The city of Walla Walla finalized plans for a series of town hall meetings to discuss local police practices and policies, funding and the polarizing tattoo of a police officer.
The meetings will be conducted online via Zoom, and the city will provide links to them on the City Council web page. Recordings of the meetings will be available on the city’s public meetings showcase on Vimeo, according to a release.
The series will include an informational meeting, a meeting for public input and a concluding discussion with possible action by the City Council.
The first takes place July 9, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Police Chief Scott Bieber will present on Walla Walla Police Department policies and practices. City Manager Nabiel Shawa will present on the city budget and police funding. City Attorney Tim Donaldson will speak on legal issues surrounding Police Officer Nat Small’s tattoo.
Public comment will not be accepted. The information is intended to be provided in English and Spanish, according to a release.
The presentations follow more than a month of public debate and almost 2,000 emails, calling on Council and the police department for either reform, action over Small and/or the tattoo or declaring support for the police department and its officers.
Small’s military memorial tattoo as a U.S. Marine Scout Sniper had been called out by the public for the double lightning bolt symbol used by the elite group and later denounced by the Marine Corps for its depiction of an “SS” symbol most closely associated with Nazi white supremacy.
The tattoo has drawn the attention of the national civil rights organization the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which has threatened to sue unless the officer changes or removes the tattoo or leaves the precinct. It also led Whitman College to end its relationship with the department for off-duty officer security.
Whitman this week also announced the department can no longer conduct training on its campus or use its fitness center.
The second meeting on July 23 from 6:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. will allow for public input and comments.
The city will provide a form on the City Council page on its website starting July 10 for people to sign up if they wish to provide comments. Submissions will be due by 5 p.m. July 17.
By requiring speakers to sign up, the city is seeking to have balanced input on the issues. If more than 60 people wish to speak, the speakers will be chosen randomly while maintaining a balance between the differing sides, the release stated.
The last meeting — Aug. 13 from 6:30 p.m. -8:30 p.m. — will be a discussion with possible action by the Council.