We must provide more support for WA law enforcement officers

Emily Parkin

OPINION AND COMMENTARY

Editorials and other Opinion content offer perspectives on issues important to our community and are independent from the work of our newsroom reporters.

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Police lights

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Our neighborhoods, towns, and cities continue to face the challenges of crime, violence, addiction, chronic homelessness, and untreated mental health needs.

The devastating and life-threatening impacts of the flawed, ineffective, and destructive police reform legislation enacted in 2021 have made these problems worse. Public safety agencies across the state continue to struggle as our law enforcement professionals are left without the necessary tools, tactics, and response protocols to do their jobs and keep us safe.

We should be doing everything we can to empower law enforcement professionals to keep our families and communities safe rather than encourage criminal behavior. This session had a slight push to fix some of last year’s legislation, but we missed several opportunities to bring forward real change.

We passed House Bill 1719, revising the definition of prohibited military equipment to no longer include “firearms or ammunition of .50 caliber or greater,” and modified the definition of a rifle; thus, allowing law enforcement agencies and officers to once again use the ‘less lethal tools’ they have at their disposal.

We passed House Bill 1735, expanding the authority of a law enforcement officer to use physical force, subject to the requirement to exercise reasonable care with people experiencing a mental health crisis.

We passed House Bill 2037, which defines the use of force standards, so law enforcement officers can better do their job.

We missed the opportunity to pass Senate Bill 5919, which would have provided more precise definitions of the use of force standards and incorporated ‘reasonable suspicion’ back into law enforcement officers’ ability to perform vehicular pursuits.

Washington state is fourth in the nation regarding catalytic converter theft. We passed House Bill 1815, creating a workgroup to study the problem and work with key stakeholders to find solutions.

We missed the opportunity to pass my bill — House Bill 1873 — that would have required catalytic converters to be added to the list of items for which scrap metal dealers must keep sales records. It would have also prohibited the sale of catalytic converters by anyone other than a licensed commercial enterprise or private sector person who could show proof of ownership of the vehicle the equipment came from.

We also missed the opportunity to address our police officer recruitment and retention crisis and provide more funding to police departments around the state. Washington state must no longer rank last in the nation regarding the number of police officers per thousand people. House Republicans offered several solutions to address this problem. The majority party did not give any of our solutions a chance.

I know police reform is not an easy subject to talk about. People on both sides of the issue are passionate about the direction we should take. We need to continue to stand and work together in solidarity, engage in ongoing critical discussions, and reach the shared goals of transparency and accountability in our criminal justice system.

With violent crime on the rise and the push for early release of violent criminals, lawmakers should not limit or take away the constitutionally protected rights of law abiding citizens.

I fought hard to protect your rights “to keep and bear arms” so that you may always have the ability to defend yourself, your families, neighbors, businesses, and communities.

House Bill 1630 establishes restrictions on carrying and possessing firearms and other weapons in meeting areas used for local governments, school district board meetings,and certain election-related facilities. This bill will once again create places in our state where law abiding citizens will not be able to lawfully “keep and bear arms” to protect themselves and others.

House Bill 1705 bans so-called “ghost guns.” Many lawmakers believe that because of these firearms’ inability to be “traced,” they should be banned. This new law does little to stop real criminals who do not care about the law. It makes criminals out of law abiding citizens who enjoy putting together their own firearms, many of whom are former military personnel or retired law enforcement professionals.

Senate Bill 5078 bans high-capacity magazine sales and limits the number of magazine rounds to 10 after July 1, 2022. This is another bill that limits your ability to protect yourself and provides no additional consequences for the actions of those with true criminal intent.

I believe Washington state deserves better than the place we are in today.

Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, represents the 8th Legislative District.

This story was originally published April 27, 2022 4:00 AM.

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