdell’s speech, McAlpine and detective Ed Wade explained how the data were collected. An hourlong question-and-answer session followed.
The department plans to expand its public data to use of force and community engagement statistics, McAlpine said.
She said the department does not yet have complete data to tabulate on its contacts with minority residents, which one audience member asked about.
Tacoma Police Department is among 53 law enforcement agencies nationwide releasing the data sets and one of three in Washington. Seattle and Spokane police also are participating in the initiative.
The White House started the effort in May 2015 to reduce the use of force and improve community policing efforts.
More data briefings planned
Four more briefings on Tacoma police data about officer-involved shootings and citizen complaints are planned. The next is scheduled for Oct. 27 at the Asia-Pacific Cultural Center, 4851 S. Tacoma Way.