Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Several new police reform laws go into effect in the coming days. Nearly all were passed by the majority party in Olympia with no support from House or Senate Republicans. This poorly written, partisan legislation threatens to make things much more difficult for individuals struggling with mental health, drug crisis, and domestic violence victims. These policies eliminate many de-escalation methods currently approved and in use around the nation and will make it much more difficult – and in some cases, impossible – for law enforcement to respond to reports of criminal behavior. Here are some recent headlines (click on each for the media story):
Snohomish County Sheriff: New laws for policing could 'put the community at danger (MyNorthwest)
New police reform laws raise concerns for local police departments (KXLY)
Who can respond? New use-of-force law changes police work in Moses Lake; police chief warns of limitations (Columbia Basin Herald)
New police reform laws affecting domestic violence cases (KXLY)
New law limiting police use of force in Washington may make mental health response more difficult (KING TV)
Police say it is hands off for some mental health cases after use-of-force law change (KUOW)
These new bills go too far, put unreasonable and unnecessary expectations on law enforcement, and make our communities, families, and children less safe.
Washington state saw a nearly 47% increase in murders in 2020. And we continue to be the worst state in the nation for law enforcement per capita at 1.45 officers per 1,000 population. Compare that with Washington, D.C. at first with 5.99 officers, California at 21st with 2.35 officers, and Oregon at 50th with 1.53 officers.
I have long advocated for more investment in our law enforcement. More training, better equipment, and more officers – not less. We should be focusing on community policing in Washington instead of reactionary policing. But you can't do that when you have the fewest officers in the nation.
You can click here for more information on my bill that was signed into law by Gov. Inslee to shift toward more community policing. Here and here for one of my 3-minute Capitol Report podcasts on these bills. And here for a statement I put out during the legislative session when one of these bills originally passed the House.
In addition, these new laws will make it more difficult for first responders like firefighters, EMTs and paramedics to do their jobs. My legislative colleague, Rep. Dan Griffey, is a fire service lieutenant/EMT with Mason County. In a recent statement regarding these new laws, he said:
“Often, people with substance abuse problems who find themselves in emergency situations tend to become very violent. These incidents are dangerous to everyone involved because of the unpredictable behavior patterns displayed by people experiencing an emergency. During these emergencies, first responders and those suffering from these disorders have been injured or even killed due to the very erratic and unpredictably violent behaviors displayed by those suffering from substance and mental health crisis.
“Because of these new policies, our law enforcement officers have been limited in the tools they can use to help those suffering from mental illness. Additionally, as these new laws take effect, it has been decided that officers will only respond to those in crisis who request assistance.
“However, this does not apply to our fire and EMS personal who are required to render assistance. First responders have often counted on mutual aid from law enforcement officers to protect us and citizens from a hostile and violent response from those in crisis. This will no longer be possible due to the new legislation passed this year.”
I urge you to stay informed on these harmful policies. We are trying to push back against the Defund the Police movement as best we can. But we need your help. Click on the graphic below to learn more, including more media stories, statements from law enforcement officials, opinion pieces by legislators and non-partisan groups. This is a crisis in the making – it will have a generational affect on everyone. This will negatively impact our children, our families, and our communities.