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Despite Narrative, Law Enforcement Unions Back Reform in WA

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A coalition representing more than 14,000 police officers are giving the thumbs up to many reform efforts in Washington state. (Diego Gomez/Adobe Stock)
A coalition representing more than 14,000 police officers are giving the thumbs up to many reform efforts in Washington state. (Diego Gomez/Adobe Stock)
 By Eric Tegethoff - Producer, Contact
March 15, 2021

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- A broad coalition of groups and unions representing law enforcement and corrections officers are applauding Washington state lawmakers for their work this session.

The groups have supported or remained neutral on seven bills in the Legislature this year that address issues of accountability, and are working with lawmakers on several other bills.

Teresa Taylor, executive director for the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs, said there's a lot of common ground between police and those calling for reform.

"It's a false premise to suggest that police officers want something different than what the community should want and deserves," Taylor asserted. "Police officers want to protect and serve. They want to protect life."

Other groups in the coalition are Teamsters 117, the Washington Federation of State Employees and Washington State Patrol Troopers Association. Together, they represent more than 14,000 police officers across the state.

Matt Zuvich, lobbyist for the Washington Federation of State Employees, said the only bill the coalition has concerns about is Senate Bill 5051, which would expand the Washington state Criminal Justice Training Commission's ability to revoke or suspend an officer's license.

They fear the bill could impede on an officer's due process and collective bargaining rights, but he also noted accountability is important to officers.

"Our members who are cops will be the first to tell you that they don't want to work with officers that violate policy and do harm to the trust that they try to build with their communities," Zuvich argued.

Teamsters 117 represents a wide range of law enforcement members, from evidence technicians to nearly 6,000 state department of corrections employees.

Brenda Wiest, vice president and legislative director for the union, said the state needs to bring reform to law enforcement but believes it also has to address the other root causes of racism.

"It is our turn to be part of that conversation; those of us who work in public safety," Wiest stressed. "But we need to make sure that as we move on past last summer and into the future that we look at other things that are impacting our communities, like access to health care, housing and employment."

Wiest added unions are uniquely positioned to address these issues.

Disclosure: Washington Federation of State Employees - AFSCME Council 28 contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, and Livable Wages/Working Families. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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