Long debate expected on Washington police reforms

It’s been months since tens of thousands of people filled the streets to demand police reform and accountability. Demands that came in the wake of the police killings of Charleena Lyles in Seattle, Manuel Ellis in Tacoma, and others.

Democratic state Rep. Melanie Morgan is chair of the Members of Color Caucus.

“We also are saying in the state of Washington that not in our state will this be transpiring of murdering innocent people. And they just happened to be Black or Brown. Enough is enough,” Morgan said.

There is legislation that would ban the use of police dogs to apprehend suspects, chokeholds, neck restraints and the use of tear gas. There is also legislation that would ensure independent investigations are done when officers use deadly force.

But much of the legislation has drawn resistance from influential law enforcement groups that worry things may go too far and leave officers at risk.

“If we continue to change our laws to find blame for an officer in every tragedy to exclude reasonable and valid review standards, the officers will change their approaches, and officer’s safety will be affected,” said Jeff Devere of the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs.

None is yet close to final passage, but a bill reforming arbitration for police disciplinary hearings has passed the Senate.

“(The) idea that this is a partisan issue is not really correct this year. We’re seeing great collaboration,” said Democratic Sen. Emily Randall, the majority caucus whip.

Asked if the multitudes who protested last year will be satisfied by what passes the Legislature, House Speaker Laurie Jinkins was direct.

“No matter how much action we take this year, even if everybody was really happy with it, we will not be done,” Jinkins said.

Jinkins said she expects long floor debates over some of the police reform legislation.