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'Cops and Barbers' aims to build trust between police, Black community in Snohomish County

Three community activists hope to invite officers to barbershops, to be "around Black men in their comfort zone," but the idea drew criticism from the county NAACP.

EVERETT, Wash. — Snohomish County leaders will take up a series of initiatives surrounding social justice and racial inequities during a 2021 budget meeting on Tuesday. 

The Snohomish County Council is expected to vote on a budget that includes $1 million toward social justice initiatives. Half of that funding will go toward looking into and equipping deputies with body cameras. The other half, under Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers' current budget proposal, would go to the Office of Social Justice. 

County council members will vote on a series of tweaks to Somers' budget, including divvying up funding initially proposed for the Office of Social Justice into more specific initiatives. 

One of those proposed initiatives includes a grassroots effort to build trust among communities of color and law enforcement. 

"It doesn't matter who comes in everybody's equal in the barber shop," said community activist Elton Davis. 

Davis along with Jordan Jeffries and Chris Anderson say they've been protesting for weeks against racial injustice from the rooftop of an apartment in Marysville. 

"Our message is that we are real people. We want change. We are Snohomish County residents. We live here," Jeffries said.

They created the "Cops and Barbers" initiative on their own as a step to addressing racial inequities within their own communities. 

"It would be the police coming into kind of our territory coming into the barbershop and being around Black men in their comfort zone and, and finally just having the talk," Jeffries said. 

Sheriff Adam Fortney supports the idea.

"The leadership, ambition and dedication I've witnessed from these men and women is going to make Snohomish County a safer and a more united community," Fortney said. 

However, the program has faced criticism from other community activists. 

The Snohomish County NAACP sent a letter to the council rejecting the initiative, saying the idea that haircuts will lead to social justice borders on the edge of "ridiculous and offensive". 

Councilmember Megan Dunn says she opposed the plan to amend the initial budget proposal. 

"I think the funding needs to better support initiatives that are well vetted and led by communities of color and led by our Office of Social Justice so that we're bringing real reforms and needed reforms and addressing the concerns which have been brought up repeatedly from leaders in the community," Dunn said. 

The organizers said they did not seek out funding from the county for their grassroots idea.

Jeffries says the group plans to record the barbershop conversations in order to show other barbers and encourage other barbers involved. 

”We're not politicians, we're not going to try to do something without the community getting behind it first. We're not going to assume that we know that we that every other Black men and woman out here wants this program. We just believe in the power of the conversation and we think that when we show this to them, that they will say, that's something I want to be a part of,” Jeffries said. 

County council members will vote of the proposed budget amendment and the 2012 budget on Tuesday. 

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