By Jim Ferrell, Mayor of Federal Way
Images of boarded-up store windows, clashes between protestors and police in the streets, and empty police cars engulfed in flames have commanded our attention over the last several weeks as our nation has convulsed with social unrest.
But Federal Way has been a shining example of how a community can show its passionate activism yet remain peaceful during turbulent times in our region.
I’m proud of how our community has conducted itself over these last few weeks. We’ve had a number of peaceful gatherings where law-abiding residents have waved signs at key intersections while chanting and encouraging passersby to honk their horns in support. Some of those demonstrations have even made their way to City Hall.
A passionate crowd gathered last Friday morning to witness the raising of the Juneteenth flag, in recognition of the oldest known celebration commemorating the abolition of slavery in the United States, for the first time in our City’s history. Approximately 100 people attended – everyone clad in masks while adhering to social distancing protocols – to witness this historic occasion. There was a strong sense of community at this event.
Community members read from the proclamation the City Council and I signed earlier in the week, and a few others read from text that inspired them for this moment. As the flag was raised up the flagpole, many pulled out their camera phones to document the moment.
What an exciting time to live in Federal Way!
We are a diverse, changing community, a place where more than 120 languages are spoken. I celebrate our diversity and we need to take every opportunity to assure our citizens they will be honored and respected. Our police and various event organizers continue to work in partnership to ensure the safety of those participating to preserve their 1st Amendments right to free speech.
Chief Andy Hwang is a respected leader of our police department, which is currently accredited at the highest possible level of “excellence,” the Gold Standard (representing 1% of nation’s police departments). There are approximately 17,895 law enforcement agencies in the United States, with just 3.5% nationally accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). I am very proud of the tremendous work by our staff to achieve this accomplishment; providing the highest level of service to our citizens and meeting the highest standards in policing.
I’m proud of how our department’s men and women have conducted themselves during these times of intense scrutiny of law enforcement agencies nationwide. We continue working toward building our police force to an appropriate ratio of officers to population, something this community has been asking for. We are in the midst of accepting a federal COPS grant for $750,000 for the hiring of 6 new officers, which will put our force at 140 officers.
While I recognize that we are not perfect, we are careful and thoughtful, and we believe that national accreditation is evidence of our ongoing efforts to improve and meet standards of best practices. This focus has paid off. At the end of 2019 we saw a reduction in overall crime (9%) for three consecutive years and five out of the past six years.
We are proud of the dedication, compassion and professionalism of our police officers. Their performance is based on not only what they learned at the academy, but reinforced with constant training and retraining based on real-life scenarios. We are committed to a safe community with respectful officers that support our diverse community.
Our diversity is woven into the fabric of this nation. It’s perhaps best embodied in the Latin phrase “E Pluribus unum,” which means “out of many, one.”
“E Pluribus unum” was adopted as our nation’s motto in 1776 and is now found on the Great Seal of the United States and on United States currency. At its core, our nation’s motto is a celebration of our diversity.
This motto is on display daily throughout our own community; at the dais in our Council Chambers, within the ranks of our Diversity Commission, in our classrooms across the school district, in the faces of those who filled our sidewalks while clutching signs and crying out for change, and those who cheered the raising of the Juneteenth flag.
We must put diversity and the core tenet that we are stronger when we work as one at the forefront of our decision-making skills here at City Hall. It will benefit our community in countless ways moving forward.
I believe our best days are ahead of us.