Law enforcement leaders want dedicated money for community corrections

Law enforcement leaders are warning that new legislation could make our streets more dangerous. That’s because it would cut the number of officers who track those who just got out of prison and are under community supervision. But there’s more to the story.

“We’re here today in Downtown Seattle, just blocks from the location of a shooting that caused all of us … to take a step back and start asking tough questions,” began Steve Strachan, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

He spoke at a news conference with King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht, Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla and Seattle Assistant Police Chief Adrian Diaz. The group is sounding the alarm over changes in community supervision that could cut 200 community supervision officers over the next five years. It designed to focus community corrections resources on those who need it most.

The legislation passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support. It was put together by bipartisan leaders of the House Public Safety Committee.

“In no way shape or form, in our discussion of this piece of legislation did we ever say we want to or have any desire to decrease the department of corrections community custody officers,” said Republican State Rep. Brad Klippert of Kennewick.

“I believe the department of corrections has asked for $60 million just for this year for more community corrections officers. I’m committed, we’re committed to spending that money,” added Democratic State Rep. Roger Goodman in a joint interview with KIRO-7.

But representatives of law enforcement what that money put aside in a special account

“We’re asking very specifically for a long-term commitment to re-entry and treatment and we want it written into law that it will be there now and in the future in a special dedicated account,” said Strachan.

Goodman says such special accounts mean little when lawmakers are desperate for money.

“What happened to the Criminal Justice Treatment account, the Legislature swept it in bad economic times and still hasn’t funded it sufficiently anyway,” Goodman said.

Asked if she supports the changes in community corrections policy, Sheriff Johanknecht responded,

“I think we are all up here saying the policy changes are there, we believe in reform … we think this is a good step but we just want to make sure that it’s properly supported.”

The House and the Senate are scheduled to release their budgets on Monday.