Police reform laws bringing sweeping changes to law enforcement

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August 3, 2021

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

As lawmakers reflect on the 2021 legislative session, it will certainly be remembered as the session of the COVID pandemic, the first to include mostly “virtual” committee meetings and floor debates. Processing federal stimulus dollars, debating the largest state budget ever, and pushing back on a variety of new tax proposals were all key moments of the session. Like most sessions, there were many bills approved that will benefit our state. House Bill 1168, for example, takes a major step forward on state forest management and wildfire efforts. It establishes a legislative intent to invest $500 million over the next eight years for wildfire response, forest restoration, and community wildfire resilience. This is welcomed news to us given our unfortunate history of devastating wildfires, especially now as our hearts go out to the Methow Valley residents struggling with the ongoing impacts of the Cedar Creek and Cub Creek fires or Wenatchee area residents shaken by the Red Apple Fire. Each day a wildfire burns, courageous first responders help to keep us safe and protect us. We are grateful.

Law enforcement officers keep us safe

Like our firefighters, our law enforcement officers also put their own lives at risk in their work to protect us. During this past session – with much of the public’s attention directed to school closures, federal stimulus measures, vaccine distribution, and tax increases – a series of sweeping police reform bills were passed and signed into law that could forever change our state’s law enforcement practices. Many of these bills were inspired by the tragic killing of George Floyd and the national focus on social justice. While I can certainly appreciate the spirit of these bills, I could not support such sweeping changes that make our families less safe, put our courageous law enforcement officers at risk, and lead to numerous unintended consequences in communities across our state.

Sen. Hawkins studying budget at Senate desk

Bills and amendment packets are issued to Senate members for floor debates. The police reform bills were subject to numerous changes and lengthy debates.

As our state senator, I want all people to be protected, including those suspected of committing crimes. Everyone should have access to a fair and honest law enforcement system, but these bills went way too far and have resulted in ambiguity and too many unanswered questions. We must all acknowledge that members of law enforcement – those tasked with keeping us safe – are engaged in a very dangerous job. No laws should force these brave men and women serving our communities to second- and third-guess themselves when confronting potentially fatal situations. These new laws create an unfair burden to our law enforcement community and, despite being approved as an effort to protect people, could actually make us all less safe.

New police reform laws now taking effect

Bellow is a collection of police reform bills passed during the 2021 legislative session, including bill information, summaries, and vote counts. Any single bill in the list below would have represented significant changes for law enforcement. Given changing dynamics within the Legislature in recent years, all of the bills were approved relatively easily. Signed into law by Governor Inslee and in accordance with their implementation dates, all of the bills below are now state law.

2021 police reform laws chart

Bill Links: HB 1054 (info), HB 1310 (info), SB 5051 (info), SB 5066 (info), HB 1267 (info)

Looking ahead to future sessions

The 12th District legislators solidly support our law enforcement community and the safety of our communities and officers, but with the same members of the Legislature and governor returning next year, it is unlikely that these laws will be repealed. My hope is that the outreach meetings and community discussions occurring throughout the state will lead to requested changes to make these laws much more workable for law enforcement. If needed changes can be identified statewide, especially within King County law enforcement communities, hopefully the original sponsors of these police reforms, along with other legislative supporters, will agree that modifications need to be made. Legislators who did not support these measures will likely be looking to the statewide law enforcement organizations such as the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs and Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs to identify the most urgent changes and clarifications. Like any statewide policy, if there is enough support – both from the organizations affected and from communities across our state – modifications can be made to any law once lawmakers return.

Capitol dome and cherry trees

State politics have shifted significantly in recent years, bringing new dynamics to the State Capitol. The 2021 legislative session resulted in many changes, including sweeping new police reform laws.

Law enforcement outreach meetings, resources

Law enforcement officials throughout the state are conducting a series of outreach meetings to share more information about these new laws. More information can be found at the official sites of the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs or Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. You can also contact any of our local law enforcement offices in Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan counties – or your city police departments – for a more local perspective. Local law enforcement leaders were also featured recently in the Wenatchee World, which detailed the police reform legislation. Information about upcoming meetings in Chelan County can be found here.

Listen to my interview on KPQ’s “The Agenda”

I participated in a recent interview on KPQ’s “The Agenda” with Dave Bernstein. We discussed a variety of topics, including wildfires, transportation, police reform and more. Click on these links to listen to my Full KPQ Interview or just the Police Reform Discussion.

Thank you to all of the courageous first responders who help keep us safe. Please know that our community supports and appreciates you!

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your state senator.



Brad Hawkins

State Senator Brad Hawkins
12th Legislative District
E-mail: brad.hawkins@leg.wa.gov 

Website: senatorbradhawkins.org

107 Newhouse Building - P.O. Box 40412 | Olympia, WA 98504-0412
(360) 786-7622 or Toll-free: (800) 562-6000