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Cops-corrections coalition backs police accountability efforts

Group has supported or been neutral on most bills, but has concerns on SB 5051


The following is from the Coalition of Law Enforcement and Corrections Unions: 

OLYMPIA (March 11, 2021) — A broad coalition of Washington state law enforcement unions, representing more than 14,000 officers, released a letter Wednesday urging lawmakers to continue their work on police accountability reform in the 2021 legislative session.

“We do not want the tragedies that have occurred across our nation and here in Washington to be repeated,” said Teresa Taylor, Executive Director of WACOPS. “We support accountability for officers and employers. We support fairness, balance, and objectivity. We want to help build policies that will make the law enforcement profession better and our communities safer.”

“We understand that in order to perform our jobs safely and effectively we must have the trust of the community,” added Spike Unruh, President of the Washington State Troopers Association. “We believe our input has made for better policy that will allow officers to be accountable to their communities while still having access to due process and the tools they need to keep the public safe. We are proud of our constructive work and will continue to work toward additional amendments for some reform bills.”


The coalition of unions has expressed either neutrality or support for the majority of police accountability bills, legislation that would provide for data collection, audits, arbitration reform, language around impeachable offenses, community collaboration and an officer’s duty to intervene. (See HBs 1088 and 1089, and SBs 5055, 5066, 5259, 5353 and 5436).

“Our members work at universities, at the airport, the seaport, at state parks, in large cities and small towns. They staff local jails and the state prison system. Our coalition represents the overwhelming majority of Washington’s rank-and-file law enforcement and corrections officers,” said John Scearcy, principal officer of Teamsters Local 117.

“We all take an oath to keep the public safe, and the public trusts officers to be capable, well-trained guardians of their safety,” said Arman Barros, a member of Teamsters 117 employed at the Port of Seattle Police Department. “Passengers that pass through the airport expect us to keep them safe. I appreciate the work all legislators have done to amend HB 1054 related to police tactics.”

The coalition letter expressed concerns over SB 5051, which would eliminate an officer’s right to due process and could lead to termination before a determination is made regarding allegations of misconduct. SB 5051 is scheduled for public hearing in the House Committee on Public Safety on Thursday, March 11 at 1:30 p.m.

“We want the reforms passed this session to result in greater accountability while still maintaining fundamental rights of workers. We do not accept the false dilemma that we must choose between social justice and procedural justice for law enforcement officers. We can do both if we work collaboratively to get the policies right,” said LeAnne Kunze, WFSE Executive Director.

The Coalition of Law Enforcement and Corrections Unions includes Teamsters 117, the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs, the Washington Federation of State Employees (AFSCME Council 28) and the Washington State Patrol Troopers Association. Together, the Coalition represents over 14,000 officers in every corner of the Washington State. 


EDITOR’S NOTE — Teamsters Local 117 and the Washington Federation of State Employees/AFSCME Council 28 are unions affiliated with the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. The WSLC has supported or remained neutral on all of the above-mentioned police accountability bills.

UPDATE (March 11 @ 3 p.m.) — WSLC Government Affairs Director Joe Kendo testified in support of SB 5051 at today’s hearing. Here is an excerpt from his comments:

“We support this legislation because it sets up a framework for accountability that is well understood in the labor community – professional licensing and certification.

“Many of the trades and professions in organized labor are regulated by professional standards boards that operate outside of the employer-employee relationship. These boards and commissions provide important accountability for standards that cut across employers and keep quality and consistency across the profession. We believe it is appropriate that police are similarly regulated.

“Importantly, 5051 accomplishes this without undermining important labor values like collective bargaining and the ability of a union to enforce a collective bargaining agreement.

“We do share some of the concern expressed by unions that represent police, however. Particularly with respect to CJTC actions proposed under this bill that too closely replicate discipline that is more appropriately kept with the employer, like probation and suspensions, and the ability of an officer’s union to protect those due process rights. But we are testifying in support because the core principles of the bill are sound, and the regulatory approach of the bill makes sense.”

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