Centralia City Councilor Blasts Removal of Police Proclamation From Recent Meeting Agenda

Mayor Pro Tem Says Decision Is Part of Effort to Limit Politics on the Council and Focus on City Business

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Late last week, a Centralia City Councilor expressed criticism of her fellow councilors’ actions during the council meeting on May 10.

Councilor Leah Daarud put forth a resolution aimed at supporting local law enforcement to be considered on the agenda during last week’s meeting, but the council decided to strike the resolution from the agenda.

“Centralia is experiencing a crisis of trust in local government and trust is imperative if leaders are to effectively deliver on other missions,” Daarud wrote in a letter to her constituents shared with The Chronicle. “To restore trust, leaders must clarify their values. Last Tuesday, I submitted a resolution that would have declared our support for law enforcement in our community. Centralia City Council was unwilling to get behind this … and shut it down before it could even be heard.”

Daarud explained that conversations she’s had with her constituents yielded concern over the ability of local law enforcement to reduce crime, and she felt it was her duty to address that concern with the resolution.

She told The Chronicle that she “just thought that on the eve of Police Week and on the back end of all our local crime, a statement from the council (on law enforcement) would have been appropriate.”

Mayor Pro Tem Cameron McGee, who moved to strike the resolution from the agenda, told The Chronicle that his action was not out of any lack of support for the Centralia Police Department. The  vote to strike the item from the agenda was also unanimous.

“Our police department knows that we support them,” he said. “I spoke with the chief to let him know that (removing the item) wasn’t a lack of support for the police department prior to this. It was just trying to maintain in our council meetings that council meetings run the city and do city business.”

Specifically, McGee said removing the item was an effort to keep the council from making any statement on political matters that are not in the purview of the council’s work.

“We had a workshop where we talked about how we didn’t want to politicize the council,” McGee said. “We want to make sure we are doing things that are positive and not things that are politically controversial and divisive within that.”

The text of the proposed resolution targeted actions made by the state Legislature, something that the council has no say over.

“Purported reforms introduced dangerous ambiguity, resulting in law enforcement pulling back from the very neighborhoods they are entrusted to protect and after years of hard-fought declines, homicides and other violent crimes are once again on the rise in Centralia and since recent police accountability laws took effect last July, all property, residential burglary, commercial burglary, vehicle theft and larceny crime is on the rise,” the resolution stated.

Another part of Daarud’s proposed resolution addressed a social movement to defund the police, a notion that has seen political polarization to the point of mass protests across the country.

“Efforts to defund and further handcuff our police departments will cause irreparable and lasting damage to Centralia, if allowed,” stated the resolution.

McGee said Daarud could have tweaked the resolution to have it serve its intended purpose without making mention of aspects of law enforcement that have become politicized.

“If it had been something a little bit different, or if the language had been different within that resolution, I may not have pulled it, but at the time, it just felt unnecessary and like it wouldn’t be accomplishing anything,” McGee said.

Daarud believes there’s a lack of transparent support for local law enforcement that’s been upheld by the council through inaction, she indicated in the letter.

“We can all play a crucial role in rebuilding trust in our local government by being transparent, engaging with citizens more deeply, and holding our elected officials accountable,” stated the letter. “By such, we can strengthen the community bonds that lead to a deeper trust between our citizens. I am hoping the trend to silence support for law enforcement discontinues in our local leadership.”

The Chehalis City Council late last month made a proclamation designating the week of May 15 as “Police Week.”

The proclamation came concerning the U.S. Congress’ and former President John F. Kennedy’s designation of May 15 as Peace Officer Memorial Day in 1962, with the week of May 15 being designated as the national “Police Week.”

Lewis County commissioners decided last year to limit or eliminate ceremonial proclamations.