Rep. Mark Klicker: We need balanced police reform that will keep our communities safe

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One of the biggest issues coming into the 2021 legislative session was the battle over police reform. This is a very serious issue and there's no question we need to find some real solutions.

We must act cautiously to ensure fair and balanced reform that not only protects citizens from bad officers, but also keeps our law enforcement officers safe. Without this balance, our communities will be more at risk.

I recognize the public's trust in law enforcement has been damaged. My heart goes out to anyone who has been the victim of unnecessary police violence. Any officer who acts unlawfully should be punished accordingly, but again we must exercise caution.

Numerous bills regarding police reform have been introduced this session in an effort to create change. Unfortunately, it seems as though the cry for defunding the police isn't enough. Now it's also disarming the police.

The majority party passed three bills out of the House that would not only leave officers with fewer options to fight crime but would also reduce public safety in our communities. House Republicans opposed House Bills 1310, 1054, and 1267, which would make it much harder for our law enforcement officers to do their job.

It's true that we need to rebuild some of the trust that has been lost with law enforcement, but when policies are not balanced, it's hard to build that trust. Law enforcement officers need certain tactics and equipment to protect others and themselves.

The more tools we allow our officers to use, the easier it will be for them to de-escalate difficult situations and the necessity to use lethal force. The truth is, despite the terrible examples of a few, most law enforcement officers are honorable and trustworthy men and women who put their lives on the line every day to serve and protect us.

They are the first ones on the scene when dangerous criminal activity occurs. While the rest of us flee the scene, law enforcement officers can't run the other way.

These public servants are put in high stress situations every day where they are forced to act without hesitation in order to keep the rest of us safe. They don't have the luxury of time to consider the results of every decision they make. Is there room for improvement? Yes, but limiting what tools they have at their disposal is not the answer.

I fully support the effort to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. The few bad officers need to be held accountable, but the good officers need to be fully supported. One thing I will never back is defunding or disarming the police. We cannot punish everyone because of a few bad actors.

We need these good men and women who protect our communities every day. These officers risk their own safety to keep our families safe. We need to do everything we can to ensure they make it home safely to their families every day, as well.

The discussion on police reform needs to continue. However, we must be careful that we don't leave officers, and the people they serve and protect, unsafe.

As printed in the Dayton Chronicle and the Prosser Record-Bulletin

State Representative Mark Klicker, 16th Legislative District
representativemarkklicker.com
410 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
mark.klicker@leg.wa.gov
360-786-7836 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000