Police Reform Bills Passed by the WA Legislature this Session

I am back from vacation and wow, do we have a lot to catch up on.

First, I’d like to share an insight from The Stranger reporter Charles Mudede:
There are two ways of dealing with policing at this point in American history. One way is to deeply defund the institution (which is an internal solution), and the other is decriminalization (which is an external solution). The former, to me at least, seems to be, politically speaking, a long shot. However, the latter, which basically gives the police less to do in our world, has serious political potential, as exemplified by the legalization of pot.
And now onto the news!


Washington State Legislature News

Where did the end of this year’s session leave us?
To address the Blake decision, the legislature passed bill ESB 5476 re-criminalizing low-level drug possession by making it a misdemeanor and requiring local jurisdictions to provide treatment options for drug users; people who violate the new law are to be directed to “assessment, treatment, or other services” for the first two violations; after the second violation, a violator can be referred for prosecution and, potentially, a fine or jail. The bill has a two-year expiration date, which is potentially good news for those dissatisfied with the re-criminalization of simple drug possession.
Here is a list of police reform bills the legislature passed:
  • HB 1054 regulating police tactics
  • HB 1267 establishing a new Office of Independent Investigations that will investigate all police uses of deadly force in WA
  • HB 1310 setting new standards for police use of force
  • SB 5051 the decertification bill
  • SB 5055 the arbitration bill that collects arbitration data and reforms the process
  • SB 5066 the duty to intervene
  • SB 5259 collection of data on police uses of deadly force
Relatedly, a bill banning open carry of firearms at public demonstrations and at the state Capitol passed, as did a bill requiring judges to re-sentence anyone facing life in prison under Washington’s three-strikes law if one of their “strikes” was a second-degree robbery charge.
Bills that didn’t pass included one reforming collective bargaining for law enforcement to not cover accountability; removing qualified immunity to make it easier for police officers to be sued for misconduct; and the recently-introduced bill limiting police traffic stops.

Seattle News

This morning’s Seattle Council Briefing was nice and short.


CM Morales announced she was unable to reschedule the Community Economic Development committee meeting, which she had postponed due to the verdict coming in on the Chauvin trial, and that it will therefore meet at its next scheduled time on May 18. As the participatory budgeting process was slated to be discussed at this meeting, this means a further delay in its discussion and eventual implementation. This inability to reschedule may reflect a lack of urgency and prioritization for this project.


CM Juarez reported on the status of the Equitable Communities Initiative recommendations for the expenditure of their $30m. They will be putting together a spending plan with the hope of the proviso on those funds being lifted by the Council by July.

At last week’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting, the committee heard a presentation on “Reimagining Public Safety,” which covered updates on unit transfers and the Seattle University Public Safety Survey among other topics. They also heard a report on Q1 SPD Budget and Staffing, which showed Q1 overtime was down compared to 2019 and 2020 and there were 58 separations of sworn officers during the quarter versus 30 hires during the same period. Salary savings from attrition may reach as high as $13m in 2021. You can also take a look at a slew of SPD exit interviews since last summer.

Election News


Seattle’s candidates for the 2021 elections have filed their financial disclosures, leading to several pieces including this one comparing the finances of several mayoral candidates. In the Sawant recall campaign, the judge has set the signature collection deadline for October 19; the recall campaign must collect a little over 10,000 signatures from District 3 residents by this date.
State Senator Joe Nguyen has announced he is running for King County executive, challenging Dow Constantine, who is running for his fourth term in the position. You can read more about it here and here.

Other News of Note


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