Recent events have caused many residents of University Place, like citizens across America, to engage in difficult discussions about the tough topics of racism, police brutality and judicial inequities.
On Friday, June 5, our community held two peaceful demonstrations, one at Tacoma Community College and the other at the Village at Chambers Bay, in which an estimated 350 people came together to show their commitment to addressing racism in our society and demanding responsible law enforcement.
For Greg Premo, chief of the University Place Police Department, the gatherings were an opportunity to thank people for their engagement and to answer questions. “We realize that the images from Minneapolis—and elsewhere—of law enforcement officers abusing their authority are utterly disturbing. They are disturbing to the public and they are disturbing to every responsible law enforcement officer who is committed to upholding their oath to protect and serve everyone in their communities,” Premo said. “There are more than 13,000 law enforcement agencies and over 650,000 law enforcement officers in the United States and the vast majority of these men and women, including the members of the University Place Police Department, go to work every day to serve their communities under the guidance of ‘justice for all.’”
Several members of the University Place City Council, including Mayor Caroline Belleci and Mayor Pro Tem Steve Worthington, attended the demonstrations, yet they chose not to speak—but to listen. “I really wanted to hear what others had to say,” said Belleci. “I was moved by what I heard, but I was also incredibly proud of our community, for its commitment to acknowledging that we need to address these really tough, really uncomfortable issues—but that we can do so peacefully and respectfully.”
Respect is a theme that Premo comes back to again and again with his officers. “As a law enforcement officer, I have always treated people with respect, and I expect my officers to do the same. It is the foundation of our relationship with the community because respect builds trust and trust builds partnerships,” he said.
It is also why Premo continues to encourage residents and business owners in University Place to get to know the patrol officers they see on the streets. Engage with them at community events. Ask questions and expect answers. “And please don’t allow the actions of officers in other communities to tarnish the work of the officers in your own hometown,” he said. “We are grateful to the U.P. community for its support. It is my hope that we will continue to talk to each other and to work with each other to make our community as safe as it can be for everyone.”
Belleci is committed to continuing the difficult conversations that have been started in the last week or so once the people of University Place can gather together safely. “I look forward to being together in person so that we can gain a better understanding of these complex issues, learn from each other’s experiences and begin to make the decisions that will allow us to come away from this stronger and more united as a community,” she said.