Join us October 13 for our New Police Reform Laws: Legislative Intent and Community Impact webinar

Live Webinar and Q&A via Zoom – October 13, 2021, 7:00-8:30pm

Register Now

Confusion and misinformation resulted when new police reform laws became effective in July.  This webinar aims to demystify the intent of the police reform legislation and its impact on local policies affecting our community. The 90-minute webinar will feature a panel presentation with legislators, and representatives from local government, behavioral health services, and law enforcement. It will be followed by a Q and A session between the audience and panelists. 

Panelists include:

  • Legislators:
    • Alex Ramel – 40th District Representative
    • Roger Goodman – 45th District Representative, House Public Safety Chair
    • John Lovick – 44th District Representative; House Pro Tem Speaker; former state trooper, Snohomish County Sheriff, and County Executive
  • Local representatives:
    • Hollie Huthman – Bellingham City Council Member and local business owner
    • Malora Christensen and Tommy McAuliffe – LEAD and Grace Diversion Program Managers
    • Jerilyn Klix – Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, Deputy Behavioral Health Officer

Questions for panelists may be posed while registering for the event or during the webinar.

Learn why we believe police reform is necessary

For decades, people mistreated by police have called for reform that includes, at a minimum, holding officers accountable. Over the past year, the Riveters’ Justice System Committee (JSC) has supported these efforts by contacting government officials, advocating for improvements to police union contracts, and supporting legislative bills. 

To better understand the current state of police accountability within Whatcom County, the JSC obtained officer-related complaint records from Bellingham, Blaine, and Ferndale, and lawsuit settlement information from Bellingham, Blaine, Everson, Ferndale, Lynden, and Whatcom County. A review of these documents provides insight into how complaints are investigated, the degree to which officers are held accountable, and the cost to local governments when the public feels harmed by police conduct.

In a series of posts, we’ll describe how BPD handled a traffic stop and racial-profiling complaint that led to Bellingham recently paying a $100,000 settlement, how much police-related lawsuit settlements cost local governments, and what police complaint records can tell us. We’ll also share recommendations for better policing from national organizations.

***CLICK ON EACH PART TO EXPAND DETAILS***

Read our recommendations for improving local police union contracts

Rep. John Lewis quote:

The Justice System Committee reviewed police union contracts up for negotiation. Bellingham, Blaine, and Lynden will negotiate police union contracts in fall 2021. Ferndale and Whatcom County contracts will renew in 2022.

Learn about the minimum changes needed to ensure accountability to the public by reading these summaries prepared for Whatcom County law enforcement agencies.

Bellingham Police Department Union Contract Summary

Blaine Police Department Union Contract Summary

Ferndale Police Department Union Contract Summary (coming soon!)

Lynden Police Union Contract Summary

Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office Union Contract Summary

Help increase police accountability in your community, contact your city executives, council members, and law enforcement leaders to demand these much-needed improvements.

Check the Status of 2021 Legislative Bills We Tracked

(last updated: September 21, 2021)

Since January, the Justice System Committee has been tracking justice-system related bills filed during the 2021 legislative session. All bills listed below have been signed into law.

Policing

  • HB 1001 – Authorizes the development of a 2-year grant program to encourage a broader diversity of candidates to seek careers in law enforcement. Effective date: 7/25/2021
  • HB 1054  – Requires law enforcement agencies impose new training and policies for vehicular pursuits; bans using chokeholds and neck restraints; establishes guidelines for using tear gas; requires developing a model policy for using police dogs to apprehend or arrest people; bans acquiring or using certain specified military equipment; and prohibits concealing badge identification information. Effective date: 7/25/2021
  • HB 1088 – Requires law enforcement agencies to report officer misconduct, affecting credibility or any act of an officer that may be exculpatory to a criminal defendant, to prosecuting authorities. Effective date: 7/25/2021
  • HB 1089 – Requires the State Auditor to review completed deadly force investigations and allows the State Auditor to audit entire departments for compliance with standards. Effective date: 7/25/2021
  • HB 1109Expands the statutory rights for sexual assault survivors and requires status updates on cases tied to previously unsubmitted sexual assault kits collected prior to July 2015. Effective date: 4/26/2021
  • HB 1267 – Establishes the Office of Independent Investigations to investigate deadly force incidents involving officers. Effective date: 7/25/2021
  • HB 1310 – Requires the Attorney General to develop model use of force and de-escalation tactics that law enforcement agencies must adopt. Authorizes using tear gas only to alleviate risk of serious harm during a riot. Effective date: 7/25/2021
  • SB 5051Establishes the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission to create and administer standards and processes for certification, suspension, and decertification of officers. Removes confidentiality of complaints, investigations, and disciplinary actions; and requires it be maintained on a public database. Effective date: 7/25/2021
  • SB 5055 – Standardizes and improves arbitrator selection procedures and prevents law enforcement personnel from entering into a contract that prohibits civilian review of officer disciplinary actions. Effective date: 7/25/2021
  • SB 5066 Requires an officer to report another officer’s misconduct and immediately intervene when another officer is using excessive force. Effective date: 7/25/2021
  • SB 5259 – Requires reporting, collecting, and publishing information about law enforcement use-of-force interactions with the communities they serve. Effective date: 7/25/2021
  • SB 5263 – Repeals existing laws that create hurdles for police accountability and prevent families and victims from recovering monetary damages. Effective date: 7/25/2021
  • SB 5476 – Temporarily recriminalizes simple drug offenses as misdemeanors (as a “fix” to the Supreme Court’s decision in the State v Blake case) and requires that a person be offered diversion to services at least twice before they can be prosecuted. Effective date: 7/25/2021

Incarceration and Re-Entry

  • HB 1044 – Expands opportunities for postsecondary education in prisons; requires an annual report on recidivism rates post release for those in these programs; and requires the Dept. of Corrections accommodate those with learning disabilities, traumatic brain injuries, and cognitive impairments. Effective date: 7/25/2021
  • HB 1078 – Automatically restores voting rights to felons after they’ve completed a total confinement sentence. Effective date 1/1/2022.
  • HB 1295 – Enhances educational institutions’ ability to extend academic credit for language and general education to youth in or released from secure facilities. Effective date: 7/25/2021
  • SB 5119Requires the Dept. of Corrections to investigate any unexpected death during incarceration and publish a report within 120 days. Effective date: 7/25/2021
  • SB 5304 – Expands the Medicaid suspension policy to include correctional institutions, state hospitals, and other treatment facilities. Requires full reinstatement of Medicaid benefits upon release from confinement. Effective date: 7/25/2021

Judicial System

  • HB 1140 – Provides juveniles access to an attorney before waiving constitutional rights. Effective date: 7/25/2021
  • SB 5118 – Expands the Intrastate Detainer Act to include persons incarcerated in juvenile rehabilitation facilities and allows individuals to request to resolve untried warrants in district and municipal court. Effective date: 7/25/2021
  • SB 5226 – Removes the option to suspend a person’s driver’s license for a traffic infraction, for failing to respond within 15 days, or for failing to appear at a hearing. Provides an option to enter into a penalty payment plan if a person is unable to pay. Effective date: 1/1/2023

Public Safety

  • SB 5038 – Makes it a gross misdemeanor to open carry a firearm at or within 25 feet of a public demonstration, the west state capitol grounds, capital grounds buildings, and other legislative locations. Effective date: 5/12/2021

Tell Bellingham what you want in a Police Chief by this Friday, April 16th!

Tell Bellingham what you want in a Police Chief by this Friday, April 16th!

The City of Bellingham is asking for feedback on priorities to consider in the selection of the next Police Chief. Details about the position available in the job posting (External link) and recruitment brochure (External link).

The survey questions are below in bold; responses are limited to 255 characters. We’ve included some potential responses followed by character counts in italics below each question.  Feel free to use them or provide your own.:

What skills and characteristics do you want to see in our next Police Chief?

  • Ability to build a culture & practice of policing that reflects the values of protection & promotion of the dignity of all, especially the most vulnerable (155)
  • Compassion for the community, integrity, and professionalism (61)
  • Trustworthy and transparent (29)
  • Commitment to eliminating white supremacy and systemic racism in the department and in the community (100)

What background, experience, and/or achievements should we consider when selecting our next Police Chief?

  • Demonstrated collaboration with community members to develop policies & strategies supported by data made publicly available in communities & neighborhoods disproportionately affected by crime (193)
  • Experience leading a department that achieved decreases in use of force and increases in de-escalation & alternatives to arrest (128)
  • Experience collaborating with communities to identify problems & collaborate on implementing solutions that produce meaningful results for the community (153) 

What do you believe should be the top priorities for our next Police Chief?

  • Advancing transparency in data and reporting and accountability to the public (78)
  • Civilian oversight of law enforcement to strengthen trust with the community and hold officers accountable (107)
  • Building relationships based on trust with immigrant, indigenous, unhoused,  and visible minority communities (110)
  • Tracking and addressing biased policing (40)
  • Curbing the excessive militarization of the police force by imposing meaningful restraints and adopting best practices (119)
  • Partnering with the city to develop 24/7 mobile crisis intervention first responder units that are not law enforcement (119) 

What else would you like us to consider when selecting our next Police Chief?

  • Community engagement in this process requires meaningful opportunities to engage including but not limited to open forums with questions from the public, a transparent process, and members of the public enduring disparities on the hiring committee (248)
  • Reducing incarceration, focusing on rehabilitation, and reducing recidivism (76)
  • Review & publicly disclose candidates’ complaint and misconduct records, including lawsuits filed, as an individual and for previous departments prior (151) 

Please complete the survey HERE: https://engagebellingham.org/police-chief

 

Many of these bullet points were borrowed or adapted from:

https://www.acluhi.org/en/news/ten-questions-honolulus-next-chief-police

https://cops.usdoj.gov/pdf/taskforce/taskforce_finalreport.pdf

 

Tell Elected Officials Police Accountability is Non-Negotiable!

Update: On March 26, 2021, the Justice System Committee sent Blaine, Lynden, and Bellingham city executives and police chiefs the following letter signed by nearly 135 Whatcom County residents.

Riveters Collective police union contracts letter (1)

 

Report Law Enforcement Officers that Don’t Wear Masks

Source

Justice System Committee (JSC)

Description

If you see a mask-less officer outdoors within six feet of another individual or yourself, or a mask-less law enforcement officer indoors:

  1. Tell the officer to wear a mask over their mouth and nose, if you do not feel endangered in doing so.
  2. Fill out a complaint form with the appropriate department as soon as possible.
  3. Tweet current photos meeting the criteria above using tags, such as: @BellinghamPD or @whatcomsheriff, and @RivetersWA. Add hashtags, such as: #PublicSafety #MaskMandate #CommittedtoCommunity #BPDPolicy

Background

On June 23, 2020, Governor Inslee announced a statewide mask mandate when in public spaces. As early as July 28, Sandy Robson, a Birch Bay resident, began asking Chief Doll about Bellingham Police Department’s mask-wearing policies. The JSC reported to Chief Doll on October 12 that his police officers had not worn masks during much of the summer when within six feet of community members who are unsheltered. During an October 26 City of Bellingham meeting, the JSC called on Chief Doll to direct his officers to wear masks.

Not until November 24, the same day Whatcom County Health Director reported COVID cases appearing amongst Bellingham community members who are homeless, did Chief Doll finally issue a directive requiring all police staff to wear masks.

Chief Doll and other law enforcement agencies have not even taken minimum steps to keep even the most vulnerable residents in our community safe. We need to tell them our health and safety matters.

Links to complaint forms and suggested information to include in a complaint.

Bellingham Police

Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office

Ferndale Police Department

Blaine Police Department

Lynden Police Department

When reporting, we suggest including the following information:

  • Officer’s name, if known
  • Date, time, and location of incident
  • How you came in contact with the officer
  • Photos of the officer not wearing mask, if possible
  • Describe how you (or the exposed individual) felt in the situation

Additional info