You are currently browsing: Posts Tagged ‘Young Activist Leaders’

Remembering 13 Years of War in Iraq

by Maddie Tappa, PJALS intern Friday, Apr 1, 2016 | 10:10am | Comment on this

resistance of the heart against business as usualThis month marks the 13th year of war, occupation, death, and fear in Iraq. Yesterday we held a rally to commemorate this unfortunate anniversary, with the theme being, “resistance of the heart against business as usual.” As a 21-year-old college student, this theme resonates especially strongly for me. Over half of my life has been spent fighting this war. In fact, I can hardly remember a time when America hasn’t been in war – and that is not how it should be. Our young people should grow up knowing peace and understanding, instead of assuming that war and violence is just “business as usual.” It was a sobering occasion as we listened to speeches calling for action and powerful poems against violence, sang a song of dissent, and let up a dove-shaped balloon for every year of war. As we watched each of the 13 balloons float up into the sky, the number of deaths each year was read aloud. The mood of the event can best be summarized with the lyrics of the song that we chanted together: “We’re gonna rise with the tides of freedom. Truth is the rock that will break our chains. We will stop the powers of destruction. Healing is the fire running through our veins.”

Member Reactions to Forum on Racism, Law Enforcement & Criminal Justice

by pjals Tuesday, Mar 15, 2016 | 11:11am | One comment.

Compiled from members by Taylor Weech, PJALS Steering Committee Member

After Wednesday’s Community Forum on Racism, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice, I had a lot of strong reactions and wanted to check in with other PJALS members and friends about their take on the meeting and what our next steps might be as an organization, given that it didn’t seem in the forum, led by Knight Sor of the Dept. of Justice Community Relations Service, that the topic of whether Jim McDevitt would be retained as interim chief of police– after his racially inflammatory and inaccurate remarks were brought back into light this month– wasn’t on the table. You can read The Inlander’s take on the meeting and coverage of McDevitt’s hiring here and the op-ed in question here.

The following are some of our members’ reactions to the meeting. As you’ll see, we aren’t all in lock-step on our reactions, but a few commonalities do rise to the surface. Were you present? Post in the comments. To stay up to date and involved in police oversight and reform in Spokane, the best place is likely the Spokane Police Accountability & Reform Coalition (SPARC). Meetings are held on the 4th Wednesday of every month at 5:30pm, at 35 W. Main. To join our coalition email list, please contact Shar Lichty at You can also connect with us on Facebook!


Elaine Tyrie

“I had a mix of feelings, including some hope and lots of frustration. I was very moved by the courage of the people of color who spoke. They shared their stories with humility, power and truth.  From the statements and responses of McDevitt and Condon, it’s doubtful they ‘get it’. To me, I heard the message Wednesday night, and also from the folks who gave their testimony at the City Council regarding Smart Hiring: to ask us to meet one another as equal human beings.  And the reporting in the Spokesman Review missed that point, too.

I’m concerned about the facilitator. Is he inexperienced? Untrained? Both? Do he and DOJ have full background and history of the depth and the history of Spokane and racism and law enforcement? After the meeting I question that they do. Toni Lodge and both of you [Liz Moore & Taylor Weech] spoke eloquently as well, especially about the need to take time to work on this. Personally, I believe a truth and reconciliation process or something similar is needed. Condon and McDevitt apologizing is just the beginning, and offering to meet individually with people, while saying they are open, just doesn’t do it for me.

Elementary students are taught that ‘I’m sorry’ is only the beginning of working through conflict. Understanding the point of view of the other person, making a decision to repair the wrong with a plan that the person agrees to, then acting on it are steps that demonstrate sincerity and build trust.”


David Brookbank

“It is evident that the Department of Justice (DOJ) believes it can come into communities, assuming they have credibility, talking about embedding themselves in communities, and trying to get communities to put unresolved issues behinds them, and move straight to ‘praising police’, without even knowing which police are in the room (in this case 8 to 10 uniformed but unnamed officers and 8 to 10 out-of-uniform and undercover officers, also unnamed). One can be certain that the DOJ will plan the next meeting to make sure that certain voices and perspectives are excluded. The DOJ cannot come into this community and take over a community process. That is totally illegitimate and unacceptable.”


Kelly Mathews

“The sooner we can get a team of anthropologists in there to look at the office culture through the Police Ombudsman Commission and through an independent oversight committee, the better. I say this both as someone with a degree in cultural anthropology and who has read about officers and former officers with degrees in anthropology writing about how important anthropological analysis and advising of a department’s culture is to reforming and revising it. I also, by way of contrasting the officer at that night’s meeting [Asst. Chief Craig Meidl] with what I expect from a great police officer representing the community, have an aunt with a dad who was an officer, who had his degree in anthropology, and was one of the best cops I ever met: the opposite of the officer in the room that night. He was a very fair man. He didn’t like bullshit and fake people and was an astute judge of character. The officer in the room [Meidl] in comparison seemed mostly interested in using every inch of what he considered his power to persuade us that fear and intimidation tactics and department policies which are preventing functional, good community relations.

I want to know who makes the rules and how they are made in the process of hiring new police officers. Who is in charge of that? How did that policy get decided? It seems to me that the officer in charge [Meidl] was very defensive. He seemed to be very politically oriented, and side-stepping the issue, and throwing character aspersions on people instead of talking about his own or the Department’s actual responsibility and any kind of transparency on what the Department does and how the Department does it. This is simply unacceptable and untenable for a public agency. The police are not the NSA: I’m saying this in a vehement as manner as possible. Either way, we the good citizens and people should decide how we want to be policed. We should write the policies! Most of the officers are appallingly ignorant of the communities they serve in so many ways: Culturally, economically, emotionally, community health-wise. This links to the larger issues facing police nation wide.

Where are these officers getting this ideas of what constitutes red flags and so on in the hiring process? Undoubtedly their training. If so, the curriculum is in serious need of revising. We can’t put a band-aid on this anymore. This has to be more of a long-term overhaul. When this police officer [Meidl] was explaining to us that the reason women of color and people of color from Spokane for not getting hired, he connected it to them having past criminal records. This stuns me. I was completely livid. I am infuriated, still. We need to know exactly what the high standards are that he was talking about or red flags they’re watching out for are when they talk about there being criminal record in someone’s past.

Also, regarding the red flags, and time elapsed between them to become an officer if there were deeds committed in the past, I wonder, if they are looking for the right red flags, since it seems sexual violence is normalized within the Department. I consider that the Spokane Police Department has officers who have slept with victims of domestic violence, have been accused of sexually harassing and assaulting other officers at parties and a plethora of other problems. I’m completely upset by this and it just seems like he is totally gas-lighting, using cognitive dissonance. He’s used to power and getting his way and he doesn’t want that much scrutiny into what he’s doing it’s a very plain to see this is why every single person who has tried to reroute this department has had to deal with corruption and obfuscation. A kind of backwards way of doing police work.

So there’s a lot more work that needs to be done, for real transparency and agency for this community with the police, and it’s not going to be easy since it’s already taken years. I don’t know what’s going on, but we need to take some other tactics and light a metaphorical fire under them to change it and hold them accountable, because they are accountable to the citizens. Also, unlike many of my fellow activist or friends,  I disagree there will always be those who are doing wrong things and breaking the law so we will always need the police. I want a world where we don’t need police mostly because there’s no reason to break break the law, because everyone has what they need. As usual, watching this department reminds me that in the real world, there’s some serious Game of Thrones manipulating, some Machiavellian power schemes going on. Which brings me to my favorite police officer, and department, in fiction. It’s Commander Vimes of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld saga and the entire cadre of officers there. I strongly suggest everyone read it. It’ll give everyone the sense of humor we’re going to need to make it through this.”


Ann Donahue

“I thought the outcome was good. I had not been to an NAACP meeting in many months and did not know about McDevitt’s 2015 article. I did finish reading it before the meeting. I was impressed how well the meeting was run. The moderator was experienced.

I was satisfied that McDevitt said he has come to realize that unless you walk in someone’s shoes, you can’t understand them and he apologized for the hurt.  ‘Statistics are cold. In that regard, they’re dangerous.’ His intent was not to endorse racial profiling but to point out that it exists, McDevitt said. He blamed having to repeatedly shorten his opinion piece for its lack of clarity. ‘I tried to put too many things in a short article,’ he said.

McDevitt invited people to meet with him about their concerns. ‘I’m open,’ he said. ‘It’s part of the journey, part of the learning process.’  We shall see. Not being black nor part of the gay community, all of my contacts with police departments have been positive.  It is shameful that some don’t have that same experience. I was grateful to all who spoke and shared their hurts and distrust and positive and negative experiences. I wondered if they would be harassed after these communications. Will someone be watching [to ensure this doesn’t happen]? I hope so.

I applaud Mayor Condon for engaging the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Services (CRS) to come in and assist the City, SPD, and the community in addressing issues on race relations.


Joshua Washington

Going off what I know, I feel like Jim McDevitt didn’t really address the issues people brought up. I feel like he was just trying to move the conversation along to end it quickly. His apology felt really hollow and not sincere at all. Just the fact of him telling us to give him a report card at the end on how well he did was like a slap in the face, like he didn’t really care about our opinion, which actually irritated me. He admitted that he is a product of white privilege, but I felt like he didn’t need to keep going on about the stuff he did in the past, and bringing up banning the box (I understand how important banning the box is, but that wasn’t the issue that night) made me feel like he was just trying to waste our time.

When David asked if any cops that were not in uniform to raise their hands and 10 of them did, it kind of freaked me out a little bit. I don’t know why he felt the need to have that many cops in there in the first place. If anything, that made me feel really unsafe. I really don’t trust him, especially when Jaclyn called him out for him being incompetent for not knowing all the facts, because it just reinforces her point on him not being qualified to lead the police.

Taylor Weech

I was not present at the beginning of last Wednesday’s forum, but I came as soon as possible after work. After listening to the audio of the portion that I missed and reading the reflections from fellow PJALS members, I am affirmed that my overall impression of what happened there is based on a fair view of the meeting as a whole. In a procedural sense, I found the meeting incredibly disappointing. It boosted my confidence in the progressive community’s ability to organize grassroots meetings that work, that make people heard, and that accomplish their goals. The facilitation by the Community Relations Service professional from the DOJ far undercut my expectations of professionalism and ability, given that this has been his role in departments around the country. By the end, he seemed disconnected from the atmosphere of the room and words of those who spoke who remained dissatisfied. After McDevitt’s apology and the follow up comments from Assistant Chief Craig Meidl, he asked whether we could say some positive things about the department.

As I shared in the meeting, I found that question insulting and a distraction from the systemic nature of the issues we are dealing with in this community and nation. To ask community members and activists, who have been working for something as simple as basic oversight and accountability of our police for easily 30 years, to put their differences aside and say some nice things struck me as patronizing and displayed the absolute ignorance that the DOJ, the Mayor, and the SPD hold about the level of mistrust and betrayal that this city feels. That we passed Prop. 1, including independent investigative authority, racial equity measures and more, with a 70% yes vote (an absolute political rarity!) speaks to how much this is not a fringe issue in Spokane. And while the actual structural progress in this fight has been discouraging, and slow, and tedious, and frustrating, particularly as we have a zero faith partner in the Mayor’s office, I still felt a slight sliver of hope at this forum.

I expect that the SPD, and the Mayor’s office, and the DOJ imagined that we would be more tired by now. That we would see their report and trust that small steps, without actual independent oversight, were enough. That we would hear stories of sexual assault of female officers, inappropriate sexual relationships by officers with victims of domestic violence, harassment, and assume in their favor that it was a case of a few bad apples and not a serious cultural problem to audit. That we would fail to notice that the Assistant Chief is one of the officers who stood and saluted Karl Thompson at his sentencing after his brutal beating of Otto Zehm, ten years ago this week. That we would accept the racially skewed police contact statistics in our city, despite its overall whiteness, as perhaps justified. That we would accept that nonfactual and racially biased analysis coming from Jim McDevitt himself, and that after his fellow PLAC members pointed it out, that the Mayor would not remove him from the process, but rather, hire him. Well, we didn’t. And people did not leave that meeting happy. We are not done here and I believe that every meeting, rally, and forum hereafter will only have more people who desire a police department we can trust in attendance. I’d like to challenge our members to help make that true as these processes continue. Mayor Condon may have been asleep at the wheel when he hired Frank Straub despite his clearly checkered record, but this community is wide awake and we have our eyes on this process. We are not going anywhere.

My favorite moment came near the end of the meeting. I had been standing near the door, near a man whose role I don’t know (I don’t know whether he was a cop because I missed the moment when plainclothes officers were asked to identify themselves), but who was one of the few in the room who did not raise his hand when a member of the audience asked whether people acknowledged the reality of white male privilege in our society. A well known African American female activist entered the door and non-verbally greeted three to four other people of color in her immediate proximity, with head nods and small waves. They waved and nodded back. I watched this man, directly behind her, track all of these interactions like a tennis match, the alarm growing visibly on his face. Then, just before she sat down, she smiled and waved at me. And I waved back, and I like to imagine that the look dawning on his face was one of the understanding that our communities are connecting more than ever over this issue, and the real threat to power that those relationships represent. His surprise and mild terror at that is, on some level, echoed by the SPD and the Mayor. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have felt the pressure to attend such a forum in the first place. They wouldn’t have scrambled to smooth things over at all. And as of now, things are still not smooth. Building trust is going to take much more than a few meetings, but a genuine process of accountability and reckoning with conditions in this city regarding race, policing, and power.

Welcome Cassandra!

by Jessica Silva Friday, Nov 27, 2015 | 1:13pm | Comment on this

Cassandra Guerreroby Jessica Silva

Cassandra Guerrero joined PJALS this fall as part of an internship through EWU’s Social Work program. She is from Moses Lake and moved to Cheney to pursue a higher education where she can make a difference. Cassandra has volunteered at Betz Elementary School where she mentored children at risk. She chose to do her internship at PJALS because she wanted to make a difference at the community level and not just on individualized problem and because she is tired of not acting upon issues that are important to her. Read more »

Welcome Jessica!

by pjals Friday, Nov 27, 2015 | 1:13pm | Comment on this

Jessica Silvaby Cassandra Guerrero

Jessica Silva joined PJALS through the EWU Social Work program for an internship with a community organizing perspective. Jessica chose a Social Work Degree because for five years of her life she lived in Mexico and saw all the hardships that people had to endure on a day-to-day basis and wondered how those people got there in the first place, then when she moved to the United States she was given the opportunity to gain an education. That’s when she knew she wanted to understand how to help people when they are most vulnerable. Read more »

Welcome Daniel!

by Moncerat Rodriguez Friday, Nov 27, 2015 | 1:13pm | Comment on this

Daniel Geiterby Moncerat Rodriguez

Daniel Geiter is a student from Whitworth University. His passion is fighting issues of societal inequity. Until the time he started high school, Daniel’s family was low-income. Daniel, who is white, says “I did not realize how much I benefited, solely due to my skin color. I started to hear about others’ experiences and how they have been treated when I got to college.” He felt a responsibility to try to secure equal treatment for individuals and believed he was capable of helping, which brings him to PJALS. Read more »

Welcome to Social Work Practicum Student Moncerat Rodriguez

by Andrew Lack Friday, Nov 27, 2015 | 1:13pm | Comment on this

Monce Rodriguezby Andrew Lack

Monce is a senior at EWU, doing her social work practicum at PJALS.  Monce is drawn to working within the juvenile justice system.  She also has always felt a close connection to Child Protective Services.

Monce is a graduate of the Toppenish School District in Yakima County.  She originally came to know of PJALS through a friend who had once worked with us as an intern.  She also credits her involvement with M.E.Ch.A. at EWU and participated in a PJALS peacekeeper training with them. Read more »

“Seeing Our Plans Turn To Action” – Practicum Reflection by Victoria Huckabee

by pjals Thursday, May 28, 2015 | 3:15pm | Comment on this

Victoria HuckabeeInterning at PJALS has been an amazing experience for me and I have learned about so many different areas of community organizing and macro level social work. I am grateful for every experience I had at PJALS from participating in police accountability meetings and activities to planning the Mothers and Families for Smart Justice group, and even making hundreds of event reminder phone calls. Interning at PJALS has taught me community organizing, leadership skills, and formed my professional identity. I feel confident and satisfied in the work I have done and in the work I will continue to do with the skills I learned at PJALS.

Looking back on the year I remember how little I knew about community organizing at the first event I was a part of, which was the Smart Justice Community Symposium. I remember feeling a little useless and somewhat in the way because I had so many questions and wasn’t really sure what I was doing. As the year progressed and I felt more confident in my abilities I began to own my projects and take pride in my work. When I compare my symposium experience to our most recent event, which was the auction, I am really able to see how much I changed and grew over the course of my internship. The auction was a very different experience for me than the symposium was. At the auction, I felt confident in the work I was doing, took charge of my projects, and stepped up to help out wherever I was needed. I also noticed a difference due to the relationships I built with members and volunteers and it feels great to be a valuable member of the team. Read more »

“A Sense of Needing to Contribute” – Practicum Reflection by Teresa Kinder

by pjals Thursday, May 28, 2015 | 3:15pm | Comment on this

Teresa KinderInterning at PJALS has provided me with a unique opportunity to learn mezzo and macro level social work practice. I learned what advancing social change really means and what working for a better tomorrow looks like. Students in my social work cohort question whether they are really making a difference. At PJALS I have never questioned if my work is making a difference. Being an intern has shown me my own faults and areas for improvement but also how to make a difference in the community.

At the start of the year I started at another internship. I remember hearing fellow interns Jamie and Victoria talk about all the work they were doing at PJALS and feeling a sense of needing to contribute to this work.

Starting my internship at PJALS, one of the first things I was a part of was a demonstration about the Department of Justice report on torture tactics employed by the Bush administration and developed at Fairchild Air Force Base. This small demonstration was my first look into the injustices perpetrated in our country and one action we can take to counter injustice. Read more »