I READ WITH some interest the article by the Associated Press in the Dec. 2 Peninsula Daily News on police reform in Washington state.
Very concerning to me was the apparent punitive and adversarial view taken by the reporter, some activists and some in the Legislature toward law enforcement officers.
Police officers and deputies are required to face violent persons and situations as a part of their duties.
Washington law enforcement is noted for being on the forefront of police reforms and best practices in the areas of training, de-escalation, crisis intervention, mental health field response and use of force.
While less than perfect, we are in Washington a profession that is committed to constant improvement. Our actions over the last decade demonstrate this commitment. Much of what was included in President Obama’s 21st Century Policing Task Force has been adopted in Washington. Some things, like the police as “guardians” (vs warriors) were pioneered here in Washington.
Locally, the Port Angeles Police Department (PAPD) , the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office and the Sequim Police Department are among the one-fifth of law enforcement agencies in the state who have done the work to become accredited through the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC).
The WASPC accreditation process places us into the realm of “living our accreditation,” which means best practice, accountability and outside oversight.
Many of the areas statewide and nationwide that are talked about in police reform have been already adopted by accredited agencies.
PAPD and the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office also have done the work to create independent investigative teams for the use of deadly force investigations consistent with the requirements of Initiative 940.
More than simply having an nearby agency review the use of deadly force, the independent investigation when conducted consistent with the state requirements and by competent investigators will independently establish the facts surrounding the use of deadly force.
We take this requirement seriously and understand the issues and concerns around police use of deadly force.
WASPC has also committed to working with the Legislature and governor on a number of other police reforms and improvements in the areas of use of force, transparency and accountability and defining the role of law enforcement.
I support these reforms and I encourage those interested to learn more at WASPCreforms.
We ask the women and men of law enforcement to face violent situations every day. As citizens and as leaders we owe them our support and the benefit of the doubt.
As a leader I am obligated to question efforts that seek to create a needlessly punitive and adversarial process directed at those we have asked to protect and serve.
That does not mean that I and others in my profession are not committed to meaningful reform. We are a nation of checks and balances and I believe that American law enforcement is by design some of the most accountable policing in the world.
Your local law enforcement is accessible and transparent. I look forward to hearing from you at [email protected]
Brian S. Smith is the Port Angeles Chief of Police.