How Seattle, King County’s poor criminal justice policies affect all Washington
October 5, 2022

How Seattle, King County’s poor criminal justice policies affect all Washington

Crime across Washington has increased significantly in recent years. While it’s a local problem in much of the state, it’s the result of decisions made elsewhere. Some might naturally point to Olympia, where the state legislature has enacted numerous police “reform” laws handicapping law enforcement and enabling criminal activity.

However, ultimately this is tied to the poor criminal justice policies originating from both Seattle and King County.

It’s important to keep a few things in mind. Although Olympia is where legislators physically meet, that’s not where they’re from nor the district they represent. Thirty four of the 98 state reps and 17 of the 49 state senators come from districts in or in parts of King County. In Seattle alone there are five legislative districts. 

Within our constitutional framework, this representation is appropriate because it’s based on population. But this also means that this region wields enormous power and influence in shaping statewide policy, and often those policies or the ideologically values driving them are first proposed, implemented, and codified at the local and regional level. 

Too frequently, they’re harmful to public safety.

The notorious HB 1054 prohibiting officers from pursuing suspects without “probable cause” was sponsored by Rep. Jesse Johnson, who represents the 30th legislative district located in King County. During this year’s session, a bill was proposed that would have allowed murderers, rapists, and sex offenders sentenced to life in prison like Gary Ridgeway the ability to petition for parole. The sponsor was Sen. Manka Dhingra, who represents another legislative district in King County. Dhingra also sponsored SB 5476 decriminalizing certain drug activity and was among key leadership within the Senate Democratic Caucus to vehemently oppose a bill introduced this year once again allowing officers to engage in vehicle pursuits based on “reasonable suspicion.”

These policies ultimately result in two critical outcomes: limitations on law enforcement agencies and relaxed punishment or consequences for criminals.

Although efforts have been made to rectify these flawed policies in the legislature, Washington residents should keep a close eye on what’s currently going on within King County’s criminal justice system, because it’s reasonable to expect statewide legislation proposing to do the same sometime in the future.

That includes King County’s Restorative Community Pathways program. The juvenile program was set up a year ago, and the county intends to begin a similar program for adults. The program allows first-time offenders to avoid the judicial system, at the prosecutor’s discretion, and instead getting social services. According to the county’s own documents, that includes children who bring a gun to school and threaten to shoot teachers and/or teachers.

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