Chief Kim Petersen and Captain Sean Washington respond to concerns regarding the process of appointing new police chiefs without input from the public.

Abigail Manalese

Staff Writer

     FREMONT, Calif. —  In the Fremont PD, appointments for Chief of Police have largely remained internal, ranging from internal candidate competition to city appointments. A handful of  Fremont residents have taken issue with the inability to give community input on new leadership following FPD’s current Police Chief Kim Petersen announcement to retire from her position on Oct. 1 and Captain Sean Washington’s appointment by City Manager Mark Danaj to take her place.

     “I was quite surprised to see that the City Manager was appointing a replacement without any input from the community. This is not an issue with this particular appointment but with the process. The police chief has a profound impact on a community and a city as large as Fremont should be soliciting community input into what qualities we want to see in our Chief of Police and who best exhibits them” reasons Marie Hughes, a software engineer and member of Engage Fremont.

     Hughes cites the City of San Jose as an example, where the list of candidates for chief was publicized by the City of San Jose website and interviews with all candidates were livestreamed. A live forum was also held where SJ residents were able to submit public comments and a majority of the process was open to the community. The issue of community input on their leadership has especially become an increasing concern as a Black Lives Matter protest held outside of Newpark Mall last summer was met with the FPD refusing to kneel with protestors to show solidarity. Chief Petersen and Captain Washington were among the officers who refused to take part. In response to some community members’ critical view on the process of choosing leaders, Captain Washington currently believes that community input on appointments for Chief of Police is not what is needed at this point in time.

     “I’m not sure that I would change the process because really, it’s based on what the city manager and the council feels that the community needs at this particular time. As far as my selection, and how that came about, I think you just have to do a comprehensive review of all that I’ve done within this community over my 24 year career. And you see the commitment, you see the understanding of the community’s needs. Who best to understand how to be responsive to this community than someone who has worked in the community for over 24 years? I’ve laughed with the community, I’ve cried with the community. And that you don’t really get from an outside perspective.” Washington explains.

     Petersen, who achieved her rank through an internal competition amongst candidates, is personally supportive of community input on future contenders for the position.

     “Right now, the decision has been made for Captain Washington, but you know, each time is different . . . if in the future, perhaps beyond Captain Washington, if the community wants to be involved in that process, sure, I’d be supportive,” she states.

     Both Washington and Petersen recommended that community members worried about his appointment express their concerns, either regarding his appointment or the future of the FPD to Washington through community meetings.

     “I would just encourage them to get to know him. The City Manager and Captain Washington are going to be doing some sessions this summer, actually starting in June. And I say I think it would be a great opportunity for them to meet and listen to Captain Washington. And I think that will help them. I think it will change their minds.” says Petersen.

     Washington expressed the same sentiments, willing to meet with community members including students who have concerns regarding policing around Fremont.
    “I’ve scheduled a series of meetings with community groups so that they can get to know [and] understand what I’m about. And more importantly, instead of me explaining my plans, my plans are shaped by the community . . . I want to invite the folks who do have concerns. So [hypothetically] whenever you have a survey that says 80% of the student body support the SROs, some people might think that that is fantastic. Me, I want to talk to that 20%. What is it that you are concerned about? That’s the audience that I want to talk to.” He replied.

     For any regularly-meeting groups interested in discussing their concerns with Washington, he is currently holding open discussion meetings along with Mayor Lily Mei and City Manager Mark Danaj. More information can be found here.

Photo of Chief Kim Petersen taken from the City of Fremont website. “Many, many communities feel uncomfortable when interacting with police, for example, immigrants from other countries where police relations are very different, or the job or the career is very different than it is here. And if this is the same in our own community, then perhaps we need to do more outreach to that community.”
 Photo of Captain Sean Washington taken from the City of Fremont website. “I would love a society in which you didn’t need the police department. I’d love it. Because that means that no one is harming, we’re not harming one another, we’re respecting one another. We’re respecting everyone’s property. We’re not taking advantage of each other. But we’re dealing with the human race. And unfortunately, we have individuals in our society that will do harm to others. So you need someone to act as a guard against those people. And although the police department is probably not the appropriate resource for all situations, you just have to look at what happened in San Jose yesterday, to understand that there is a need for police.”

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