By Bruce Dammeier, Pierce County Executive.
…with liberty and justice for all. As a kid I repeated the Pledge of Allegiance every morning in school. Whether during my service on the Puyallup School Board or in the Legislature, I recited the Pledge with sincerity at the start of each session. And today, our Council begins every meeting on Tuesday with the Pledge, as well as a moment of silence for the men and women serving in the military.
What does it mean for everyone to have justice? And, what will it take for everyone to experience that justice? Our community and our nation have been wrestling with this in our streets and in our courtrooms over the last several months.
Opinions will vary, of course, but I think it’s clear that our society is not and has not been just for all. We all have work to do to make the Pledge more than just words.
This work is not new to our County team. I could give numerous example of excellent efforts by teams that have resulted in a more just system. Our Juvenile Court is a national leader in these efforts – and has been for years! More recently, the Clerk’s Office Pretrial Services efforts, led by Andrea Kelley, have emerged as a national leader as well. However, significant work still remains.
This week our County’s Criminal Justice Work Group put forth an important first step of our next efforts. The Work Group was created out of Council legislation to review the practices and policies of our criminal justice system. They had a very short timeline to perform this work, so we brought together a diverse team of our best and brightest!
Representatives of the Work Group just wrapped up two meetings with the Council to present and review the data they gathered and discuss the implications of their research.
My thanks to the members of the Work Group for the hours of time they spent to help the County move forward in creating justice for all.
- Chad Arceneaux, Attorney, Prosecuting Attorney’s Office
- Diane Clarkson, Senior Deputy, Prosecuting Attorney’s Office
- Ashley Grant, Attorney, Department of Assigned Counsel
- Dan Grimm, Deputy Executive, Executive’s Office
- Jim Heishman, retired Bureau Chief – Patrol, Sheriff’s Department
- Patty Jackson-Kidder, Bureau Chief – Corrections, Sheriff’s Department
- Andrea Kelley, Social Services Manager, Clerk of Superior Court
- Sarah Colleen Sotomish, Senior Counsel, Executive’s Office
- Joseph Evans, Attorney, Prosecuting Attorney’s Office
Part of our journey includes making our data transparent to our community. You – and anyone – can read the group’s report and review the data dashboard at www.piercecountywa.gov/justicedata.
This week, retired Judge Frank Cuthbertson convened a citizens’ review committee that will take the report and create a path forward to a more just and fair criminal justice system. They have a big job ahead of them but I’m confident that with Frank’s leadership the committee will come back with strong recommendations and a thoughtful approach.
One person who worked tirelessly his entire life to create a more just society was Harold Moss. Described by others as “a lion,” “an icon,” and “a trailblazer and champion of civil rights,” our community lost Harold this week at the age of 90.
Harold was Tacoma’s first Black city councilmember and was the city’s first Black mayor. In 1996, he was elected as the first Black Pierce County councilmember, including two years as Chair.
One of his most enduring contributions to our community was his work, along with that of his then wife, Bil, to end the shameful practice of redlining. Years ago banks wouldn’t provide loans to people of color for homes in certain neighborhoods.
You may recall that one of last year’s Standing Ovation awards was presented to a team from the Auditor’s Office that worked with neighborhoods that still had those restrictive covenants on the books. Their collaboration with neighbors to remove those covenants finished the work that Harold Moss began decades before.
I was blessed to know Harold and we are all diminished by his passing. He made our community better for every one of us.
Thanks for reading.
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