Rep. Jacquelin Maycumber | Misguided, emotionally driven partisan bills put communities in danger
The 2021 Washington state legislative session will go down in history as a precautionary tale of activist overreach and political capitulation as majority Democrats passed misguided, emotionally driven partisan bills that will put all of our communities in danger.
While most would agree that addressing law enforcement training, tactics, and standards in a changing mental health landscape is necessary, the truth is, the pendulum swung much too far this session.
Here's what needed to happen. Stakeholders, community leaders, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, and concerned citizens should have been at the table with law enforcement, local governments, and first responders to bring about comprehensive, meaningful, and safe reforms. Unfortunately, that didn't happen.
Here's what did happen. The majority party in Olympia gave urban activists a green light and a blank check to bring about arguably the most dangerous set of law enforcement “reforms” the nation has ever seen. Washington state is now the poster child for the national Defund the Police movement. As a result, you and I, our children, our communities, our first responders, and law enforcement are all in greater danger than ever before.
Instead of carefully crafting legislation to address a very minute amount of law enforcement officers and situations – using a scalpel, let's say – a large, cumbersome sledgehammer was used. Frankly, it knocked aside 50 years of police reforms in one fell swoop and will end up doing more harm than good.
Because of unrealistic standards in arrests and pursuits, domestic violence and mental health calls will be impacted with fewer arrests. According to one report, Spokane Police respond to more domestic violence calls than any other. Domestic violence victims may now find themselves at greater risk of violence as officers seek more evidence before an arrest can be made.
Because of changes in de-escalation tactics and equipment, law enforcement will have to choose between responding to a call at all or potentially responding with more deadly force because much of the “middle ground” has been taken away. Again, decades of proven research and reforms have been thrown out the window in favor of partisan, politically correct activism.
Because of these new laws, law enforcement may no longer provide assistance and backup to their fellow first responders such as fire, emergency medical services, and ambulatory personnel in certain scenarios. This make it less safe for first responders who are already dealing with unsafe situations.
All of this is happening at a time when crime across the country has escalated dramatically. Here in Washington state, murders went up nearly 47% in 2020, while manslaughter was up 100% and fraud was up 131%. On top of this, law enforcement numbers per capita in our state decreased from 1.24 officers per thousand citizens to 1.19, making Washington state again LAST IN THE NATION for law enforcement per capita!
In addition, law enforcement agencies across the state are having a difficult time recruiting and maintaining adequate numbers of officers. Hundreds of officers have quit their dream profession they once thought of as honorable public service.
I have long advocated for more investment in our law enforcement. More training, better equipment, more de-escalation options, and more officers – not less. We should be focusing our efforts on community policing in Washington state instead of reactionary policing. But you can't do that when you have the fewest officers per capita in the nation.
Police chiefs, sheriffs, deputies, officers, and other law enforcement personnel across the state are starting to speak up in fear for their profession, their own safety, and the safety of the communities they've sworn to protect and serve. The question now is, will the public hear them? Will there be enough push back from the silent majority who believe common sense, bipartisan solutions should trump partisan activism?
At the end of the day, these Democrat bills will make things much more difficult for individuals struggling with mental health, drug crises, domestic violence victims, and more. It will be more difficult – if not impossible – for law enforcement to answer your call for help in your time of need. Is that what we want?
I urge concerned citizens to get engaged in this issue. Write to your lawmakers and your local media. Get involved.
This is a crisis in the making that will have disastrous impacts for generations to come.
(Rep. Jacquelin Maycumber, R-Republic, is a former deputy sheriff and currently serves as Floor Leader for Washington State House Republicans in the state Legislature.)