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Washington State Law Enforcement Group Rejects 'False Dilemma' Reform

A coalition of law enforcement unions in Washington state urged lawmakers to continue crafting legislation to hold officers accountable for their actions but expressed concerns about some of the measures on the table.

Police siren blue light 4165414 640.jpegTo that end, the unions, which collectively represent more than 14,000 law enforcement officers, penned a letter to members of the state Legislature expressing both their support for, and trepidation about, a bevy bills and provisions being mulled by lawmakers, reads an announcement from the groups.

“We do not want the tragedies that have occurred across our nation and here in Washington to be repeated,” said Teresa Taylor, executive director of the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs. “We support accountability for officers and employers. We support fairness, balance, and objectivity. We want to help build policies that will make the law enforcement profession better and our communities safer.”

There were a number of bills where the coalition found common ground with lawmakers, but they expressed particular concern with one bill before the Legislature, S.5051. They claim it would eliminate officers’ “rights to due process” and might cause “termination before a determination is made regarding allegations of misconduct.”

“A peace officer or corrections officer, or a law enforcement or corrections agency, may submit a written complaint to the [Criminal Justice Training Commission] charging that a peace or corrections officer’s certificate should be denied or revoked, and specifying the grounds for the charge,” reads the bill. “Additionally, upon termination of an officer for any reason, including resignation, the employing agency must notify the CJTC within 15 days of the termination. The CJTC may request additional documentation from the agency, if necessary, to determine whether the termination provides grounds for revocation.”

According to information from the Washington State House of Representatives, the bill also aims to, among other things, modify the composition and priorities of the Criminal Justice Training Commission. Further, it would also expand background investigations for individuals applying to be peace officers, corrections officers and reserve officers as well as alter the certification and decertification procedures for corrections officers and peace officers.

“We want the reforms passed this session to result in greater accountability while still maintaining fundamental rights of workers. We do not accept the false dilemma that we must choose between social justice and procedural justice for law enforcement officers. We can do both if we work collaboratively to get the policies right,” said LeAnne Kunze, Washington Federation of State Employees executive director.

The groups signed onto the letter include the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs, the Washington Federation of State Employees, the Washington State Patrol Troopers Association and Teamsters 117, reads the announcement.

“We understand that in order to perform our jobs safely and effectively we must have the trust of the community,” said Spike Unruh, president of the Washington State Troopers Association. “We believe our input has made for better policy that will allow officers to be accountable to their communities while still having access to due process and the tools they need to keep the public safe. We are proud of our constructive work and will continue to work toward additional amendments for some reform bills.”

According to information from the group, those signed onto the letter are neutral or in support of bills 1088, 1089, 5055, 5066, 5259, 5353, 5436, which deal with a wide array of areas like data collection, arbitration reform, auditing, impeachable offenses, and more.

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