Commentary: Lawmakers should adopt proposed policing reforms

Four bills would make needed changes to law enforcement to enhance accountability and public safety.

By Juan Peralez / For The Herald

Police Accountability legislation is currently being addressed at state legislatures across the country in response to the demands of the unprecedented Black Lives Matter movement resulting from the shootings of Black unarmed men and women in the horrific 2020 year in our country’s history.

I say “unprecedented” simply because of the vast diversity of the protestors, their perseverance and number of supporters which is estimated to be over 6 million people of all ages.

People in this country of all colors and ages have decided that after the despicable murders witnessed on national TV and social media — and they can not be called anything else — of George Floyd, Breona Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery to name a few, they have had enough of blatant misconduct, lack of accountability and disregard by police for the lives of Black people.

Four crucial bills remain to be enacted into law in Olympia this session. They will be dramatically effective in building much needed trust and in changing the culture of policing for the benefit of law enforcement and Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities.

House Bill 1054 would put a limit on use of force tactics which include chokeholds, no-knock warrants, military-style equipment, tear gas and others. It has passed both House and Senate.

House Bill 1310 would require de-escalation techniques to be used and that deadly force be used only if necessary. It has passed the House and is under consideration in the Senate.

House Bill 1267 would create a statewide non-law enforcement-led agency to investigate officer-involved shootings. It has passed the House, and a floor vote in scheduled in the Senate.

Senate Bill 5051 would regulate certification and decertification of police and correctional officers as well as bringing civilians to be part of the Criminal Justice Training Commission. It has passed the Senate, and a floor vote is scheduled in the House.

We are in a critical time in the history of this country when it comes to policing.

The bills above will have a tremendous impact on implicit and explicit bias in policing, end the traditional practice of police investigating police that has proved to be inefficient and biased, build trust between police and communities and will make police accountable for the shootings of unarmed members of our communities in Washington state.

Overall, these bills are a sound investment in the public safety arena of our state. I plea for people to contact their respective state legislators and demand they support this sorely needed legislation.

Juan Peralez is president of Unidos of Snohomish County.

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