Lynnwood police joined local business owners at a Lynnwood Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday to learn how police can support the business community and to provide an update on how the police department is working to make the city safer.
The Lynnwood Chamber hosted the in-person event at Lynndale Park Picnic Shelter after nearly a year of holding the monthly meetings via Zoom. After meeting remotely for a year, Chamber President Linda Jones said the chamber wanted to find a way to get members together in person.
“We are providing a networking opportunity for our members as well as an educational opportunity,” she said. “We had to learn to be a little creative so that is why we’re outside today.”
Jones added that the event gave the chamber a chance to highlight some members, like Chef Dane Catering – which provided lunch — and HomeStreet Bank, which hosted the luncheon. HomeStreet Bank recently celebrated 100 years of business.
The luncheon speaker was Lynnwood Detective Sergeant Joe Dickinson, who updated members on new police reform legislation.
Dickinson was joined by the department’s public information officer Joanna Small, who encouraged attendees to provide feedback on the department, whether positive or critical. The department has come under fire recently after a Black woman died by suicide in the city’s jail in July. Since then, several community members have criticized Lynnwood police during Lynnwood City Council meetings.
On Wednesday, Small asked attendees to share their stories and support publicly to balance the comments being made by individuals she said are only looking to criticize police.
“It’s hard to ask the community to (speak publicly) because I know it can be intimidating,” she said. “If you like what your PD is doing and you believe in what we’re doing and you support us, please make sure you say that.”
Small also briefed attendees on a mobile app the department is reviewing, which would act as a one-stop shop for all information on Lynnwood police, including social media posts, emergency alerts, jail inmate information and messages from the police chief. The app would cost about $15,000 and be funded by grants.
Before the department can get the app, Small said it is fielding interest through a survey that can be accessed here.
Dickinson also spoke about the planned Community Justice Center project, which was approved by the Lynnwood City Council Monday night. The $69 million project includes developing and expanding the city’s police department, municipal courts and jail. The new facility would also partner with the neighboring Community Health Center (CHC) of Snohomish County to reduce recidivism by offering drug rehabilitation and substance abuse treatment to inmates.
“What that means is we’re not just putting people in jail, we’re actually going to give them treatment to get people out of the cycle of jail,” Dickinson said.
He then explained the impact of new state police reform laws, using a recent example involving a man who used a fixed-blade knife to slash tires on a vehicle. However, since the vehicle owner refused to press charges, police were unable to take the man into custody.
“All we could do is keep an eye on him,” he said.
Though police can’t always make a physical arrest, they can still refer a crime to the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office, he said, adding however that each prosecutor has about 700 cases each and can’t always take on more. Dickinson also spoke about the City of Lynnwood’s LEAD Program. It aims to reduce criminal recidivism and improve community health and safety by partnering social workers with law enforcement to divert eligible and willing offenders away from jail and prosecution into case management and wrap-around supportive services.
During the discussion, chamber member Carol Dungan from Mr. Kleen 76 asked about the department’s response to drug use in public spaces like city parks. In response, Small said that would be an example of when the department would make a LEAD referral.
“(The department) is very responsive and we’ll do everything we can to make the area as safe as we can within the confines of that law,” she said.
Around 30 chamber members attended the event as well as two councilmembers — George Hurst and Christine Frizzell. During the discussion, Lynnwood attorney Paul Hanson asked if the city had considered emergency camping areas for displaced homeless people.
Though the city doesn’t have that option, Frizzell spoke about the Jean Kim Foundation Hygiene Center, located at the former emission test site at 19726 64th Ave. W. The site offers free showers and restrooms to the homeless community as well as access to food, clothes and other resources. According to Frizzell, the site provides 700-800 showers a month.
“What we’re doing there is we’re not just providing wash-up facilities, we’re building respect on both sides,” she said.
In response to an inquiry about community police volunteers, Dickinson said that program was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic but the department plans to bring volunteers back soon.
“They are so instrumental to our department,” he said. “When you have a volunteer base as large as we have in Lynnwood, we are lucky and fortunate to have it.”
–Story and photos by Cody Sexton