Thursday, February 4, 2016

Black Alliance Packs Hearing for Police Deadly Force Bill, HB 2907


Above: Dr. Karen Johnson, Black Alliance of Thurston County, testifies in support of HB 2907 before the House Public Safety committee chaired by Representative Roger Goodman (D-45) on Wednesday. 

Senator Fraser Sponsors SB 6621 Calling for Policing Task Force, Hearing Also on Wednesday

By Janine Gates

The room was packed for a public hearing on Wednesday for HB 2907, which seeks to clarify state law governing the use of deadly force by police officers. The bill, spearheaded by the Black Alliance of Thurston County, was sponsored by Representative Luis Moscoso (D-1).

Washington State House Public Safety Committee Committee chair Representative Roger Goodman (D-45) said that 65 people signed up to testify. Only a handful was able to give their testimony, although he allowed the meeting to go 20 minutes longer than expected.

Most testified in support of the bill, with some, including the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, and Concerns of Police Survivors, opposing or expressing concerns.

Dr. Karen Johnson, chair of the Black Alliance of Thurston County, presented an overview of how the group began its efforts just a few short months ago, and described her organization’s efforts to build a relationship with Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts after the officer involved shooting of two African American young men in Olympia.

Johnson promoted the police department’s mission and strategic plan, and said the Black Alliance is eager to help the department garner the respect and trust of Olympia residents, and to make sure police get the training they need to begin changing the culture within the department.

Encouraged by her story, Representative Goodman praised Johnson’s efforts.

“...We have a lack of trust between communities and law enforcement, but it seems you’ve done a lot of work on a local level to bring people together….Who did you bring to the table and is there a template for what we could do on a state level?” he asked.

Johnson responded that it’s about communication and having courageous community conversations about racial bias and institutional racism with the police department, and exploring the experiences and questions around those themes.

She said Olympia’s next community conversation with the Olympia Police Department is scheduled for March 2.

“I think we’ve been doing an awful lot of talking to them, and it’s time we start listening to what they need from us,” said Johnson.

“I agree, I think we need to listen to the police,” responded Goodman.

Jamira Burley, with Amnesty International’s campaign on criminal justice and gun violence, spoke in support of the bill, saying that HB 2907 takes significant steps to provide needed clarity and accountability in regards to the use of lethal force by officers.

Burley said that the use of lethal force by police in the February 2015 case involving Antonio Zambrano-Montes, a farm laborer with a history of mental health issues who was shot and killed by police in Pasco, was inconsistent with international law and standards on the use of lethal force.

Lisa Daugaard, director of the Public Defender Association in Seattle, also spoke in support of the bill and described the 2010 killing of Seattle Native American woodcarver John T. Williams by a Seattle police officer.

“The Seattle Police Department itself concluded that the killing violated policy on use of force, the first time that had happened in decades. This was not a reasonable mistake – it was an unreasonable mistake, at best. Officer Birk was not reasonable in thinking he was under attack, and he was not reasonable in thinking deadly force was necessary to forestall any attack. This was widely accepted. If ever a killing by a police officer might be prosecuted as a crime under the current law, it seemed to most observers that it would be this one. And yet Ian Birk was not prosecuted…..”

“…For those who are uncomfortable with the approach taken in this bill: it’s time to offer an alternative solution that would have allowed a prosecution in Mr. Williams’ death. A group of concerned community leaders has done its best to propose a solution that is fair to officers and community members alike. If you are uncomfortable with this solution, please, identify another that will change outcomes in the most egregious of these cases,” said Daugaard.

Noah Seidel of Lacey who represents Self-Advocates in Leadership, a group of over 200 people with developmental disabilities, also spoke in support of the bill.

“Mental health problems is not the only kind of disability that people have had when killed by police officers. John T. Williams…was also partially deaf. When he was killed, the officer was behind him telling him to stop. Disability was a factor....We need to do a better job holding law enforcement accountable to keep people safe,” said Seidel.

Seidel said that, according to a 2013 report by the Treatment Advocacy Center and National Sheriffs’ Association, at least half of the people shot and killed by police between 1980 and 2008 in the United States had mental health problems.

Rick Williams, the older brother of John T. Williams, also spoke.

“For five years all this talking and no action…He (Officer Birk) gets a free pass. Why is this guy still walking free? It’s not right…I can’t get my brother back but I can help people stand up for him. Somebody has got to it do because this is all wrong,” said Williams.

The committee also heard testimony about HB 2908, which creates a 13 member joint legislative task force on community policing standards. The bill’s prime sponsor, Representative Cindy Ryu, (D-32), spoke to her bill.

James McMahon, policy director with the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, did not necessarily oppose the bill, but suggested that more data be gathered first before a task force begins to discuss the issue.

Senator Fraser Sponsors SB 6621 Calling for Policing Task Force, Hearing Also on Wednesday

Above: Rick Williams, seated, Jay Westwind Wolf, a Mohegan Tribal member who is also on the Seattle Community Police Commission, Karen Johnson of the Black Alliance of Thurston County, and Thelma Jackson, also of the Black Alliance of Thurston County, gather just before the Senate Law and Justice Committee heard SB 6621, sponsored by Senator Karen Fraser (D-22).

Later on Wednesday, SB 6621 was heard by the Senate Law and Justice Committee, chaired by Senator Mike Padden (R-4).

SB 6621, sponsored by Senator Karen Fraser (D-22), creates a 22 member task force on policing and the use of deadly force convened by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy. It contains several directives and would provide recommendations to the Legislature related to statute changes related to the use of deadly force by an officer. The task force would report its findings and provide recommendations to the governor by December 1, 2016.

Fraser spoke to her bill and said it was written in cooperation with the Black Alliance of Thurston County.

Acknowledging the task force proposed in HB 2908, Fraser said, “I’m not wedded to how we structure the task force…but the core idea is to bring the relevant people together to talk about this and how we want to move ahead in the future….We need all the right people involved in this,” she said.

Similar to his testimony for HB 2908, James McMahon, policy director, Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, expressed concerns about the bill and would like data to be collected on the use of force before a task force is formed.

Craig Bulkley, president of the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs, also expressed concerns, saying that a problem has not been identified with the current statute, data needs to be collected, and the bill does not have a means to do that. He said that according to the FBI, 107 officers have been killed nationally in the line of duty, and 49,851 were assaulted in 2013.

In Washington State, 16 people were shot and killed by law enforcement in 2015. According to research by The Seattle Times, there were 213 Washington State police related fatalities between 2004 – 2014.

In 2015, the Guardian newspaper tracked the number of deaths in the United States due to interactions with law enforcement, documenting 1,015 people killed by police using firearms. Of that total, 25.6% of those killed were African American and 17.5% were Latino. More than 10% - 107 individuals - were unarmed when they were shot and killed by police.


For more information about the HB 2907, Amnesty International's Report on Deadly Force, the Black Alliance of Thurston County, Karen Johnson, the City of Olympia’s Ad Hoc Committee on Police and Community Relations, body cameras, and other police related issues in Olympia, go to Little Hollywood, www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com, and type key words into the search button. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Amphibian Monitoring Program Benefits City, Science


Above: Newly trained citizen scientists search for amphibian egg masses at a 30 year old stormwater pond on the City of Olympia's westside last Saturday. The training was part of a Stream Team program activity to monitor the ecological health of area stormwater ponds and its inhabitants. Amphibians are a key indicator species that help scientists monitor the health of the environment.  

By Janine Gates
www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com

“I found one!”

That was the excited shout by more than one newly trained citizen scientist on a field trip to a stormwater pond last weekend.

What was found was an amphibian egg mass belonging to the Pacific Tree Frog, in about 30 centimeters of water. 

The sighting was confirmed by City of Olympia Stream Team leader Michelle Stevie who called me over with my clipboard to record all the vital information: location and depth, type of egg mass, developmental stage in which the eggs were found, whether or not the mass was attached to anything, like a cattail, and other notes. 

As I moved slowly through hip deep water to record the finding, as well as another egg mass, I found one all on my own! It belonged to the Northern Red-legged Frog. 

With each new discovery, everyone shared in the joy. 

Above: The egg mass of a Northern Red-legged Frog. The scalloped-edged mass, about the size of a grapefruit, is being highlighted with a simple, white plastic lid attached to a bamboo stick. The stick has markings used to measure depth, and, if needed, keeps one upright in what can be a mucky situation.

Learning How To Monitor Amphibians

This is the fifth year for the City of Olympia's Stream Team amphibian egg mass monitoring program, and about 20 people registered for the first training of the season last Saturday held at the LOTT Clean Water Alliance. 

Volunteers play a key part in maintaining several city programs designed to restore and protect area streams, shorelines, and wetlands. Some folks not only participated in the compact, nearly three hour class lecture, they had the opportunity to immediately put their newfound knowledge to use.

The class was taught by Dr. Marc Hayes, herpetologist and senior research scientist with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife. Students of all ages, even children, learned about the frogs, toads and salamanders of Thurston County and the Pacific Northwest.

Hayes showed PowerPoint slides of the egg, larvae, metamorphic, and juvenile stages of the Pacific Tree Frog, Northern Red-legged Frog, Oregon Spotted Frog, Western Toad, American Bullfrog, Northwest Salamander, Long-Toed Salamander, Rough-Skinned Newt, Western-Backed Salamander and Ensatina.

The value of monitoring a particular species or its habitat has not always been appreciated. In the past, it was a neglected piece of the puzzle in restoration efforts.

“People are beginning to understand the connection between monitoring and restoration. If restoration is not successful, it is a waste of money. It’s important to do effective analyses, and understand the failures to potentially correct them in future efforts,” said Hayes, who has 43 years’ experience with frogs and salamanders.

Hayes gave a good natured pop quiz after the lecture, and the group proved it had retained an impressive amount of knowledge.

Threats and Issues for Thurston County Amphibians

There are about 7,000 amphibian species and a website at UC Berkeley actively updates their descriptions. Since 1985, about 48 percent have been described, most of them from tropical areas, with 17-20 amphibians added per month.

Amphibians are declining globally. Over 200 species have been lost in the last 25 years and it is anticipated that that 400 species will be lost over the next 20 years.

Emergent diseases are a direct or indirect consequence of climate change. A fungus that attacks salamanders in particular was just discovered less than two years ago in Europe. While it has not yet been found in North America, a fungus that interferes with an amphibian’s water balance, and the ranavirus, a viral disease that has the ability to move between fish and amphibians, is present in Thurston County.

Other threats include growth and urban development. According to a 2001 state Department of Fish and Wildlife study in King County, wetlands adjacent to larger areas of forests are more likely to have greater native amphibian species diversity. Amphibian richness is highest in wetlands that retain at least 60 percent of adjacent area in forest land up to and exceeding 1,640 feet from the wetland.

Invasive Species in Thurston County

The only native amphibian to be reintroduced to Washington State is the Oregon Spotted Frog, a species federally listed as threatened in September 2014.

Reintroduced at Joint Base Lewis McChord in 2008, the program has been somewhat successful, but is still under evaluation, said Hayes. In reality, there is a 97 percent mortality rate in the larvae stage for amphibians due to predation under normal conditions, so scientists would need to introduce thousands of the frogs to achieve some impact to the success of the species in the area.

Two amphibians that are present in Thurston County and are definitely not wanted is the American Bullfrog, an invasive species introduced to the area in the 1930s after a bullfrog farming craze phased out in California, and the African Clawed Frog.

The African Clawed Frog was discovered about a year and a half ago in three stormwater ponds on the St. Martin’s University campus in Lacey. Hayes said scientists are desperate to remove it because it breeds at an alarming rate and carries the ranavirus at a 70 percent frequency rate.

“They are voiceless, tongue-less burrowers with tough skin and can withstand a whole host of environmental insults,” said Hayes. 

Hayes said the species is used in labs, and it is suspected that the source of this population is the result of a pet dump from North Thurston High School. Goldfish were also present. So far, 4,700 African Clawed Frogs have been removed from the St. Martin’s ponds.

An extraordinarily stubborn species, Hayes said it took San Francisco scientists about 10 years to eradicate the African Clawed Frog from their area, but that also included the time it took to learn the system of what would be most effective in their removal. 

The method? Scientists capture the frogs, humanely euthanize them, put them in baggies, and pop them in a freezer for a week to guarantee they are dead. Then, the bags containing the frogs, are autoclaved, a process that is one of the most effective ways to destroy microorganisms, spores, and viruses. 

Most pet stores and online marketers do not educate consumers about the animals they sell, and are part of the problem with invasive species. Public outreach is a touchy situation and has to be done carefully to prevent consumer backlash and mass dumps of particular species, said Hayes. The state is doing outreach to educate students and teachers not to release pet animals into the wild.

At Last! Hands-On Learning

At the conclusion of the lecture, just when human brains were starting to get over saturated, the rain (literally) stopped, and perfect amphibian monitoring conditions prevailed.

Participants eager to locate, identify, and tag egg masses carpooled to the stormwater pond on Olympia’s westside near Hansen Elementary School. Hayes has been monitoring egg mass species there for about 16 years. 

Participants found their boot sizes and pulled on clean hip waders provided by the city. Those who brought their own boots had to wash them before entering the area. Everyone had to scrub their boots after being in the water to prevent water body cross-contamination.

Breaking up into small groups of four, all paired up with an experienced amphibian watcher and we slowly waded out, arms-length apart, into the pond.

A bamboo stick marked with measurements and a plastic lid attached to its end served to measure depth, find and see egg masses better, and use as a walking stick to prevent a potential fall into the muck.

Almost immediately, a Pacific Tree Frog egg mass was found, then another, this time, that of a Northern Red-legged Frog. A couple more egg masses were found, tagged, and recorded. 

Who would have thought stormwater ponds could be so much fun?

Stream Team activities are also available in Lacey, Tumwater, and Thurston County, and are financially supported by local storm and surface water utility bill paid by residents of those jurisdictions.

Amphibian monitoring continues until early April. For future trainings, and for more information other Stream Team monitoring programs involve purple martins, shorebirds, and stream bugs, go to www.streamteam.info or www.olympiawa.gov. 


Above: Janine Gates, newly trained citizen scientist, participated with a Stream Team sponsored amphibian egg mass training in west Olympia last Saturday, and found the egg mass of a Northern Red-legged Frog. An exhilarating day of learning and discovery helped inform science, benefit the environment, and potentially influence future land use management and policies. And to think I didn’t know a thing about amphibians when I woke up Saturday morning!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

HB 2362, Police Body Camera Legislation, in Rules Committee


Olympia Mayor Pro Tem Jones Testifies in Support of Police Worn Body Camera Related Legislation

By Janine Gates
www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com

At Olympia’s city council meeting Tuesday evening, Mayor Pro Tem Nathaniel Jones read a statement he wrote, confirming the city's commitment to police worn body cameras. It received council consensus, and gave the city’s Ad Hoc Committee on Police and Community Relations additional guidance on its role exploring public involvement on the issue.

How little or far the city wants to go in terms of its policies around the issue is up to the community, but the camera's use and related record keeping will also be heavily influenced by state law.

Police worn body camera recordings are currently public records subject to the state Public Records Act and present a whole host of privacy issues, especially for juveniles, crime victims, and witnesses to crimes. 

While some subjects and information are exempt from the law, a 2014 opinion by the state Attorney General determined that body worn camera recordings are not generally subject to the Privacy Act, and that conversations between on-duty police officers and the public are not considered private.

A bill sponsored by Washington State Representative Drew Hansen (D-23), HB 2362, would exempt body worn camera recordings to the extent they violate someone's right to privacy. The bill has passed out of the House Judiciary Committee and is now in the Rules Committee.

The bill also requires law enforcement agencies and corrections agencies that use body worn cameras to establish policies regarding their use, and requires the legislature to convene a task force to examine the use of body worn cameras by law enforcement and corrections agencies.

The bill was the result of a year of work involving groups interested in working to develop a broad, statewide framework around the issue. The bill still allows local jurisdictions to set some of their own policies. 

Despite the efforts, bill opponents, especially those representing communities of color such as the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, want video footage by officers deleted if it does not have accountability value. They are also concerned that footage could be used for surveillance purposes.

Others groups, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys expressed concern that the bill does not go far enough to protect individual privacy, and also believe footage could be used by law enforcement for local and national security related surveillance activities.

Olympia Mayor Pro Tem Nathaniel Jones testified in support of the bill at a hearing on January 14th, along with representatives from the cities of Seattle, Bellingham, Poulsbo, the Association of Washington Cities, the Washington Association of Counties, the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, and many more.

“This is very difficult legislation….I told the committee that Olympia needs support from the Legislature to reduce the financial and legal risks associated with unresolved privacy and records management concerns. The bill is helpful but should go further in these areas,” Jones told Little Hollywood on Wednesday.


For more information about the City of Olympia Police Department, the Ad Hoc Committee on Police and Community Relations, and other Olympia police related news, go to Little Hollywood, www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com and type key words into the search engine.

To track bills through the Washington State legislative process, go to www.leg.wa.gov

Olympia Police Worn Body Camera Conversation Begins


By Janine Gates

Cities large and small across the country are having the conversation about the use of police worn body cameras, and now the conversation has begun in Olympia. 

A whole range of events, actions and emotions around issues of racial injustice, implicit bias, and community policing and accountability were brought home for South Sounders, in large part due to the shooting last May of two African American young men by an Olympia police officer.

Many cities across the country and in Washington are already using body cameras, also called body cams, to varying degrees of success. Some cities have stopped their use due to burdens related to cost, records management, and the inability to respond to public records requests.

At the Olympia City Council meeting Tuesday evening, Mayor Pro Tem Nathaniel Jones read a statement he wrote about the city's commitment to police worn body cameras. The statement received council consensus, and gave the city’s new Ad Hoc Committee on Police and Community Relations much needed direction on its role exploring the issue.

It stated in part that the city intends to move forward with police worn body cameras when it develops plans, policies and revenues that will ensure the program is successful. All those elements are currently lacking.

“It is important that our program includes protections for citizen privacy, effective management…and clear expectations for officers regarding camera use,” said Jones, who acknowledged that the technology currently lacks such standards.

The Ad Hoc Committee has always had a two part mission: one, to engage the community in dialog about police issues, and two, determine how best to engage the public on the implementation of police worn body cameras. It has held several community forums, establishing a template for holding several community forums, but disassociating the topic of body cameras until now, near the end of its temporary tenure.

With the city council now expressing its clear commitment to body cameras, the group will now turn its attention to establishing a process for the issue, holding a public forum on February 18, 5:00 p.m., in a location still to be determined. 

Body Camera Issues, Technology, and Cost

The Ad Hoc Committee learned more about the issue of body cameras on Wednesday night from Laura Wohl, administrative services division manager for the Olympia Police Department. Wohl said she has spent the last five years studying the topic and educated the committee on the policy issues and costs regarding the technology. The group is also collecting information from non-police related sources.

Aspects of the issue include managing a network of additional staff and technology needed to process the camera video, using and managing software designed to ensure confidentiality of some subjects, storing that data for the required 90 days, and understanding the legal status of information captured. 

Wohl said police worn body cameras have been shown to improve reasonable behavior by both the police officer and the person they are having an interaction with, and have decreased the number of complaints about officers.

According to current state public disclosure laws, all police interactions are considered public, and police do not have to notify people that they are being recorded. Traumatic and potentially embarrassing events are recorded.

Wohl admitted the numbers were rough, but each body camera and software would cost about $1,000, with an annual cost of $10,500 for replacements. Initial camera implementation costs would be about $85,000.

The annual cost for the program would be about $472,000 when video storage costs of between $200 - $600 per month per officer are factored in, as well as three additional full time staff to maintain the system.

The redaction process to protect the privacy of some individuals would take an estimated 30 times longer than a video that does not need that work. Preparing video for the criminal justice system is another issue, as it takes time to prepare the videos for discovery, review, prosecution, and defense.

Wohl then extrapolated the work and costs needed to process video if, for example, five officers show up for one incident.

Wohl said that the Olympia Police Department received 3,602 public records requests in 2015. Responding to public records requests of video would place an undetermined amount of time and expense on the department.

Lt. Aaron Jelcick briefly mentioned the state’s body camera issues and programs in Poulsbo, Seattle, Spokane, Bremerton, and Bellingham. There, and in other cities nationwide, each city has had to outline sticky policy issues: 

What kinds of calls should be recorded? When are cameras turned on? Can an officer turn off his or her camera? How is citizen privacy protected? What if the officer sees something that the camera didn’t?  Should officers be allowed to view the camera evidence? How can the videos be used? Should detectives and SWAT team members be issued body cameras?

To provide perspective, Lt. Jelcick said that the City of Spokane phased in its body camera program over a period of 18 months, hosting over 70 community presentations with over 160 groups, and is still having issues meeting the requirements of Washington State’s stringent public records law.

After the discussion, Ad Hoc Committee members were impressed by the depth of the issues and engaged in a healthy conversation about the information they heard.

Given the somewhat overwhelming information provided, committee member Clinton Petty questioned aloud whether or not Olympia really wants or needs body cameras.

In response, Lt. Jelcick said that he believed that body cameras are going to be part of the uniform of most, if not every, law enforcement officer in the country.

“I think we are going in that direction….I think the issues in Washington State will be resolved at some point with the disclosure and technology issues, so that it won’t be cost prohibitive….I think Washington is at a difficult time to implement this technology. We recognize that and as we go through this process, part of the discussion may be, ‘Yes, we want body cameras, no, this isn’t the right time to do it’ until these issues are resolved, but I believe these issues will be resolved.…I don’t think the work that we do will be for naught…the technology will get better and better and it will get easier to process this video….” said Jelcick.

He said that every department who currently has body cameras has started with pilot programs, with cameras on just two or three officers to start, to figure out the work and cost involved.

Committee member Clinton Petty admitted, “There’s a lot more than I ever thought there would be to it.”

Editor’s Note: While writing this article Thursday morning, multiple calls were in progress involving the Olympia police department, including an attempted suicide, a man with a history of cardiac arrest experiencing chest pains, and a blocking collision as the result of an alleged stolen car/hit and run incident on Cooper Point Road and Black Lake Boulevard near the entry to Haggen’s grocery store. Several suspects, possibly four, in the stolen car fled and multiple officers were dispatched to the scene, who worked to track the suspects fleeing in different directions. One officer witnessed one suspect flee to a nearby homeless encampment and change clothes.


For more information about the City of Olympia Police Department, the Ad Hoc Committee on Police and Community Relations, and other Olympia police related news, go to Little Hollywood, www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com and type key words into the search engine.

For more information about the Ad Hoc Committee on Police and Community Relations, go to www.olympia.wa.gov

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Police Deadly Force Bill Has Number, Community Policing Bill Also Introduced


Two bills were introduced to the Washington State Legislature on Wednesday. One would amend Washington State law governing the use of deadly force by law enforcement, and the other would establish a joint legislative task force on community policing standards.

Above: Artwork made of welded metal and found objects by John Vanek entitled Justice For All was gifted to the City of Olympia and is installed at the Lee Creighton Justice Center, the site of Olympia's former city hall. 

By Janine Gates

Proposed legislation to amend Washington State law governing the use of deadly force by law enforcement was introduced Wednesday morning to the Washington State Legislature as HB 2907.

The bill is prime sponsored by Representative Luis Moscoso (D-1), and co-sponsored by five others, including Olympia area Representatives Sam Hunt and Chris Reykdal (D-22).

The bill has been referred to the House Public Safety Committee for a hearing and can be read here:  http://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2015-16/Pdf/Bills/House%20Bills/2907.pdf

Community Policing Standards Legislation Introduced

Another bill on Wednesday was introduced, HB 2908, that establishes a 13 member joint legislative task force on community policing standards. Representative Cindy Ryu (pronounced Ree-oo), (D- 32), is the prime sponsor.

The bill has been referred to the House Public Safety Committee and can be read here: http://app.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=2908&year=2015.

In part, HB 2908 reads, “The legislature acknowledges that officers are often placed in harm’s way and must make decisions quickly while under extreme stress. Although regrettable in every case, the use of deadly force may sometimes be necessary to protect the safety of others. The legislature also recognizes that both the people of this state and law enforcement officers themselves rely on and expect accountability, the failure of which damages the public trust in those who serve the public honorably and with compassion.

“The legislature finds that the law of deadly force in Washington provides absolute protection for law enforcement in virtually all instances, above and beyond that which is reasonable and justifiable....It is the intent of the legislature to improve our deadly force law….”

The bill proposes to create the joint legislative task force to review known data regarding the use of deadly force by officers, review proposals and modifications to RCW 9A.16.040, evaluate the availability of body cameras and similar tools, review current police training curriculum and practices, evaluate public confidence in community policing practices and use of force policies in Washington and produce a preliminary report on its findings to Governor Jay Inslee by December 1, 2016.

Karen Johnson, chair of the Black Alliance of Thurston County, was pleased today about the introduction of the two bills.

“The Black Alliance of Thurston County sees supporting both bills as an opportunity because, as we know, changing the use of deadly force law is the strong foundation upon which all of the other systemic changes (data collection when civilians die at the hand of police officers, body cameras, implict/explicit bias, de-escalation training and the like) is built,” said Johnson.

“Let us build a strong foundation. We believe the more strategic, intentional, and collaborative we can be, the better. Please endorse HB 2907 and HB 2908. As Dr. King said, “the time is always ripe to do right,” she said.

According to a press release by the Black Alliance, thirty two local, regional, and statewide organizations to date have endorsed HB 2907: 

A. Philip Randolph Institute, Seattle Chapter, Art Forces, Behavioral Health and Wellness, the Black Student Union of The Evergreen State College (Tacoma Campus), Center for Justice, Church Council of Greater Seattle, Faith Action Network, Families United Against Hate, Interfaith Works, John T. Williams Organizing Coalition, Justice Not Jails, Latino Civic Alliance, League of Women Voters - Thurston County, Mothers for Police Accountability, Olympia Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League, Olympia Coalition to Reform Deadly Force, Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane, Point Defiance Aids Projects/North American Syringe Exchange Network, Risen Faith Fellowship, Seattle Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Self Advocates in Leadership, Spokane NAACP, Standing Up to Racism, Tacoma-Pierce County Black Collective, The Arc of Washington State, The Justice Coalition of the Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation, The United Churches of Olympia, Washington State Commission on African American Affairs, Washington State Commission on Hispanic Affairs, Washington State Independent Living Council, Washington State National Organization for Women, and the YWCA Olympia.

Editor's Note, January 28: HB 2907 was going to the Judiciary Committee as originally stated in this article. It was then referred to the House Public Safety Committee. For up to date information and to track all bills, go to www.leg.wa.gov

For more information about the journey to this proposed legislation, the Black Alliance of Thurston County, the City of Olympia’s Ad Hoc Committee on Police and Community Relations, body cameras, and other police related issues in Olympia, go to Little Hollywood, www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com, and type key words into the search engine.

For more information about the Black Alliance of Thurston County, contact Dr. Karen Johnson at blackalliancethurstoncounty@gmail.com.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

I-735 Validated, Thurston County Contributed Nearly 16,000 Signatures


Above: The Washington Secretary of State's office validated I-735 and certified the initiative to the Legislature. Initiative 735 clarifies that corporations are not people, money is not speech, and all political donations should be made public.

By Janine Gates
www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com

“Woohoo! So happy! I am so pleased with what we in Thurston County were able to accomplish,” said Jennifer Sprague, in response to the news that the Washington Secretary of State's office validated I-735 and certified the initiative to the Legislature.

Sprague, a local organizer for the Washington Coalition to Amend the Constitution (WAmend) in Thurston County, received the news Tuesday afternoon.

Initiative 735 urges Washington State’s Congressional delegation and all members of Congress to propose a federal Constitutional amendment clarifying that Constitutional rights belong only to individuals, not corporations. It also says that spending money is not free speech under the First Amendment.

According to the Secretary of State’s office, the invalidation rate, including duplicates and signatures from people not found on the voter rolls, was 18 percent, about average for Washington ballot measures in recent decades.

Next, the Legislature may enact the initiative into law, or may send it to the General Election ballot for a vote of the people. Since it is unlikely the initiative will be enacted into law, organizers are urging people to vote yes on I-735 this coming November.

Sprague and other I-735 supporters held a rally on Thursday afternoon, the sixth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United v. FEC decision, at the Washington State Capitol Building.

Voting yes will make Washington State the 17th state to urge Congress to introduce a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision,” said Sprague.

WAmend organizers collected 333,040 signatures for I-735 and turned them in to the Washington State Secretary of State’s office on December 30 and 31, 2015.

Thurston County volunteers were responsible for gathering 15,920 signatures for the initiative. Sprague said that gathering almost 16,000 signatures was their goal, which is about 10 percent of the registered voters in the county.

Above: Several checkers strive to validate troublesome signatures for I-735 last week at the Washington Secretary of State's office in downtown Olympia.

The Secretary of State’s office started reviewing the I-735 ballots Wednesday evening and finished a few days earlier than expected. Anyone can observe the process during normal business hours.

Kay Ramsey, Secretary of State program coordinator, was busy checking signatures last week, along with about 15 paid, temporary staff who received training for their job from the Washington State Patrol. Staff cross checked signatures with the statewide voter registration database.

Asked what causes the most difficulties with petition signatures, Ramsey said that a lot of people aren’t actually registered to vote, bad handwriting, and very common names.

Checkers also have difficulties with very large and very small signatures, attempted scratch outs, lightly written signatures, those that only sign or only print their name, and other issues.

Little Hollywood observed the signature checking process last week and witnessed several illegible and light signatures that were not able to be confirmed by the checker.

Ramsey said that every effort is made to do a second round check to see if the proper signature can be found.

For more information about I-735 and the initiative process, go to: www.WAMEND.org. Previous articles about the initiative are at Little Hollywood, www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com. Use the search button to type in key words.


For more information about Thurston County’s I-735 efforts, contact Jennifer Sprague at I-735olympia@hotmail.com or Michael Savoca at Masavoca@fairpoint.net