By Sen. Brad Hawkins
Like our firefighters, our law enforcement officers also put their own lives at risk in their work to protect us.
During this past session – with much of the public’s attention directed to school closures, federal stimulus measures, vaccine distribution, and tax increases – a series of sweeping police reform bills were passed and signed into law that could forever change our state’s law enforcement practices.
Many of these bills were inspired by the tragic killing of George Floyd and the national focus on social justice.
While I can certainly appreciate the spirit of these bills, I could not support such sweeping changes that make our families less safe, put our courageous law enforcement officers at risk, and lead to numerous unintended consequences in communities across our state.
As our state senator, I want all people to be protected, including those suspected of committing crimes. Everyone should have access to a fair and honest law enforcement system, but these bills went way too far and have resulted in ambiguity and too many unanswered questions.
We must all acknowledge that members of law enforcement – those tasked with keeping us safe – are engaged in a very dangerous job. No laws should force these brave men and women serving our communities to second- and third-guess themselves when confronting potentially fatal situations.
These new laws create an unfair burden to our law enforcement community and, despite being approved as an effort to protect people, could actually make us all less safe.
New police reform laws now taking effect
Below is a collection of police reform bills passed during the 2021 legislative session, including bill information, summaries, and vote counts. Any single bill in the list below would have represented significant changes for law enforcement. Given changing dynamics within the Legislature in recent years, all of the bills were approved relatively easily.
Signed into law by Governor Inslee and in accordance with their implementation dates, all of the bills below are now state law.
Looking ahead to future sessions
The 12th District legislators solidly support our law enforcement community and the safety of our communities and officers, but with the same members of the Legislature and governor returning next year, it is unlikely that these laws will be repealed.
My hope is that the outreach meetings and community discussions occurring throughout the state will lead to requested changes to make these laws much more workable for law enforcement.
If needed changes can be identified statewide, especially within King County law enforcement communities, hopefully the original sponsors of these police reforms, along with other legislative supporters, will agree that modifications need to be made.
Legislators who did not support these measures will likely be looking to the statewide law enforcement organizations such as the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs and Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs to identify the most urgent changes and clarifications.
Like any statewide policy, if there is enough support – both from the organizations affected and from communities across our state – modifications can be made to any law once lawmakers return.