Democratic lawmakers insult, demean supporters of police pursuit fix
On the steps of the Washington State Capitol, Amber Goldade spoke about losing her daughter.
“I have suffered horrendously, and I will suffer until my dying day,” she said, facing news cameras. “She is and always will be a victim of the no-pursuit law.”
In January 2022, 12-year-old Immaculee Goldade and her best friend were walking home from a sleepover when they were hit by a felon driving a stolen landscaping truck. Immaculee was killed instantly. Her friend Kathleen was left for dead in the ditch.
The suspect, Terry Matthew James Kohl, has a lengthy criminal history and previously avoided arrest by fleeing from law enforcement. Without a 2021 law that dramatically restricted police pursuits, Amber believes her daughter’s killer would have been behind bars.
“If the police were able to pursue him, he could have been caught and put back in jail, preventing him from harming innocent, law-abiding citizens and not kill my daughter.”
I was at the Capitol that day to hear Amber speak. What I heard was a mother desperate to save another family from the pain hers has endured.
But to at least one state lawmaker, Amber and her family are nothing more than a tool of Republican misinformation.
Over the past month, several Progressives in the House and Senate have ramped up efforts to justify their failed pursuit law – insulting people like Amber Goldade who have heartfelt concerns about what the law has done to public safety.
“I feel like a lot of the conversation around police pursuits has gotten wrapped up in this massive misinformation campaign,” Rep. Julia Reed (D-Seattle) said during a virtual town hall. “Not only is continuing that campaign a top priority for Republicans, but I see so many of my Democratic colleagues buying into it.”
Bipartisan proposals to fix the existing pursuit law have two dozen Democratic co-sponsors, as well as the support of Governor Jay Inslee, who said he would sign the latest version if it gets to his desk. Reed called such support “personally painful” for her as a member of the Legislative Black Caucus.
“The line that people want you to believe is that the reason crime is up is because of all these woke policies and we listened too much to the Black Lives Matter people.”
In other words, she wants you to believe that opposition to the law is racist.
“They want us to change and make sure police have unlimited ability to act in any way that they see fit,” she claimed.
First, no one (and I do mean no one) is advocating for police to have “unlimited” discretion in pursuits. None of the bills under consideration this session to fix the existing law would remove all restrictions and allow officers to “act in any way that they see fit.”
Considering that comment came directly after she accused others of spreading misinformation on the issue, Representative Reed should offer an apology and a formal retraction.
Regarding her claim of misinformation, what would Representative Reed say to the family of Immaculee Goldade? Would she tell them that their loss isn’t real? That their pain isn’t real? That their daughter couldn’t have been saved even if police were allowed to pursue her killer days earlier? That they’ve somehow been duped by Republicans into speaking out against the existing law?
Representative Reed’s statement is insulting at best, deliberately dishonest at worst.
If she and her Progressive colleagues believe the existing policy is in the best interest of public safety, they should say so without deceiving voters and denigrating victims.
When asked in an email to provide specific examples to justify her claims of Republican-led misinformation or legitimate efforts to “make sure police have unlimited ability to act in any way that they see fit,” neither Reed nor her office responded.
Unfortunately, she is not alone in her tactics.
Several of Reed’s Democratic colleagues have relied on misdirection to avoid taking a serious look at opposition to the policy.
“I have heard from a number of people that the fear that has been instilled in them from our local law enforcement is what causes them to absolutely believe that the laws we passed in 2021 are not working,” Senator T’wina Nobles (D-Fircrest) said during floor debate on March 8.
I was in the wings of the Senate that day as Nobles spoke. What I heard was a lawmaker who thinks so little of her constituents that she believes the only way they could possibly oppose one of her policies is by virtue of being duped. Her remarks reminded me of previous comments from Senator Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond) who claimed that pushback against the law was driven by people who were simply “having an emotional reaction to it.”
So, let’s recap:
Opposing the existing pursuit law is racist.
Opposing the existing pursuit law means you are misinformed.
Opposing the existing pursuit law makes you a tool of the right-wing.
Opposing the existing pursuit law is just your emotions getting the best of you.
That is gaslighting, pure and simple.
The debate over police pursuits isn’t easy. There is no perfect solution when a dangerous criminal decides to flee from justice, putting everyone around them at risk.
Have innocent bystanders been killed during pursuits? Yes, and their stories are an important part of this conversation. No one (and I do mean no one) opposed to the existing law has argued that pursuits are safe. The question at hand is whether it’s more dangerous to allow criminals to flee.
Parents like Amber Goldade deserve to have their stories heard without being dismissed as political pawns. Washingtonians deserve to raise legitimate concerns about what elected leaders do without being painted as ill-informed, easily misled, or – worse yet – bigoted.
On Tuesday, the House Community Safety, Justice, and Reentry Committee is scheduled to take up a version of the pursuit fix that passed in the Senate. While it would be a good opportunity for Democrats to show they are capable of genuinely listening to the concerns of their constituents, the bill has been scheduled for executive session. That means the debate will happen behind closed doors, without any public comment.
Yet another display of disrespect toward those who simply want to feel safe.