Like you, I am heartbroken by what is going on in our country and our state. In a just world, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery would be alive today. The reality we live with is that the darker your skin color, the more likely you are to suffer violence at the hands of the police. That is not justice.
Like you, I had hoped that Washington had made progress over the last several years to make this kind of injustice less likely here. Washingtonians overwhelmingly passed Initiative 940 in 2018 to make it possible to hold police officers accountable for excessive use of force, and the Legislature unanimously passed legislation in 2019 to affirm its intent and make it more legally workable. The City of Seattle has been working with the US Department of Justice for years under a federal consent decree that has been adding accountability to their law enforcement actions.
But like you, I am horrified to see the aggressive, paramilitary response of the Seattle Police Department to the largely peaceful protests over the past few days. There is no reason for this excessive response, especially given the examples of law enforcement agencies across our state and our country who responded so much better.
I am particularly dismayed because I have worked hard to change the culture of law enforcement, away from being warriors and instead being guardians of our society.
The injustices we are seeing now are a stark reminder that we have a lot more work ahead of us.
Change comes when each and every one of us acknowledges this injustice, grieves for it, and works to dismantle the systems of oppression and racism. The peaceful protests on the Eastside and around our country are a great upwelling of that righteous grief and an important step toward real change.
Our role as elected officials is to carry their message to the halls of the Legislature and change our legal code and culture to help right those wrongs.
As vice chair of the Senate Law & Justice Committee, and as the only prosecutor in the Legislature, I am committed to using my position to carrying that banner. Senate Democrats are working on potential legislation in several important areas:
- Prohibiting the use of chokeholds.
- Prohibiting law enforcement agencies in our state from accepting surplus military equipment.
- Requiring the use of body cameras statewide.
- Prohibiting law enforcement officers from covering their badge numbers while on duty.
- Requiring state collection of data on police use of force.
- Strengthening de-escalation and anti-bias training for law enforcement officers.
In the months to come, I will continue listening to communities of color and others disproportionately affected by police use of force. I will continue pushing for their voices to be heard in the halls of power and for the ideas they bring forward for change. I hope you will join me.
Sen. Manka Dhingra
45th Legislative District
Deputy Majority Leader