Langley City Council resumes discussions about racial injustice

Langley officials and community members decided to continue the discussion about dismantling systemic racism during Monday’s council meeting.

The Langley council is taking steps towards forming a citizen advisory committee made up of people of color.

The council also unanimously voted to ban the Langley police from using the carotid hold.

South Whidbey citizens, some from Langley and others from around Whidbey, shared their frustration with the previous city council meeting and the lack of action taken in regards to defunding the police and confronting racial injustice.

“We spoke about so many things and not one thing was done in action of the day,” Clinton resident Derrek Jones said.

Others, like longtime Whidbey resident Seth Sobottka, agreed the council was “woefully unprepared” for the discussion and may be living in an “ivory tower of privilege.”

Former Langley resident Duncan Adams expressed that he believes the city and its people should be a leader in the anti-racist community.

“I feel Langley has been a place of love and compassion and sensibility forever, and I think that now is the time to lead, to move forward, and to listen to the strong black leaders of this community,” Adams said.

Hoping to remedy the dissatisfaction, Councilman Craig Cyr introduced a resolution with the goal to dismantle systemic racism at the city level.

Council members and citizens alike, however, had edits to make during the meeting, leading to the decision that the resolution should be a living document for the time being and open to comments from the public.

The proposed resolution calls for concrete action such as convening a series of public education workshops, requiring departments to scrutinize internal systems and to look carefully at public safety programs, including the Langley Police Department, so the public safety needs of BIPOC — Black, Indigenous and People of Color —can be understood and engaging with other organizations on Whidbey by convening an advisory group.

Cyr’s resolution did not at first receive full support from the council. Councilwoman Dominique Emerson questioned how the educational workshops would be funded.

“We’ve been down this road,” Emerson said. “We’ve gone absolutely nowhere.”

“I feel like this resolution is so broad and diving into a set of issues,” she said.

Mayor Tim Callison said he agreed that the resolution seemed broad and would require an investment of both time and resources.

He pointed to the citizen’s committee for hiring, evaluation of officer performance, past police workshops and a “robust” complaint feedback system as being signs of progress.

Callison admitted that systemic racial inequalities, however, were not part of any of those previous discussions.

Councilwoman Christy Korrow responded that the resolution is intentionally broad and there was no other choice but to face change and welcome it.

“To me what this document is about, is the community building piece,” Korrow said.

“This is a chance to learn together, to be led by our community members of color,” she said.

Councilmen Peter Morton and Thomas Gill also voiced support for the resolution.

“Whatever we articulate here is going to be met with a high degree of skepticism from the communities we are trying to learn to understand,” Morton said.

“I think each of us is on a journey that’s quite personal to recognize the unintended biases and where we fall short.”

Morton advocated for the document to be provisional until the wisdom and insight of people of color and their lived experiences can be added.

Gill said it was not the document he was expecting, but the one they needed.

Overall, the resolution generated a positive response from the citizens present.

“We love that you guys are making an effort,” Jones said.

“Langley is a great place that can at least identify that they want to do something,” he said.

He called for greater representation of people of color and asked the council for the ability to do the writing.

“Let us write the document, please. Let us do the work because it’s our job,” Jones said. “You guys need to stand back.”

Oak Harbor resident Jabari Diggs agreed that Langley could put people of color in these conversations and decision-making processes.

Callison suggested there needs to be input on the document from an advisory group of diverse perspectives, which could be established soon with the help of the council.

The council invited the public to continue the larger conversation by contacting them, which may lead to the creation of a citizen advisory committee where people of color have an opportunity to play a greater role in Langley decision-making.

Those interested in being part of the subcommittee can email Cyr at craigcyr.gov@whidbey.com.

“We don’t know all the answers, but we’re damn sure we’re going to try to find them and do our best to make things better for everyone in this community, because keeping the status quo is not an acceptable answer,” Gill said.

The Langley council unanimously approved the first reading of Cyr’s resolution, with the goal to revisit it at the next council meeting.

The elimination of the use of the carotid control hold by the Langley police force was briefly discussed towards the end of the meeting, also suggested by Cyr.

The council voted 5-0 to ban its use and to remove it from the policy of the Langley police force.

The next meeting of the Langley City Council is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday, July 6.

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