Kindness 911: Washougal police join regional program promoting goodwill

Officers will give 'kindness citations' when they catch people doing good things around the city

Washougal police officers are hoping a little kindness will go a long way.

The Washougal Police Department (WPD) has partnered with Kindness 911, a Clark County nonprofit that connects local law enforcement and fire agencies with the people that they serve.

“I’m so thrilled to now be part of the Washougal community,” Kindness 911 founder and chief executive officer Jason Hattrick told the Washougal City Council during the Council’s virtual meeting on Monday, Feb. 14. “We are very excited to have (Washougal) as our newest Kindness 911 agency.”

Washougal Police Chief Wendi Steinbronn first learned of Kindness 911 through John Brooks, the chief of the Ridgefield Police Department, in mid-2020.

“After that, Jason invited our department to participate in a couple of ‘kindness stings,’ then came out and met with me in person to talk about the benefits of becoming a part of Kindness 911,” Steinbronn said. “I think the partnership brings with it some marketing and engagement work that the police department wants to do but doesn’t have the time to organize. Jason maintains the website, organizes events, manages the kindness citation program, books the events and provides the materials, so the first responders merely have to show up and focus on meeting with the community — the good stuff.”

The Kindness 911 events will become part of the city’s “more extensive community engagement portfolio” managed by Rose Jewell, according to Steinbronn.

“Everyone in the community could use a little more kindness,” Jewell said. “We are fortunate to live in a community that embraces acts of kindness and supports the good efforts of our first responders and citizens. Kindness 911 provides a program to help our first responders make positive connections with our citizens and promote healthy relationships.”

The WPD will join the Ridgefield, Vancouver, Gresham (Oregon) and Cowlitz Tribal police departments, as well as the Clark County Sheriff’s Office and Clark County Fire District 6, as Kindness 911 affiliates. Soon, the Washougal officers will be issuing kindess citations to citizens they “catch” in a kind act of goodwill.

“(Jewell) and I have talked about this program off and on for the last couple of years, so I know about it a little bit, and I’m so pleased that we’re finally able to implement it,” city council member Molly Coston said during the Feb. 14 council meeting. “I’m sure it will make a great impact in Washougal in a very good way.”

Participating officers recognize individuals and groups for their “genuine, positive impact on their community” by issuing “kindness citations,” according to Hatrick.

“We impact communities one kind act at a time,” said Hattrick, who graduated from the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Reserve Academy before becoming a middle-school teacher, a role he has held for the past 25 years. “We equip our law enforcement officers with unique tools and support to create immediate and positive interactions with those they serve. We give our law enforcement officers an opportunity to interact with people in a real positive way and leave them with a real, tangible reminder of that great interaction.”

The organization also makes yearly $500 donations to charities chosen by its participating agencies.

“That’s another way for us to substantiate our kindness citations and give back directly to our communities,” Hattrick said. “Kindness 911 wants to be a catalyst to change all of those negative perceptions bestowed upon first responders, and it allows first responders to look at their communities through a little different lens — the ‘kindness lens,’ if you will. These are moms and dads and brothers and sisters, and they simply deserve the respect of the communities they serve.”

The organization has also elicited praise for its ability to improve the mental state of its participating officers, according to Hattrick.

“(Officers have) rough days, and when they come to a ‘kindness sting,’ they always say, ‘I needed that today’ when they leave,” he said. “We’re bolstering them up and giving them something positive within their day as well.”

Six Washougal officers participated in a “kindness training” on Feb. 10. The remaining officers received training on Feb. 22, Steinbronn said.

“(The community can) expect to see those ‘kindness citations’ issued soon,” the police chief added.