Tonasket, Washington is in Okanogan County near the Canadian border, and has a population of about 1,100. Okanogan County is roughly 5,300 miles in area. Never mind all that since Tonasket Mayor Dennis Brown disbanded the police department after alleged allegations of “racism.” But at a city council meeting, Officer Jose Perez told the council that the Mayor told him that his name was “too Hispanic.” Talk about bad optics.
A week prior to the council meeting, the Mayor disbanded the police department, which consisted of a Chief and two other members, including Jose Perez.
According to Tom Crouse at the Spokesman Review,
Asked if he talked with City Council members before making the decision to disband the police department, Brown refused to comment. He said the plan is to contract police services with the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office.
However, Undersheriff Aaron Culp said that agreement has not yet been finalized. Culp said the county has four deputies and a sergeant patrolling at any given time and they patrol a county that covers about 5,300 square miles.
Culp said the sheriff’s office learned Sunday that the police department had been disbanded.
“They have contacted us seeking an agreement” for law enforcement services, he said, “but an agreement has not been reached.”
The Sheriff’s office says it will respond to major crimes, and the city will have to handle the misdemeanors at this point. But a real agreement needs to be reached. And the people are somewhat panicked that there won’t be as many calls handled by officers.
The issues came to a head at the Tonasket city council meeting on January 8, when Officer Perez told the council of the Mayor’s statement.
“No confidence” in the Mayor
“Mayor walked into the office, he told me, ‘I changed your name from Jose to Joseph because Jose sounds too stereotypical. It sounds too Hispanic.’ He asked me to introduce myself to the public as Joseph.”
Officer Perez stated to the city council that when the Mayor was riding with him, he had to approach a citizen and used his real name.
“I introduced myself. I said, ‘My name is Officer Jose Perez.’ The mayor looks at me. He says, ‘What did we talk about.’ I went back and said, ‘My name is Joseph Perez.’”
Members of the council were highly unhappy, as were people present at the meeting. Even if the officer did not give his real name, his ethnicity is obvious. The Mayor must have had this plan for some time. One council member tried to reduce his salary from [email protected] to $50, but the City Attorney told her she couldn’t do that. The Mayor denied telling the officer to use the name “Joseph,” saying that he simply asked him what he preferred. He also stated that it was simply a “translation.”
“Your answers to questions from this council and the public have not been consistent or truthful at times. I will not allow your lies to drag me and this council down and reflect poorly on all of us. Asking Jose Perez to refer to himself as Joseph is appalling.” Councilwoman Jill Ritter according to the Lewiston Morning Tribune
This video from the Okanogan County Chronicle gives the story:
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