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Mayors’ new collaboration against crime to push state leaders


Michael Whitney photo
Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin introduces the coalition at a press conference at Everett’s Henry M. Jackson Park on Tuesday, Oct. 4. To her right, from left to right, are Sultan Mayor Russell Wiita, Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring, Lake Stevens Mayor Brett Gailey, and other elected leaders. To the left are four police chiefs, including Dan Templeman of Everett (far left), Erik Scairpon of Marysville (third left) and Jeff Beazizo of Lake Stevens (fourth left).


EVERETT — A bipartisan coalition of city mayors seeking to re-harden some of the state’s police reform laws to help control crime launched last week.
Chaired by Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin and Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring, the coalition is a nonprofit that’s collected endorsements from almost every city in the county, and is soliciting donations from the business community.
Their immediate goal is seeing state lawmakers put more bite back into the state’s drug possession law. As it's written, the law doesn't allow arresting people on the spot, and instead instructs officers to offer referral services.
Longer-term goals are to amend rules on police chases for stopping crimes in progress, prioritize human service needs, increase mental health services and more.
"Our communities large and small are experiencing a disturbing rise in crime,” Franklin said in introducing the coalition named "Mayors and Business Leaders for Public Safety" on Oct. 4.
The mayors say some of the laws swept in during 2020, such as prohibitions on police chases, are not working, and instead emboldened criminals.
"They have no fear carrying a firearm," Lake Stevens Mayor Brett Gailey said.
Legislators amended some of the rules earlier this year. One brought back a few scenarios where police are allowed to use force, such as taking a person into custody for a mental health evaluation or treatment, for involuntary treatment commitments, or executing a search warrant.
It’s still thorny as incorrectly applying force during a situation can now be used against an officer’s certification to work in law enforcement.
The coalition is working with legislators and prosecutors, Sultan Mayor Russell Wiita said.
The current state of Washington state’s drug possession laws relate to the Blake decision in the state Supreme Court. The 2020 decision temporarily took away any penalty for possession as judges found Washington’s law was unconstitutional.
The Legislature reacted and put in a softer, new law where drug possession is a jailable misdemeanor only after the third warning.
It came in the midst of a wave of police reform laws by the Legislature. This short-term solution elapses in the summer of 2023, so if Olympia lawmakers hit a stalemate, drug possession may become legal again.
One glitch to today’s law is that no police agency can easily track when that third offense occurs, Lake Stevens Police Chief Jeff Beazizo told the Tribune.
And, barely any drug user accepts an officer’s offer to refer them to treatment. In Everett, zero people out of 294 contacts in the past two years took the offer to go into treatment, Franklin said, quoting statistics from Everett Police. Before Blake, social workers could motivate people by using jail as a stick.
“Jail is sometimes best” for the short-term, Nehring said. “It shouldn’t be our default, but it has to be a workable option.”
Some mayors — Wiita said he’s one — personally would like to see drug possession changed back to a felony.
Officers are leaving the state to work elsewhere because of the regulatory environment for law enforcement. It’s created a “police hiring crisis,” a mayor called it.
Lake Stevens’ chief said he’s short six of his 24 commissioned officer positions.
The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office suspended its outreach and K-9 units to divert deputies back to patrol because of staffing shortages.
Morale has soured in police departments, Gailey said.
Police call volumes are down, Mukilteo Mayor Joe Marine told a reporter, because people think officers are unable to perform their ability to address crime.
“Before these changes went into effect, crime wasn’t great, but we were trying. Then they took away the tool that was working,” Marine said.
The mayors began discussing getting police reform laws reversed and adjusted during the pandemic. Everett Officer Dan Rocha’s murder in March marked a turning point that intensified conversations.
Everett and Marysville will be contributing $15,000 each, Franklin said. Other cities are asked to give $7,500 or $3,750 based on size.
Similar coalitions have begun in South King County and Pierce County. Gailey said there’s momentum.
The coalition’s launch was at a press conference at Everett’s Henry M. Jackson Park. The selection was partially deliberate: September was a bad month at this park after a teenager was shot in broad daylight, and a drive-by shooting happened here, too.
Everett Police began stepping up patrols in all city parks in mid-September, Everett Police spokeswoman Officer Ora Hamel said.
The coalition is a 501 (c)(4) nonprofit. This type of nonprofit can spend money toward political campaigns, but a coalition spokesperson said the group doesn’t plan to make candidate donations.


  

 

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