Rep. Brad Klippert: Police reform and the unintended consequences it will bring
It takes a special kind of person to serve in law enforcement. When most people run from danger, law enforcement officers run toward it. Few professions require someone to put their life on the line and make split-second decisions that dramatically impact so many people.
Recent events throughout our nation have pointed a negative spotlight on our law enforcement officers and the tough jobs they do every day. Washington state is not immune from this spotlight.
In fact, there are several bills being heard in the Legislature this legislative session that seek to completely reform law enforcement as we now know it. If passed and signed into law, these bills would produce significant and dangerous consequences to all Washingtonians at the expense of public safety.
House Bill 1054 would take away many necessary and imperative tools law enforcement officers use every day to keep themselves, and the communities they serve safe. In fact, this bill removes many of the very tools officers rely on to de-escalate situations and avoid the necessity to use deadly force.
House Bill 1202 would increase civil remedies (lawsuits) for someone injured as a result of alleged police misconduct. This bill would limit the ability of law enforcement officers to respond in a manner that holds people accountable for their criminal acts. If passed, this bill could very well result in a large number of officers choosing to leave the public service of law enforcement.
House Bill 1267 would transition the responsibilities for conducting criminal investigations, specific to law enforcement officers use of force, to non-law enforcement civilians. Using civilians to conduct murder investigations of law enforcement officers would likely result, ironically, in the inability to file criminal charges in the very rare circumstance an officer's use of deadly force is unjustified.
House Bill 1310 would change and establish, by legislators, a standard for the use of physical force for law enforcement officers. This bill fails to acknowledge the realities that officers face on the streets every day and fails to incorporate a “reasonable officer” standard that accounts for these realities.
House Bill 1499 would make Washington state the second in the nation to decriminalize extremely dangerous drugs enabling those who are drug addicted to continue on a course that is destructive not only to themselves but also to the communities in which they live. Simply put, this bill would legalize any person, including children, to possess narcotics such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, fentanyl, oxycontin, and the like.
The unintended consequence of these policies will be lives lost. Our police are already held to a very high standard. We cannot make that standard an impossible one. We need to focus on real solutions that will bridge the gap of the already fragile relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve, not widen it.
I know police reform is a not an easy subject to talk about. But, I also don't want you to be afraid to stand up and speak out! Make your voice heard before the Legislature on these bills, or any other bills.
We need to continue to stand and work together in solidarity, to engage in on-going critical discussions, and to reach the shared goals of transparency and accountability in our criminal justice system.
I believe Washington state deserves better than what the above listed bills intend for our law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.
J. Edgar Hoover said, “The most effective weapon against crime is cooperation… The efforts of all law enforcement agencies with the support and understanding of the American people.”
When we work together, we can create positive change.
As published in the Tri-City Herald