Law enforcement leaders say bills pose a risk to public safety; lawmakers say otherwise

SEATTLE -Inside the King County Sheriff`s Office Friday, a united front by top leaders in law enforcement.

They are concerned about a package of bills in Olympia. They say the measures pose an unnecessary risk to public safety.

“This is critical to us this, is our first chance to say loudly and clearly this is a big deal,” Steve Strachan said. Strachan is the Executive Director of The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

They say House Bills 2393, 2394, 2417 in Olympia will cut 200 community corrections officers from the Department of Corrections.

“These bills simply slash supervision for people being released from prison and that is not criminal justice reform,” Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla said.

They say it will cut $50 million over a span of 5 years to supervise inmates released from prison.

Right now 20,000 former inmates require daily supervision and the concern is that around 2,000 will no longer be monitored.

“We understand the important work that has to be done every day to ensure the public`s trust,” King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht said.

“It is important to have the supervision for failing to complete drug treatment, failure to report,” Assistant Chief Adrian Diaz with Seattle Police said.

Representative Roger Goodman says the reactions are a disappointing surprise.

“Law enforcement is not correct in opposing this legislation this legislation will improve public safety and we are making historic investments of more law enforcement on the streets,” Goodman said.

He says even with the $50 million in cuts there will be $60 million set aside from the budget to overhaul the system. Goodman says the state will expand services for inmates re-entering society as well as increase the number of corrections officers.

“The current policies that we have are not good for public safety we are wasting resources on who don`t need to be supervised we are not supervising those who ought to be supervised more,” Goodman said.

Goodman says the reforms in his bills will create long term benefits for both released inmates and the public.

Law enforcement leaders say they are in favor of reform but the current situation makes them nervous about future investments.

They want a long-term commitment from lawmakers and a promise in writing that the $50 million will be reinvested into re-entry programs.

"In other words put it in a dedicated account from now on so we don’t have to have the conversation every two years," Strachan said.

But Goodman says those kinds of accounts are rare and often wiped away anyway when the economy gets bad.  Goodman also says the state is committed to long term reform making that kind of a move unnecessary.

The bills so far are getting bipartisan support they have passed the House and are now in the Senate.