Community safety is always a top priority. It interconnects with multiple issues such as housing, economic security, behavioral health care, and more.
Our state is recognized as a leader in innovative and effective criminal and juvenile justice policy. We use a data-driven approach to improve public safety in our communities while also improving fairness and equity in our system of justice.
Partnership and collaboration with local and community leaders is a top priority. Whether the focus is reducing gun violence, improving emergency preparedness, or growing a diverse law enforcement workforce, community safety is a shared priority across the state.
2023 Safe Communities Key Successes
- The so-called “Blake fix” revamped Washington state’s drug possession statute by prioritizing treatment and establishing a gross misdemeanor penalty for drug possession and public use of drugs. The legislation also creates a pretrial diversion program and invests $44 million in treatment options that will support individuals suffering from chemical dependency.
- The governor signed three historic firearm safety bills – HB 1240 bans the manufacture, purchase, or sale of assault weapons including the AK 47 military rifle; HB 1443 requires a 10-day waiting period and safety training for all new purchases of firearms as of January 1, 2024; and SB 5708 strengthens accountability of firearm manufacturers and dealers to prevent guns from being sold or transferred to people who shouldn’t have them.
- As part of a strategy to recruit and train more law enforcement officers, Washington opened a new regional training facility in Pasco . The academy, operated by the Criminal Justice Training Commission, allows recruits to complete their training closer to the communities where they live in Central Washington. Plans are underway to establish another regional training facility in Northwest Washington.
- Senate Bill 5352 gives police officers more discretion to decide when it is appropriate to engage in a vehicular pursuit. Domestic violence offenses also were added to the list of crimes that may warrant an officer to pursue a fleeing suspect in a high-speed chase. This bill was supported by statewide law enforcement organizations and passed with strong bipartisan support.
- The governor also signed legislation banning the use of pill presses for producing and processing counterfeit pills that can be filled with deadly narcotics like fentanyl. House Bill 1209 makes using these machines to create counterfeit pills a Class C Felony.
- Workers on state highways will have more safety protections thanks to legislation signed by the governor that allows the use of speed safety cameras on state highway work zones. Senate Bill 5272 was proposed in response to increased traffic collisions and fatalities statewide and received strong bipartisan support.
2022 Safe Communities Key Successes
- House Bill 1725 creates a new first-in-the-nation Missing Indigenous Person alert. The alert is part of an effort to address the disproportionately high rates of unsolved cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women.
- A new grant program and $100 million in funding to help high schools pay for seismic upgrades and retrofits that improve preparedness in the case of an earthquake or tsunami. (SB 5933)
- Passage of three firearm safety bills – HB 1705 bans the possession, purchase or sale of so-called “ghost guns;” HB 1630 bans open carry of firearms in places like elections offices or government buildings where local elected or school boards meet; and SB 5078 bans the sale of high capacity firearm magazines.
- HBs 1719, 1735 and 2037 clarify law enforcement reforms related to pursuit and use of force. The bills were supported by statewide law enforcement organizations and passed with strong bipartisan support.
- Washington State Patrol’s recruitment efforts have successfully resulted in the most diverse graduating classes in WSP history. Nearly 50% of the 115th Trooper Basic Training Class were individuals from underrepresented communities.
- Launch of new 9-8-8 crisis intervention line. Washington is one of a few states in the country using this new crisis line to develop a system that will eventually link callers directly to behavioral health providers or allow for the dispatch of crisis units.
- The new Office of Independent Investigations has been established and is staffing up to prepare to review cases. The governor signed House Bill 1267 in 2021 to create this first-in-the-nation office to conduct competent, unbiased investigations of police use of excessive force. These investigations will be required to be truly independent of the involved law enforcement agency to improve accountability, transparency and public confidence.
2021 Safe Communities Key Successes
- SB 5432, requested by the governor, will improve our state’s cybersecurity and help protect Washingtonians personal information. The bill solidifies the role of the state cybersecurity office and allows a “whole of government approach” to warding off threats by hackers.
- The state launched its new Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention. The office will take a data-driven approach to partnering with local communities on efforts to reduce community violence. Such strategies are different than those used for reducing firearm-related mass shootings, suicide and domestic violence.
- House Bill 1267 creates a new first-in-the-nation office to conduct competent, unbiased investigations of police use of excessive force. These investigations will be required to be truly independent of the involved law enforcement agency to improve accountability, transparency and public confidence. The office is scheduled to begin investigating cases in 2022.
- Senate Bill 5051 increases oversight and accountability requirements for state law enforcement and corrections officers by updating certification and background check requirements and requiring more thorough and more transparent internal reviews in cases of misconduct.
- House Bill 1054 responds to concerns about use-of-force tactics used by law enforcement officers by establishing requirements for tactics and equipment used by officers. The bill prohibits chokeholds and neck restraints, restricts vehicular pursuits, and limits the use of tear gas.
- HB 1310 establishes a civil standard for use of force by police officers.
- SB 5038 prohibits the open carry of firearms at the state Capitol and at permitted demonstrations.
- The Washington State Department of Corrections announced a policy ending disciplinary segregation. Research shows restrictive housing harms individuals and creates more obstacles for those individuals to successful re-entry to the community. DOC worked with stakeholders to develop more effective alternatives.
- Following the Washington State Supreme Court’s Blake decision which struck down simple drug possession convictions, Inslee used his clemency authority to enable the immediate release of 18 individuals from custody. He then ended the active community supervision for individuals whose supervision related to simple drug possession convictions that had been declared invalid in the Blake decision. To date, the governor has issued more than 725 unconditional commutations through this program.
2020 Safe Communities Key Successes
- Executive Order 20-02 updated the Washington State Partnership Council on Juvenile Justice which provides analysis and advocacy for youth who are, or at risk of being, involved in the juvenile justice system. The Council includes several youth members and community leaders from across the state.
- HB 2870, the Social Equity in Cannabis bill, establishes a work group to address the disproportionate harms among communities of color from enforcement of cannabis laws prior to the legalization of cannabis by voters in 2012. The bill also directs the state’s Liquor and Cannabis Board to develop a process for increasing the number of cannabis business licenses among applicants from those disproportionately impacted communities. This better ensures more communities have an opportunity to reap the economic benefits of cannabis legalization.
2019 Safe Communities Key Successes
- Updating deadly force standards. The first bill signed by the governor in the 2019 session updates the standard for use of deadly force by law enforcement officers and requires them to complete violence de-escalation and mental health trainings. The new law is the result of a multi-year effort that brought community advocates and law enforcement together in an unprecedented collaboration to enact agreed-upon changes to Initiative 940, approved by voters in 2018.
- Justice for domestic violence and sexual assault victims. The legislature approved a bill and funding to eliminate the backlog of more than 10,000 untested sexual assault kits, establishes specified rights for sexual assault survivors, and remove the statute of limitations on certain assault cases. Other bills passed that establish policies and procedures for law enforcement response to domestic violence incidents and increase access to sexual assault protection orders.
- Reducing gun violence. Gov. Inslee signed nearly a dozen bills that build upon the state’s nation-leading policies to reduce gun violence. Among the bills he signed is one to ban untraceable “ghost guns,” empowers law enforcement to remove firearms from the scene of a domestic violence arrest, and further strengthens the state’s Extreme Risk Protection Order law that keeps firearms out of the hands of those deemed a risk to themselves or others, including minors.
- Expanding marijuana justice efforts. Building on Inslee’s Marijuana Justice Initiative, the legislature passed a bill that requires courts to vacate misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions if the person was 21 or older at the time of the offense. This bill will help relieve the burden of misdemeanors for marijuana possession and allow people to move on with their lives.
- Reducing juvenile incarceration. The governor signed several bills aimed at more effectively helping troubled youth stay out of the criminal justice system. Among the bills signed is one allowing young offenders who are tried as adults for crimes committed as juveniles to now be held in juvenile rehabilitation services instead of prison until the age of 25.
2018 Safe Communities Key Successes
- Firearm regulations. Gov. Inslee championed and signed SB 5992. The bill bans “bump stock” devices, which enable a firearm to shoot multiple rounds when holding down the trigger. The governor also signed SB 5553, which allows a person experiencing a mental health crisis to waive their firearm rights; SB 6298, which adds domestic violence harassment to the list of crimes that prevent someone from possessing a firearm; and HB 2519, which reforms rules for concealed pistol licenses.
- Juvenile justice. Gov. Inslee supported SB 6160, which helps reduce the number of youth who are charged and tried as adults. Sending minors to adult prisons often leads to worse outcomes than keeping those young people in the juvenile justice system.
2017 Safe Communities Key Successes
- Summit on gang prevention. Gov. Inslee hosted a statewide summit on gang prevention and intervention in Yakima, convening experts from the state and the nation to discuss ways to reduce violent gang activity.
- Notification of failed background checks. Under legislation passed in 2017, firearms dealers are required to notify law enforcement when a customer who is trying to purchase or transfer a firearm fails the background check. The bill, HB 1501, also allows a person to be notified when the subject of their protection order tries to purchase a gun.
- Safer roads. The governor signed legislation that cracks down on distracted driving. The measure, SB 5289, makes any use of a mobile phone while driving a primary offense. He also signed SB 5037, making a person’s fourth driving-under-the-influence offense a felony rather than a gross misdemeanor.
2016 Safe Communities Key Successes
- Reduce firearm fatalities and suicides. In January 2016, Gov. Inslee announced an executive order launching a statewide public health initiative to reduce and prevent gun-related fatalities and injuries. The order also implemented the Statewide Suicide Prevention Plan.
- Safe and strong communities through successful reentry. Gov. Inslee issued an executive order that removes barriers for people reentering society after a term of incarceration to better help them become working, contributing members of society. Successful reentry helps reduce recidivism and improve community safety.
2015 Safe Communities Key Successes
- Crisis Intervention. Gov. Inslee championed SB 5311, legislation that ensures police officers get crisis intervention and de-escalation training.
- Medical marijuana. Gov. Inslee worked with legislators to pass SB 5052 which regulates medical marijuana, ensures a safe product and keeps marijuana out of the hands of kids. This was an important, related part of the governor’s efforts to implement I-502 and create a system that works for patients.
- Sexual assault. The governor’s office helped pass HB 1068, legislation that helps identify perpetrators of sexual assault by creating a process to catalog and test thousands of untested rape kits in our state.
2014 Safe Communities Key Successes
- SR 530 slide response. Gov. Inslee and Snohomish County Executive Lovick formed a joint commission in response to the SR 530 landslide of March 2014. The commission’s recommendations were the basis of policy changes and legislation to improve preparation and response to similar events in the future. Gov. Inslee led numerous other efforts to help the community recover and rebuild.
- Death penalty moratorium. In February 2014, Gov. Inslee announced a moratorium on capital punishment in Washington. This action does not commute the sentences of those on death row or issue any pardons, but allows for a debate on the merits of the continued application of capital punishment in this state.
- Justice Reinvestment Initiative. As part of Washington’s commitment to continuous improvement in state government, Gov. Inslee, with the support of bipartisan legislative leadership and the courts, convened the Justice Reinvestment Task Force. The task force analyzed current criminal justice trends in Washington and examined ways to reduce crime and recidivism, effectively leveraging our public safety dollars and increasing public safety in our communities.
- Marijuana regulation. In 2014, the state implemented a three-tier regulatory system for the legal production, processing and sale of marijuana. This structure includes extensive requirements which ensure that safe and tested products are available for responsible adult consumption while providing safeguards to minimize youth access and accidental ingestion.