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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Sheriffs and law enforcement officials from Eastern Washington held a press conference last week to inform the public of new legislation that will make our communities and first responders less safe. I warned against these bills during the legislative session and even wrote an op-ed with Spokane Police Guild Vice President Tim Schwering on the potential dangers of House Bill 1054. You can read that op-ed here.
Under the guise of “accountability and reform,” the Defund the Police movement partnered with the majority party in Olympia to pass legislation that eliminates tried and proven de-escalation techniques, limits the equipment and methods officers can utilize to protect our citizens, increases personal and departmental liability, and increases the burden of proof an officer needs to make an arrest or take any action.
Throughout the legislative session, we sponsored amendments, tried to work with law enforcement and other lawmakers to bring about meaningful, common-sense reforms. Our amendments were not accepted and nearly all passed on party-line votes with no Republican support. This didn't have to be a partisan issue – it should not have been a partisan issue! But activism and emotion beat out facts and common sense.
In the end, citizens struggling with mental health, engaged in domestic violence situations, or experiencing drug crises, may not get the assistance from law enforcement that they need to keep themselves, their loved ones, and our communities safe.
In addition, first responders like emergency medical services, firefighters, and ambulatory personnel who normally have a close working relationship with law enforcement, may now find themselves entering into dangerous situations without the normal support and backup they're accustomed to and need.
I will always try to bring balance into our judicial system – at all levels and for all involved. Unfortunately, these bills that passed this year are far from balanced. Here are some recent stories and headlines:
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)
At a time when murders in our state are up nearly 47% and law enforcement agencies are having a hard time keeping and recruiting quality candidates, now is the wrong time to give in to extremism. I urge you to inform yourself of the facts, get involved, and get active. We are trying to push back against the Defund the Police movement but we can't do it alone. Write your lawmakers and your local media. Let your voice be heard. This is a crisis in the making that will have long-lasting impacts for generations to come.
To read more about these bills, and to hear what other first responders and lawmakers are saying, you can visit this website. We have compiled information from around the state and will update it frequently.
As always, please contact my office with any questions or concerns. I'm here to serve you.
435 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(509) 960-5393 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000