Dear friends and neighbors,
One of the topics I am getting a lot of constituent emails about is community safety. Many people are concerned about whether law enforcement has the tools they need to respond to rising crime and protect public safety in Tacoma, Pierce County, and beyond. At the same time, many people are also concerned about over-policing of communities of color and excessive use of force that leads to unnecessary deaths.
In the 2021 session, the Legislature took decisive action based on the will of Washington’s voters, who passed Initiative 940 updating our state’s statute on police use of deadly force. We passed bills to build a public safety system with accountability, transparency, and equal justice. Since this landmark package of police reform legislation was signed a year ago, deaths during law enforcement engagement have decreased by 60 percent.
In the 2022 session, we built on that foundation to ensure the reforms passed last year can be effectively implemented, and that the safety of all Washingtonians continues to be paramount. This newsletter focuses on some of the key investments and legislation:
Clarification of new police tactics and use of force laws
- House Bill 1719 eliminates ambiguity in statute so police officers have the tools they need to do their jobs protecting us. Similarly, House Bills 2037 and 1735 clarify use of force policy, giving officers the certainty they need to perform investigations and respond to behavioral health calls. These new laws maintain people’s right to protection from unreasonable searches and seizures without compromising the safety of the public or law enforcement.
Increased funding and more training classes at the state’s law enforcement academy
- Washingtonians expect our legal system to be balanced, fair, and accessible to everyone. While law enforcement services are primarily handled by local governments, ensuring we are training enough officers from our law enforcement academy, funding independent investigations, and improving our criminal justice system is how state government provides the fair, equitable, and accessible public safety that people and communities deserve.
- $14.5 million on top of last session’s investments to add more classes to this year’s Basic Law Enforcement Academy budget, so we can train more officers under the new standards set under law.
- $4.2 million to increase funding for the Office of Independent Investigations
- $13.6 million to expand behavioral health response, alternative response, mobile crisis response, and housing stabilization teams
- $22 million to expand domestic violence and sexual assault response
New statewide efforts to reduce catalytic converter theft
- Catalytic converter theft is rising in our community and across the state. The Legislature tackled this problem with passage of House Bill 1815, which addresses the issue from a number of different angles. First, through regulation of catalytic converter purchasers: it requires metal purchasers to document that a catalytic converter came from a vehicle registered in the seller’s name, requires vehicle wreckers to document sales involving catalytic converters, and prohibits cash payments for transactions involving catalytic converters. Second, by bringing together representatives from law enforcement, the criminal justice system, the insurance industry, auto dealers and manufacturers, business organizations and local government to work together to find ways to reduce catalytic converter theft. Third, by providing money to establish a grant program for law enforcement agencies to place a special enforcement emphasis on metal theft. And lastly, by creating a new violation under the Consumer Protection Act for selling a used catalytic converter without verifying proof of ownership. By targeting the places where stolen catalytic converters are sold and providing law enforcement with new resources, the new law will help stem the wave of catalytic converter thefts.
Increased law enforcement and firefighter pension benefits and competitive state patrol salaries
- First responders like law enforcement officers and firefighters have been on the front lines of the pandemic, and their ranks had already been dwindling even before COVID. Like all workers, those who make a career serving and protecting the public deserve fair compensation and benefits, and the state has not kept up with other localities and agencies in this regard. This session we passed House Bill 1785 (sponsored by my seatmate, Rep. Jake Fey) to strengthen recruitment and retention efforts at our Washington State Patrol with more competitive salaries. We also increased pension benefits for law enforcement and firefighters.
Diversifying the Washington State Patrol
- Though Washington is home to many communities, our largest public-facing workforce—the
Washington State Patrol (WSP)—does not reflect these many communities. House Bill 2057
implements an inclusive recruitment, retention, and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) plan
for WSP. These changes will help ensure the agency reflects our state’s growing diversity.
As we go forward, continuing to build trust between enforcement and communities is key. Police must have the necessary tools to investigate and stop crime. But law enforcement must be held accountable for their actions when they violate that trust.
Locally, I’m glad Pierce County Jail is again locking up those arrested for burglary and other felonies. A combination of staffing shortages and the pandemic left felons on the streets for months, which is not good for community safety. Having cells available will help law enforcement, and the Legislature’s investments in officer training and resources will help recruit more candidates to this challenging profession.
Join Sen. Trudeau, Rep. Fey and me for a virtual town hall next week!
With the 2022 session behind us, your 27th District legislative team is hosting another virtual town hall to answer your questions. Sen. Yasmin Trudeau, Rep. Jake Fey and I will be holding this event next Wednesday, April 27, from 6-7 PM.
There are several ways you can join. It will be livestreamed to my legislative Facebook page, as well as to Rep. Fey’s and Sen. Trudeau’s legislative Facebook pages, and the House Democrats Facebook page.
Questions can be submitted ahead of time here: surveymonkey.com/r/27thDistrictTownHall
You can also submit questions during the event by entering them in the comments section of the Facebook or YouTube stream. Our goal is to get to as many of your questions as possible during the event.
Can’t make the live event? Submit your question anyway and you’ll be able to view the town hall recording at your convenience on the platforms mentioned above.
We’re looking forward to hearing from you and answering your questions about the 2022 session.
Can’t join the virtual town hall? Come to a live Community Chat on May 3rd!
Join Sen. Trudeau, Rep. Fey and me on Tuesday, May 3rd at 11:00 AM for an in-person conversation about the recently-concluded legislative session. We’ll be at the Center at Norpoint, 4818 Nassau Ave NE, Room 101.
Please like and follow my legislative Facebook page for updates on these and other events.
It’s an honor to serve you. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with your questions, comments and feedback.