2016-12-02 Statement by Artisan Electric Inc. Re: Seattle Police Case #2016-431330 - Artisan Electric

2016-12-02 Statement by Artisan Electric Inc. Re: Seattle Police Case #2016-431330

Artisan Electric is releasing this statement about an interaction with one of our employees and a group of African-American teenagers in the Wallingford district of Seattle on November 29th, 2016.  We are releasing this statement to continue addressing this incident with full transparency. We will be posting this statement on our Facebook page, Artisan Electric website blog and other outlets as deemed appropriate. Please keep an eye on the Artisan Electric Facebook page for the most recent updates.

We’ve been inundated with information regarding this incident over the past couple of days.  We’ve read (and responded to) the Facebook posts by a mother of one of the children involved in the incident, but who is not the mother of the child who was arrested for property damage. After having a productive conversation with her on the morning of December 1st, there has been no response to all subsequent efforts to contact her. We would like to reach her and the parents of the other youth involved in this incident to better understand what happened and to give our community a chance to heal.  Artisan has also obtained a copy of the Seattle Police Department incident report and we’ve spoken directly to the detective investigating this incident.

It is clear to Artisan Electric that there are very different perspectives as to what occurred on Wednesday. Conversations with witnesses and the detective, as well as the SPD report indicate that all witnesses on record could not substantiate the youth’s claim that our employee physically assaulted or called the youth a derogatory name. Our employee acknowledges confronting the youths about their harassment of another, evidently elderly male. However, he denies having physical interaction with or making any derogatory statements towards the youth. Artisan made the decision to suspend our employee during the investigation based on the allegations as well as concerns about possible vigilante responses from the community directed at our employee and/or company.

Because of the nature of the complaint, Artisan Electric wants to ensure the community that the type of allegations being made are being taken very seriously and we want to make an appropriate decision based off of objective information.  Much of what we’re reading online on both “sides” is venomous and not constructive in moving forward toward a healthy resolution for our community. That is what Artisan Electric wants and will do everything in our power to make happen. We are using the values of participation, fairness, transparency and inclusion to reach that resolution.

Because of the overwhelming response from the community on Facebook, the Artisan Electric website and on the phone, Artisan Electric feels compelled to bring to light the following information:

The original story posted on Facebook that started the public outcry has been removed by the original poster.  The information that was on the original post and taken at face value as “fact” was counter to all known official reports by members of the Wallingford community who witnessed the event, as well as the official SPD report. We urge you to read the report in detail. None of the members of the community witnessed our employee physically assault or call the youth the “n-word.” Rumors of a video showing our employee hitting the youth have not materialized.  What has shown up on social media are two short videos showing SPD Officers talking with the youths but it appears they were recorded some time after the incident occurred. That’s it.  Our employee has not been identified in any videos. There was a screen shot of him near our Artisan Electric van. The police report was posted online and Artisan was able to obtain three pages of the report which has some information redacted. We are attaching a copy of the SPD report to this statement and a .pdf file can also be found here: seattle-police-department-incident-report.

As we noted, we have suspended our employee while we gather more facts. This has been interpreted as an admission of guilt on social media. Though required for the duration of the investigation, the suspension in actuality shows that we are just as susceptible to the mob mentality of rushing to judgement to please the masses without having all the facts that caused this to spiral out of control in the first place.

We are still gathering the facts beyond the police report. We want all sides to the story. We want a meeting with the kids involved and their parents. Our hope is that we can work with the juvenile that was arrested and his family, the families of the other kids involved, our employee and the SPD to start a dialogue and take serious steps towards restorative justice. If we don’t do this, then this incident just reifies preconceived beliefs on both sides of the fence and race relations in our community will not have progressed.

The irony here is that as a solar contractor, Artisan Electric’s mission is to make the world a better place for our kids. Artisan’s owners and employees have made it their mission to stand up for racial, economic, and environmental injustice. Artisan employees have been and are currently very active in the environmental, social justice and Black Lives Matter movements. Being labeled a racist company is antithetical to everything we have worked towards as individuals and a company, and is deeply hurtful.

The reality is that we are only three weeks out from the Presidential election, and we need to acknowledge that we are living in a politically-charged world that demands we make every effort to train our employees on how to see their implicit racial bias and privilege so that they can be an advocate for equality without putting themselves in the crosshairs of the cultural war currently unfolding. It is clear that white privilege played a role in our employee’s choice to get involved in the situation, and it is very clear that this needs to be addressed by immediate implementation of diversity training into our company. We are currently in contact with Elmer Dixon from the Executive Diversity Services to set up this training for our employees.

Of great concern to our company is how an unsubstantiated claim on a Facebook post could lead a online community to be “judge, jury and executioner” to Artisan Electric without knowing the whole story. Being on the other side of this has opened up our eyes to how vulnerable all people are to the power and threat of social media. People didn’t wait to get more information, acted hastily and have targeted our company’s online reputation on Yelp, Google+ and Facebook. As a small company, this could cripple our business without merit.  Again, the stories told by uninvested third-parties in the Wallingford neighborhood who witnessed the event align with what our employee has reported to us and contradicts the allegations against Artisan Electric’s employee by the Facebook poster. 

Artisan Electric will continue to provide updates on Facebook our website as information becomes available.

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