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Inside Olympia – Police Reform

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Inside Olympia – May 13, 2021

Policing was the topic behind many contentious debates during the 2021 legislative session. Democrats, who control both House and Senate, pushed through a package of police reform and accountability proposals they say will make communities safer and cut down on deadly encounters between police and the community — but which Republicans say will make communities less safe, and threaten the safety of officers.

Among the proposals approved this session are bills that will regulate what tactics police can and can’t use, such as chokeholds; require officers to intervene if they see other officers using excessive force; set up a new state agency under the governor to investigate police deadly force incidents; change police training and the make-up of the Criminal Justice Training Commission; and make it easier to decertify officers and prevent problem officers from moving to other jurisdictions.

Democratic State Rep. Jesse Johnson of Federal Way was one of the prime movers behind the police reform package. He said Democrats see policing as a systemic problem that demands a systemic solution. And, he said, this year’s bills were generated by the community, as opposed to previous reform efforts which have come from police. He said this year’s bills are a start, to be followed in future years by further proposals, some of which did not win approval from the 2021 Legislature.

Republican State Sen. Mike Padden of Spokane disagreed, predicting community pushback against the new laws. He said policing problems are not systemic, but are an overreaction to a few bad actors. According to Sen. Padden, the bills take needed tools out of officers’ hands, and make Seattle-based policies and the law across the state.

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