A group of 12 Snohomish County mayors on Tuesday issued a letter to Snohomish County-area legislators outlining their objectives for the 2023 Washington State legislative session regarding public safety.
Among those signing the letter were mayors from Brier, Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace.
The ideas summarized in the letter, from Mayors and Business Leaders for Public Safety, “are the result of a series of bipartisan discussions with members of the House and Senate to identify opportunities for the state and local officials to work collaboratively on public safety changes this coming session,” the group said in an email sent to the media Tuesday morning.
As reported earlier, participants said they created the group in response to increased incidents of property and violent crime across Snohomish County, and to address mental health and homelessness challenges that are primary drivers of the increase. While Tuesday’s letter was only signed by mayors, the group said it is in the process of adding private sector leaders to its ranks.
Among the group’s priorities:
– Legislation addressing the Blake decision, which decriminalized nearly all drug possession in Washington state.
– Criminal justice policies that will allow officers to more effectively use their training, experience and judgment in the field.
– Increased funding for both law enforcement and social services.
Tuesday’s letter, titled “Blake decision and vehicle pursuit legislation for the 2023 legislative session,” was sent electronically to members of the Snohomish County legislative delegation.
Here is the text of the letter:
Dear Members of the Snohomish County Legislative Delegation:
Thank you for taking the time to meet with us recently and to learn more about our new coalition, Mayors and Business Leaders for Public Safety. Our coalition currently includes a bipartisan group of 15 Snohomish County mayors and we are in the process of adding private sector leaders to join us in finding solutions to our public safety challenges.
Our constituents consistently say public safety is their top priority. While we have taken many steps locally and will continue to pursue local initiatives to enhance public safety, we are also looking to your leadership in the Legislature to help us address local residents’ concerns.
As we underscored in our conversation, we are hopeful that we can collaborate on legislation for the 2023 session that will address two specific issues — the Blake decision and the new police pursuit law. We share the concerns outlined in a recent letter to lawmakers by our fellow mayors in South King County, and would like to reiterate our specific policy requests for the 2023 session.
Regarding the Blake decision and drug possession:
– Re-establish accountability to the system so that law enforcement can take enforcement actions, including a “custodial action” (arrest), when legally authorized and appropriate. Classifying these arrests as a gross misdemeanor is our preference.
– Create court-driven solutions to prescribe treatment/services: Offer a deferred sentence on first and second offenses, with a willingness to have this extended to additional offenses, contingent upon the offender agreeing to receive treatment or services. Should services be rejected then we would like to be able to pursue the arrest with a gross misdemeanor charge.
– For offenders who accept this offer, defer sentencing for those who enter a court- approved treatment program containing accountability requirements; this approach is similar to what is seen in DUI courts.
– Reward those who complete court requirements, including a substance abuse assessment, with expungement of any record of conviction for the offense.
– Emphasize and stress the role of courts — ensuring there are significant additional resources to go with an enhanced court-services system. Complementary funding through “988” should be explored, as should the use of the state’s portion of opioid-settlement revenues.
– Provide cities and counties with opioid settlement funding with a local match by all cities and counties receiving those proceeds.
– Ensure penalties are available for imposition on repeat offenders or those who refuse help and/or do not complete agreed-upon treatment/service programs.
On police pursuits:
– Allow law enforcement to more fully use their training, experience and judgment in the field.
– Restore the option for law enforcement to consider vehicle pursuits as required, removing the idea that criminals will not be challenged.
Additionally, we believe that public confidence in the judicial system will be enhanced by creating more transparency regarding the charging, bail conviction and sentencing decisions of local prosecutors and judges, and we encourage the Legislature to consider new requirements in that area.
We are committed to working within our coalition, and across the state with other groups like the South King County mayors, as well as members of law enforcement and social service providers, to develop bipartisan solutions for the 2023 legislative session. Making meaningful progress on public safety depends on everyone contributing to the solutions.
Thank you for your consideration of these suggestions.
Mayor Cassie Franklin, City of Everett
Mayor Jon Nehring, City of Marysville
Mayor Russell Wiita, City of Sultan
Mayor Brett Gailey, City of Lake Stevens
Mayor Dale Kaemingk, City of Brier
Mayor Dan Rankin, City of Darrington
Mayor Mike Nelson, City of Edmonds
Mayor Joe Marine, City of Mukilteo
Mayor Christine Frizzell, City of Lynnwood
Mayor Kyoko Matsumoto Wright, City of Mountlake Terrace
Mayor Linda Redmon, City of Snohomish
Mayor Sid Roberts, City of Stanwood