DAJD Managers Give Their Thoughts On Anti-racism Workshops

Crossposted from Roll Call: the DAJD newsletter January 2021

Managers and supervisors at the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention (DAJD) attended pro-equity workshops in December. Anita Whitfield, King County’s Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer, led the virtual sessions. There’s more to come: DAJD is making equity and social justice literacy a core competency for all department leaders.

“The goal of the workshop was to begin the conversation and was designed to set the stage for leadership to recognize and interrupt counterproductive behavior while supporting those who are harmed,” according to Angela Toussaint, Strategic Planning Manager. She added, “I was inspired by the participants’ willingness to be open to new information and vulnerable enough to share their experiences and look forward to our journey.”

Read more comments from other participants.

Ed Carter, Chief of Operations, Community Corrections Division (CCD)

“Any time you talk about race relations, it’s a very difficult conversation to have. You have to start somewhere. Coming from the top, it was a great start. It was interactive. It was good to hear from people. But I don’t think a conversation like that can start out too deep. It was an inviting conversation.

“The times we are in have basically allowed this issue to be brought out. Addressing the elephant in the room is difficult to do – at the same time you have to give people privacy and respect. 

“When people come in the door, they should have some expectations. There should be ongoing training, then it becomes the department culture, which is difficult in a department as large as ours, and as diverse.”

Ashley Mareld, Juvenile Programs Manager, Children and Family Justice Center (CFJC)

“I’ve tried to educate myself on race and equity, where racial injustice stems from and how it impacts communities of color. I think the workshop was a good way to open up the dialogue to staff who have not started that journey, particularly white staff. I definitely think there was some reluctance.

“I was happy to see how many of our co-workers of color felt safe enough to share their own experiences.

“I committed to talking to my white peers about white privilege. During a small team meeting about race in the workplace, it led to a great, supportive discussion.”

Cmdr. Edwin Bautista, Maleng Regional Justice Center (MRJC)

“Having that training on video, not being able to see the reactions, that was difficult. Those types of discussions are better-suited for a big room, in a circle.

“It’s a good discussion, I just think it needs to be more inclusive.”

Capt. Jerry Hardy, Court Detail

“I think the course was a good way to start people talking about whether there are racial issues in our department. However, I don’t think pushing it down to the troops in that manner is going to work. I think the training they need is to be in the room with each other and to look each other in the eyes and get to know how they feel. And I don’t think this type of training can be done online. As we go further down the chain of command, we need to make people think: Where am I in this picture? How do we  mend fences?

“But in the past four years, race has become a big issue because of the way our president has put things out. And things that normally wouldn’t be said have been said. They’re offensive to people and others don’t understand why they are offensive. The divide we see in our nation is here in the department.

“We are one department and the only way we can get back to being successful with each other is to discuss together what the issues are and how we relate to these issues as officers. It is a tough conversation, but one that needs to be had.”

Maj. Troy Bacon, King County Correctional Facility (KCCF)

“There was good open, dialogue. There were some breakout periods to have open discussions and bring them back to the larger group. It seemed like everybody had the ability to participate. I think there will continue to be education, open dialogue and the ability for everybody to learn and grow, learning to treat everybody as individuals. And working on being able to forgive and being honest with one another.

“Our behavior impacts others. It’s important to understand that we’re all in this together as a team.”