New director of CJTC: ‘Long overdue’ that community, law enforcement work together
It’s been a difficult year and a half for law enforcement, but Monica Alexander, the new executive director of Washington state’s Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC), is up to the challenge ahead.
She was unanimously confirmed for this new role, and told Seattle’s Morning News last week that she’s relieved.
“In March, when Sue [Rahr] left and I was interim, I felt like, ‘OK, I’m just going to keep the wheels on things,'” Alexander said.
Then, on her first day in charge, she said it felt like her first day at work.
“That was kind of an interesting feeling, but I’m really excited to do this work,” she said. “I’m working with some amazing professionals. I’m just honored to be here.”
Alexander has worked closely with Rahr throughout her career.
“When I submitted my retirement flyer, one of the first calls I got was from this office, and I was so honored that Sue wanted me to come and work for her as advanced training division manager,” Alexander said.
For those who don’t know, Alexander had a long career with the Washington State Patrol that culminated with her serving as the legislative liaison for the agency. So she has the experience of being an officer, but also the legislative experience to bring to her new role at the CJTC.
“It’s a tremendous gift to have done that work for the state patrol because I understand the halls of Olympia even though … we’re not there, but we’re still doing the same type of work. And I thought this last session with all of the virtual testimony was really good, and I don’t know if they’re going to do some type of a hybrid, but it helped me to understand the difficult choices that legislators have to make,” she said. “And I understand that we’re not going to win everything we asked for.”
“We didn’t get what we asked for this time around, but we’re going to go back in and ask again because I know that my work begins as soon as the session is over, working towards that next session,” she added. “And that’s what I’ve been doing is talking to legislators about the needs of the CJTC.”
Fortunately, Alexander says, she still has connections with legislators who were there when she worked for the state patrol.
“I could not be more excited about that relationship continuing on,” she said.
Improving police accountability
Alexander’s predecessor was tasked with the implementation of police accountability law I-940, which she will continue to carry out, along with all of the new changes coming to policing in Washington from the last legislative session. What is the role of her new position in all of that moving forward?
“I see my role as being kind of a conduit between many different — so the community is very important, law enforcement community is very important, legislators are very important, and so it’s trying to bridge all of those gaps and build bridges to those,” Alexander said. “So I see like all these prongs that I have to extend out to work with everyone, to help people to understand what these laws mean, what these changes look like, and how we get there without being so uncomfortable with one another.”
“I think it’s long overdue that community and law enforcement work closely together,” she added. “Now, I know I talked to some of the sheriffs and some of the chiefs and they say, ‘I have a great relationship with my community.’ We need that to be in the entire state. In every community, they need to have a good relationship with their law enforcement so that they don’t feel intimidated, uncomfortable, threatened. They need to have those bridges built. And I’m just excited to be one of the people that can help build those bridges.”
Alexander also brings a unique perspective to her new role during a time where there are increased demands for accountability as she is a long-time police officer and a woman of color.
“As a long time police officer, I feel like I get it, right? I understand how difficult the work is and I understand how scary it can be sometimes,” she said. “As a woman of color, I also understand on the other side of things and just as a citizen, because I didn’t get into law enforcement when I was super young. So I had some life experience behind me when I came to law enforcement.”
“So my life experience says that we have to do a better job,” she said. “As a matter of fact, one of the things that inspired me to go into law enforcement was Rodney King riots and what happened during that time down in Los Angeles, and around the world. The difference is we didn’t have social media at the time, so we didn’t communicate as efficiently as we do now. So looking at what happened and how everything became so divided during that time is when I decided to get into law enforcement.”
When people ask her if now is a good time to get into law enforcement, Alexander says yes.
“From my perspective, this is an excellent time to get into law enforcement because we’re in a transformational time and that means that great things can happen if we work together,” she said.
For those questioning if they want to stay in law enforcement, she encourages them to stick it out.
“I understand questioning. I really do. What has happened is a lot in a short period of time from what happened with George Floyd, all the way down to the police reform bills is a lot,” Alexander noted. “But I really encourage people, if this is the profession that you really chose and your heart is in it, you stay in it. If this is something that you believe that you can have a positive effect on, stay in it or get in it.”
“This is a good profession. It is a noble profession. I have a lot of respect for the work that law enforcement officers do in our community,” she said. “We have a lot of work to do, and we can do this work together, and we can get through this difficult time and make things better. That’s just what life does. We move forward. We grow, we change, and we get better.”
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