Thanks to the leadership of families impacted by police violence and organizations like the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability—and to the tireless advocacy of our Washington Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers—we won sweeping, historic police reform in Washington in 2021. Five police accountability bills go into effect as laws on July 25, 2021.
Starting this month, our communities will be safer.
State law now bans police from using chokeholds and no-knock warrants. It also demilitarizes police departments by preventing the federal government from giving them military equipment.
Oversight on police will improve. An Office of Independent Investigations has been established, along with a process for investigating police conduct that includes civilians, to help ensure unbiased conclusions. Data collection and analysis on police use of force incidents in Washington is now required. And officers with a history of misconduct can’t simply move to another law enforcement job and escape accountability.
People impacted by police violence set the policy agenda, and led the way to winning these reforms. These necessary changes are just the beginning for police accountability.
Washington volunteers weren’t just focused on police reform: They were critical to passing a law that restricts the open carry of firearms on Capitol grounds and at demonstrations. The open carry of firearms is a dangerous practice that’s exploited by white supremacists in order to intimidate their opponents. Starting this past May, extremists can no longer use this violent tactic.
We also advocated for $3.2 million in funding to violence intervention and prevention programs, and won. These programs support communities that are hit the hardest by gun violence.
What We Accomplished This Legislative Session
Five police accountability bills go into effect as laws on July 25, 2021.
Banning police from using chokeholds and no-knock warrants, and demilitarizing police departments by preventing the federal government from giving them military equipmentHB 1054 prohibits the use of chokeholds by law enforcement officers, no-knock warrants, and restricts the police acquisition of military equipment from the federal government.
Making sure use-of-force investigations are legally compliantHB 1089 authorizes the state auditor to make sure use-of-force investigations comply with the law.
Establishing a new independent process for investigations into police conductHB 1267 creates an Office of Independent Investigations in the Office of the Governor who is charged with investigating police use of force incidents. The law also establishes a new independent process that includes civilians for investigations into police conduct and will help promote accountability and ensure that investigations are complete and free from bias.
Ensuring transparency so law enforcement officers with a history of misconduct cannot avoid accountability by moving to other law enforcement jobsSB 5051 gives the Washington Criminal Justice Training Commission additional powers and oversight authority. The law also improves rules for officer certification and makes improvements that ensure transparency and that law enforcement officers with a history of misconduct cannot avoid accountability by moving to other law enforcement jobs.
Requiring data collection and analysis on police use of force incidentsSB 5259 requires data collection and analysis on police use of force incidents in Washington. Currently, the existing data on police use of force is insufficient and makes it difficult for researchers to analyze excessive force and for policymakers to effectively evaluate the need for change.
New common-sense legislation regulates the open carry of firearms. The bill went into effect as law on May 12, 2021.
Prohibiting open carry on Capitol grounds and at permitted protestsSB 5038 prohibits the open carry of firearms on Capitol grounds and at permitted protests.
$3.2 million in funding is being provided to violence intervention and prevention programs.
Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention received $421kThe Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention, established in 2020 by the legislature, received $421,000. The office is creating a state and federal grant funding plan to direct resources to cities that are most impacted by community violence.
Youth Tip Line Work Group received $1.5MYouth Tip Line Work Group received $1,485,000 for fiscal year 2022 and $958,000 for fiscal year 2023 for the implementation of the YES tip line program, a program to receive and respond to tips from the public regarding risks or potential risks to the safety or well-being of youth.
Community Gun Violence Grants received $500kCommunity Gun Violence Grants received $500,000 for law enforcement agencies to implement group violence intervention strategies in areas with high rates of gun violence. The strategies must include collaboration with local leaders and community members, use data to identify the individuals most at risk to perpetrate gun violence for interventions, and include a component that connects individuals to services.
Youth Violence Prevention Grants received $800kYouth Violence Prevention Grants received $800,000 for the Office of Juvenile Justice to establish a grant program for evidence-based services to youth who live in the neighborhoods that are hit hardest by gun violence.
How We Won
In order to win all of our public safety priorities, our volunteers signed in support and testified virtually at statehouse hearings, kept in constant contact with our lawmakers, and strengthened relationships with community leaders and fellow gun violence survivors. The results will save lives.
This session, volunteers and supporters attended an annual virtual advocacy day in March. Over the course of the session, they took 3,742 digital actions, including sending 3,086 emails and making 674 calls to legislators, urging their support on gun safety and police reform legislation.
“The Washington Coalition for Police Accountability brought comprehensive recommendations on police accountability bills before our state legislature. We spent many hours phone banking and educating our volunteers on why these bills are important. It was immensely helpful to hear directly from state lawmakers who wrote and sponsored the legislation.”Ashlee McDonald, Washington Legislative Co-Lead
It’s important to take a breath and celebrate these victories. Building community and winning gun safety is what motivates us to keep showing up.
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