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How Democrats’ police reform bills made communities less safe

In the 2021 legislative session, majority party Democrats passed several police reform bills. Some of these measures took away important tools used by law enforcement to de-escalate situations, caused confusion on what level of force could be used when responding to someone in a mental health crisis, and  limited vehicular pursuits of suspects. Republicans opposed House Bill 1310 and House Bill 1054 and offered several amendments that were rejected by Democrats. You can watch House floor debate highlights on these measures here (House Bill 1310) and here (House Bill 1054).

2021 legislative session

House Republicans believe police officers were already held to a very high standard, but they should not be held to an impossible one. A vast majority of police officers are hard-working, dedicated and honorable professionals. And they put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities safe. If a police officer does not act in way consistent with law enforcement expectations, he or she should be held accountable.

Even before House Bill 1310 and House Bill 1054 went into effect on July 25, 2021, it was clear they would make communities less safe. The media has done a great job of covering the real-life consequences of these disastrous policies. You can find these stories by clicking on any of the red tabs below.

2022 legislative session

With Republicans offering real solutions and delivering critical votes, Democrats managed to fixed some of the problems mentioned above in the 2022 legislative session. But not all of them. One of the major disappointments and storylines of the 2022 legislative session is the Democrats’ failure to pass Senate Bill 5919 and restore some of the authority for police officers to engage in vehicular pursuits when there is reasonable suspicion. House Republicans voted for Senate Bill 5919 and offered a stronger measure, House Bill 1788, as an alternative solution. Democrats chose to do nothing. The status quo will continue to embolden criminals and result in more crimes committed.

As crime surges in many communities, Washington state ranks last in the nation in officers per capita. House Republicans introduced a 2022 supplemental operating budget framework focused on Safety, Affordability, Families, and the Economy (SAFE Washington Budget). The proposal would have funded police officer signing and retention bonuses, body cameras, and additional basic law enforcement training classes. We understand that good police officers will leave the profession, and that good people will not pursue law enforcement as a career option, when bad policies are passed and implemented.

The Legislature needs to focus on real solutions that prioritize public safety, support law enforcement, prevent crime, and help victims. With that in mind, Republicans introduced the Safe Washington Plan in the 2022 legislative session.

House Republican legislative priority: Public Safety

Strengthening communities by making public safety a priority and supporting effective community policing will continue to be legislative priorities for House Republicans.

House Bill 1054 takes away necessary and imperative tools police officers use to keep themselves, and the communities they serve, safe. The bill removes many of the tools police officers rely on to de-escalate situations and avoid the necessity to use deadly force. It prohibits police officers from using chokeholds and neck restraints, and certain types of equipment. It also restricts the use of tear gas, police dogs and instances in which police officers may be involved in vehicular pursuits. The legislation passed 55-42 in the state House of Representatives. Signed by governor.

“I want to be a ‘yes’ on this bill. I can’t be today because of the pieces that are still left over that I feel will harm public safety. Government’s duty, our duty, is to keep the public safe.”

—Gina Mosbrucker, ranking Republican on the House Public Safety Committee

What first responders are saying

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House Bill 1310 establishes standards for when law enforcement can use physical or deadly force, and requires the Attorney General and Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC) to develop model policies and training on use of force and de-escalation tactics consistent with standards provided in the legislation. The bill fails to acknowledge the realities that police officers face every day and fails to incorporate a “reasonable officer” standard that accounts for these realities. The legislation passed 55-42 in the state House of Representatives. Signed by governor.

“As a former law enforcement officer, I understand what we need to do. I understand we need to pass policy. But I want to take a moment to say let’s not forget that we cannot ties the hands of the people who are willing to die to protect us. Madam Speaker, I urge a ‘no’ vote.”

—Jacquelin Maycumber, House Republican Floor Leader

What first responders are saying

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Senate Bill 5051 increases the membership of the Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC) from 16 to 21 by adding additional civilian members, bringing law enforcement membership on the commission below a 50% majority. The bill grants the CJTC with new discretion to unilaterally suspend and decertify officers, and lowers the burden of proof and expands reasons for mandatory decertification and suspension of a police officer. It gives unprecedented authority over the careers and lives of members of law enforcement to a commission that can be controlled by individuals who may lack an understanding of the profession and responsibilities of police officers. This bill endangers the lives of our police officers and the safety of our communities. The legislation passed 54-43 in the state House of Representatives. Signed by governor.

“One of the people who represents Washington State Patrol talked to us recently and said, ‘I have something happening that has never happened before in all my time with the Patrol. I have people coming up to me and saying, how soon can I retire? How soon can I get out of this profession?’ They feel disrespected. They feel with one slip they’re going be decertified and booted out of the profession they planned on making a lifetime career … because of bills like this.”

—Rep. Brad Klippert, assistant ranking Republican on the House Public Safety Committee

Real-life examples of legislation’s impact

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