New Tacoma police chief details goals for city

TACOMA, Wash. — Avery Moore, who became chief of the Tacoma Police Department on Jan. 18, pursued a career in law enforcement after his family was mistreated by police.

“I have a brother which I love dearly and he spent his entire adult life in prison. I believe if he could’ve gotten the help in terms of resources, maybe his life would be different,” Moore said. “The way he was treated by law enforcement, I didn’t think was right. So I decided to be a police officer because of that.”

Moore has worked with the Dallas Police Department for 31 years, including 15 years on patrol and about 8 years as an executive. He’s 56 years old, a proud Christian, and believes being a good police officer starts with being a good person.

“It’s going to take someone that’s willing to listen, willing to engage face-to-face,” Moore said when asked about his philosophy on policing. “I’m the example for my officers. So if they see how I treat the community (and) they see how I treat them, I believe that transcends and that’s what they’ll do.

Moore is taking over the department during violent times for the city of Tacoma. There were 32 homicides in Tacoma in 2021, which was identical to 2020 figures. That’s the most number of homicides in a year since 1994.

One homicide victim in 2020 was Manuel “Manny” Ellis. He was killed while being restrained by Tacoma police officers in March 2020. Three officers have been criminally charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter.

Because the officers charged are still awaiting trial, a spokesperson with the Tacoma Police Department said Moore could not speak about the incident. Moore said he’s “familiar” with the case.

When asked generally about police-involved deaths and controversies surrounding the use of force by police, Moore said: “That’s the reason why I became a police officer. Being a Black man, a Black American, an African American man — I’ve seen a lot of injustice. I’m 56 years old. Grew up in the South for the most part. Grew up poor for the most part. My dad was in the military, so (I) had some relief living on Army bases. But I know what it’s like to be in an area of the city that’s disenfranchised with how they’re being treated. That’s the reason why I became a police officer because I knew I could help.”

Moore also shared his thoughts on homelessness, including what he believes law enforcement’s role is with those experiencing homelessness.

“I don’t believe that (homelessness) should be criminalized,” he said.

Moore also said he believes it’s a city’s responsibility to provide as many resources as it can for those unhoused.

“Everybody’s not going to accept the help. I understand that. But that one person?” Moore said.

Moore continued by explaining his belief in changing lives one person at a time, whether it relates to homelessness or other issues that Tacoma faces. He believes that even if a majority of people turn down help, it only takes one or two people to accept it to truly make a change. He believes it creates a snowball effect, where more people will be closer to accepting help.

Moore also said he understands some people experiencing homelessness commit crimes, but specified he did not want to make a blanket statement regarding homelessness and crime.

“The goal is to weed out the criminal element and sow good seed in the community,” Moore said.

Moore also shared his primary goal as Tacoma’s new police chief, which centers around community policing.

“No. 1 is to have a genuine, authentic, good, strong relationship — with the community, with the officers, and with local government,” Moore said. He added that he believes all three groups must work together to truly address crime.

“If we want to just check a box, we can do that now and move on. But if we’re really serious about affecting crime, we need to do it together,” Moore said.

Such an approach would likely require a significant amount of time to be truly effective. Moore said he plans to stay in Tacoma until he’s finished with his law enforcement career, calling it his “last city.”

“I want to make Tacoma the safest city in the country, period,” Moore said. “I’ll be right in the middle, bridging the gap. That’s what I’m here for.”