OLYMPIA – This year’s historic protests against police brutality have awakened the public to the need for racial equity and justice system reforms. Where the law hasn’t offered clear pathways to justice for victims of police misconduct, community trust in the police has eroded, as has the reputation of law enforcement.
Recognizing the complex problems of police accountability and police-community relations, House Public Safety Committee Chair Rep. Roger Goodman has assembled a Policing Policy Leadership Team to examine current policies and devise a plan to rebuild communities’ trust in law enforcement. The leadership team is made up of members from the Black Members Caucus, Reps. Debra Entenman, Jesse Johnson, and John Lovick, and the Members of Color Caucus, Reps. My-Linh Thai, Bill Ramos, and Debra Lekanoff.
“As policymakers it is our responsibility to listen to the anguish and righteous anger of thousands of peaceful protestors and work with Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities to create laws that truly hold police accountable and create equal justice in our community,” said Entenman, who chairs the Black Members Caucus. “Since June, this leadership team has met frequently to discuss the changes that are needed, and to listen to community organizations so that we can deliver the change that our communities have been demanding.”
The leadership team has met and continues to meet with the families of victims of police violence as well as representatives from major community organizations, including the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability and Washington for Black Lives, a coalition representing the Washington Census Alliance, Equal Rights Washington, and the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle. The leadership team also hosted a dialogue between the House Democratic Caucus and young people from organizations in the Puget Sound including Progress Pushers, Eastside for Black Lives, Choose 180, and the Safe Futures Youth Center. Additionally, the team has been meeting with representatives from law enforcement unions and associations and joined the House Public Safety Committee in hosting a panel of policing scholars including Dr. Philip Atiba Goff from Yale University, co-founder and CEO of the Center for Policing Equity.
Working closely with these stakeholders as well as the Governor’s Task Force on Independent Investigations on Police Use of Force, and Senate Democrats, the Leadership Team is developing a comprehensive package of bills to:
- strengthen police accountability measures
- limit questionable police tactics and the use of deadly force
- increase transparency of police activity
- ensure truly independent investigations and prosecutions of egregious police misconduct
“Preserving and protecting human life must be the most fundamental value for our law enforcement. By setting a baseline for acceptable tactics and conduct and then putting in place systems to ensure accountability and transparency, we can begin to fundamentally rebuild the trust that has been lost between police and communities of color,” said Johnson.
The leadership team will join the House Public Safety Committee during Committee Assembly Days for a preview of police accountability legislation on November 30. Organizations that will testify during the hearing include the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability, Washington for Black Lives, the Criminal Justice Training Commission, and the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.
- House Public Safety Hearing on Police Accountability, November 30, 1:30-3:30 PM, view on TVW.org