Message on Death of George Floyd

Community Message from Chief of Police Wendi Steinbronn on the Death of George Floyd

June 9, 2020

Dear community partners,

I’ve been your chief of police for six months now. I have felt your support from day one. Washougal is a beautiful, welcoming city, and I’m proud to be your chief. I have received emails, calls, and comments from you in the last few weeks. I welcome the discussion, and I thank you for trusting me enough to ask the questions.

Before today, I have not made an official comment about the death of George Floyd, but those who know me personally have heard me denounce the actions of the officers. Based on my knowledge, training and experience, I know what happened in Minneapolis was bad policing. I support the firing and the arrest of Officer Chauvin as well as the firing of the officers who failed to intervene.

Washougal had a peaceful demonstration this past weekend and I want you to know that we support lawful First Amendment assemblies. I heard from some who were concerned about the open carry of firearms by some in the community. Open carry is legal in the State of Washington, assuming the person is otherwise legally able to carry a firearm.

Our job as police officers is to remain neutral, keep the peace, and follow the law, regardless of our personal opinions. The men and women of the Washougal Police Department are kind, caring people who want to serve their community.

Our department policies have been under review since my arrival as we are preparing to apply for accreditation. The benefits of accreditation include increasing the public trust in our department by ensuring that we follow and train to the highest professional standards in policing.

Our policy work includes a review of our use of force, biased-based policing prohibition, investigation of misconduct, and hate crime investigations, to name a few.

Our current use of force policy requires that officers intercede when they see force used that is beyond what is objectively reasonable. If force is used, an officer must document it in a report and notify their supervisor. The supervisor is required to review the incident and initiate an investigation if there is a policy violation or any other reason that further investigation may be needed.

Our officers are certified by the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission (WSCJTC). Ongoing training is critical in police work. We meet or exceed the training hours required by the WSCJTC, which is no easy task with a small department budget. Our annual refreshers include training in de-escalation and effective communication with those in crisis.

We do not currently have body cameras. I’m not opposed to the use of body cameras, but the cost of storing the data and responding to public records requests for video can easily overwhelm a small budget.

Recruitment and selection are also essential in policing. Our candidates go through an extensive background check, psychological screening, and polygraph before being hired. Lateral candidates who come from agencies inside or outside the state go through the same testing. The polygraph includes questions about use of force, truthfulness, and potential bias.

Most of the members of our department grew up in this area. Although we don’t require our employees to live in the city, many of them do. I, as many of you know, live right next door in Camas, but I spend my workdays and a lot of my leisure time in Washougal. I graduated from high school in Longview and am native to the Pacific Northwest. We are all invested in keeping Washougal the safe, friendly, and inviting city that it already is.

I look forward to the time when we can meet in person again and talk. Until then, please email or call, I’m listening.

Wendi Steinbronn
Chief of Police

360.835.8701 ext. 401