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    Washington legislators of color lead police reform discussion ahead of session

Washington legislators of color lead police reform discussion ahead of session

July 6th, 2020|

Fom the Spokesman-Review

If the Washington Legislature is forced into a special session to deal with the economic collapse sparked by COVID-19, some lawmakers are working to make sure they also debate police reform in the aftermath of nationwide protests following by the death of George Floyd.

Two groups leading the discussion in police reform are the House Black Member Caucus and the Senate Members of Color Caucus. Members have been working with the Law and Justice Committee and meeting with other legislators, members of the community, police organizations and other stakeholders to rethink policing in Washington.

It’s unclear whether there will be a special session or if proposals will have to wait until January, but the Black Member Caucus and the Members of Color Caucus are confident new policy will pass.

“I think the pressure is on the system so much that if these laws don’t get passed, there will be a lot of upset people,” said Rep. Jesse Johnson, D-Federal Way, vice chair of the House Black Caucus.

Some of the biggest proposals include banning chokeholds, creating an independent investigatory body to look into use-of-force incidents and ending qualified immunity for officers.

Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, pointed at numerous proposals that have so much support that they are no longer considered controversial. Dhingra is a part of the Senate Members of Color Caucus as well as the vice chair of the Law and Justice Committee and Senate deputy majority leader.

Banning chokeholds and tear gas, for example, would be easy to get done during a special session, she said.

Other proposals, such as creating an independent investigatory system, might take longer, so they will likely wait until January, Dhingra said.

“I don’t think anyone is unrealistic with what can be done during a special session,” said Rep. Debra Entenman, D-Kent, chair of the House Black Member Caucus. “But we can no longer wait, and I think that we will be successful.”

Other proposals Dhingra is working on include mandating peer intervention training among officers and creating a use-of-force incident audit process.

Entenman also stressed the importance of ensuring any new COVID-relief funds don’t leave behind communities that need it, such as communities of color.

“Our COVID response is disproportionately affecting people of color,” she added.

One of the biggest hurdles Johnson acknowledged, will be with police unions, who traditionally have a significant influence in crafting policing laws. He’s hoping that by including police organizations, such as the Washington State Fraternal Order of Police, early in the conversations, they will be more likely to succeed in passing reform.

Another hurdle will be the state budget deficit, but Dhingra said there is a lot of policy that can change without a large cost.

“If they do have a large fiscal note, there is enough momentum to say this is a priority,” she said.

If there isn’t a special session, legislators will continue to work on the ideas for the regular session, which starts in January. Dhingra said there is a lot that can be done at a city and county level to make changes to the criminal justice system before January.

Sen. Joe Nguyen, D-White Center, said he is confident police reform legislation will pass in the next session. It’s a priority, said Nguyen, who is a part of the Senate Members of Color Caucus.

“Things like this often don’t make it to the forefront because not enough people care about it,” he said. “That dynamic is very, very different now.”

The Black Member Caucus was only created two years ago and currently has five members. The Senate Members of Color caucus has eight members but does not have a Black member, because Washington has no Black senators.

Nguyen said not having any Black members of the Senate provides a huge blind spot in how they think about legislation, which is why it’s so important to include the Black Members Caucus of the House in the discussions they’re having.

“We’ve been talking with each other about how we can ensure the communities most affected are leading these conversations,” he said.

By bringing in the Black Members Caucus as well as outside groups such as the NAACP, Black Lives Matter, and other community organizers, Nguyen said it ensures the best legislation possible is proposed.

Entenman said the lack of Black legislators points to the institutionalized racism within larger systems in this country.

“It’s important for me to recognize, although I am part of this system, there are parts I am trying to change from the inside,” Entenman said.

Having the Black Member Caucus involved in the conversations allows Black legislators to bring in their own stakeholders and community advocates that might not otherwise be involved in the conversation, Johnson said.

“It gives us credibility for the community to see Black elected officials out front leading this,” Johnson said.

Entenman said the caucus is not simply focusing on what happens in the western part of the state.

She has talked with community leaders in Eastern Washington and is listening to their concerns as well.

People of color live in all different parts of the state, she said.

“We have to focus on what is happening in the African American community, but that is not to exclude other people,” Entenman said. “That is simply to say that we think it will benefit all people in our state.”

By Laurel Demkovich

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    As city leaders eye police reform, state legislators could also take action

As city leaders eye police reform, state legislators could also take action

July 2nd, 2020|

From the Spokesman-Review

In their quest for police reform, elected officials in the city of Spokane may lean on their counterparts in the state Legislature for help.

But what action the legislature will take – and when it will next convene – remains up in the air.

Leaders in the Senate are mulling over many of the same reform ideas as members of the Spokane City Council, after Council President Breean Beggs introduced a broad proposal last week. The state Legislature could act during a special session later this year, but it remains uncertain if and when that will happen.

The policy discussions are happening as protesters take to the streets in Spokane and across the nation to protest police brutality and racial injustice following the death of George Floyd.

In Spokane, reform-focused city leaders could look to the state to limit the authority of police unions to negotiate their own oversight during contract negotiations.

The Spokane City Charter grants the civilian in charge of police oversight with power to independently investigate complaints against officers and publicly report his findings.

The city’s contract with its police union, however, does not.

The discrepancy has long been the subject of ire from advocates for police reform in Spokane, where the death of Otto Zehm in 2006 sparked a sustained push for civilian oversight of the Police Department. Oversight is at the center of debate over a proposed contract with the Spokane Police Guild that was rejected by the City Council on Monday.

“Literally, for 12 years, in Spokane we have been having the same conversation about this,” Beggs said.

Beggs is leaning on Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, D-Spokane, and his colleagues to enact a state law that would prohibit matters of civilian oversight from being collectively bargained in police union contracts.

That’s one of myriad of proposals under consideration by Democrats in the Senate, which could include a ban on chokeholds, forcing officers to warn a suspect before shooting a firearm, and prohibiting shooting at moving cars.

The Senate could take up police reforms in a special session, which Gov. Jay Inslee could call in the coming months to address the massive state budget deficit caused by the coronavirus.

Billig said senators are in a “listening period” and engaging with stakeholders on reform legislation, after which they will finalize a suite of bills.

“Independent oversight is a common theme, that’s not just a Spokane thing, that’s something we’ve heard from other communities around the state,” Billig said.

If there is a special session, Billig said the Senate likely will take up bills that could pass quickly.

“The groundwork is being done right now so that we have legislation ready to go. If there is a special session or when there is a special session, I do think there is some low-hanging fruit that we could get done,” said state Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond.

Beggs introduced a long slate of proposed city reforms in a nonbinding resolution last week, some of which intersect with issues also under review by state legislators.

Spokane’s city charter explicitly grants the police ombudsman the authority to independently investigate complaints against police. And while Spokane Police Ombudsman Bart Logue cannot discipline an officer, he is authorized under city charter to opine on the case in a publicly available closing report.

But, as Beggs explains, the ombudsman has never exercised that authority, because the language of the Spokane Police Guild’s contract deviates from that of the city charter.

There are a set of questions surrounding how cities collectively bargain with police unions, according to Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, who is one of the senators spearheading the Senate’s look at reforms.

The subject is thorny both politically and legally, Pedersen said. The state has the authority to determine what’s subject to bargaining, “but you’ve got a bunch of other labor organizations that are watching anxiously as you start making changes.”

But Pedersen pointed to the recent expulsion of the Seattle Police Officers Guild from the King County Labor Council, an umbrella of more than 150 labor unions, amid recent protests.

“That signals a willingness within the rest of organized labor, or a decent chunk of organized labor, to try to figure out how to draw some lines that might allow more flexibility with the police,” Pedersen said.

Ultimately, Billig said, the protests have worked.

“It has become a higher urgency,” he said of the reform effort. “At the same time, we want to be deliberate and make sure we’re taking our time to get the policy right.”

By Adam Shanks

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    Legislative subcommittee holds meeting on COVID-19 impacts on behavioral health

Legislative subcommittee holds meeting on COVID-19 impacts on behavioral health

July 1st, 2020|

From The Washington State Wire

The Senate Behavioral Health Subcommittee held a meeting Monday morning to discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on behavioral health in Washington State. During the meeting, the committee heard from multiple panels on a range of topics including the state’s response, COVID’s impact on behavioral health clients and providers, and actions taken by Medicaid managed care plans.

In a previously published version of the forecast (from May 15), DOH categorized Washington as being in the “honeymoon” phase, or the peak period of emotional highs during the pandemic. With the June 15 update, the state has dropped toward the disillusionment period and emotional lows are increasing. Covington says the disillusionment phase will be from about September to December for Washington.

“This is the period we’re really worried about as a state,” says Covington. “This is where we’ll likely see increased rates of depression, suicidal ideation, particularly increased substance use related to despair, and those sorts of topics. So, this is really a hard period for us as a state and one I want us to really be aware of.”

In her presentation on the impact of COVID-19, Kim Zacher, CEO of Comprehensive Life Resources, said her organization is seeing a behavioral health shift that follows along the path forecasted by DOH. She says in March and April, their clients were doing fairly well.

“They were rallying, they were experiencing the same sense of community and purpose that we all were. But really we’re starting to see an acceleration in those crisis calls, the decompensation, and I think just that extended experience of isolation, lack of face to face support…we really are seeing some impact,” says Zacher.

During her testimony, Zacher also discussed both the importance and limitations of telehealth. She says telehealth has been critical in helping people stay connected to services during the pandemic, but that it should be considered just one of the tools in the toolbox.

On one hand, telehealth can augment services and eliminate transportation struggles for some clients. On the other hand, says Zacher, many of the evidence-based practices being utilized haven’t been researched for delivery via telehealth. Also, trauma services or assessment of mental health symptoms can be difficult through telehealth, and Zacher says some clients are triggered by technology or may not engage due to anxiety or paranoia.

“For some people it’s a better means of connecting and for some people it makes it much more difficult,” she says.

The committee also heard an update on the actions taken by Medicaid MCOs during the pandemic to support members and providers. Bea Dixon, Behavioral Health Executive Director with UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Washington, provided a summary of lessons learned during the pandemic:

Additional documents and presentations from the committee meeting are available here.

By Emily Boerger

The List: Manka Dhingra

June 24th, 2020|

From 425 Magazine

Always interested in history and politics, Washington State Sen. Manka Dhingra made history as the first person of the Sikh faith ever elected to any state legislature. She took the Eastside’s 45th District position during the 2017 special election, and she founded women’s advocacy organization API Chaya in 1996. Dhingra is a senior deputy prosecuting attorney in King County and an advocate and leader against domestic violence. When she’s not working, she enjoys her Redmond neighborhood, reading, and hanging out with her friends. Keep reading to learn more about this political powerhouse.

FAVORITE PLACES

To Relax Victor’s Celtic Coffee Co.

For Breakfast Village Square Cafe

For Dinner For special occasions, Café Juanita. And if I’m just hanging out with some girlfriends, I love going to The Stone House.

To Be Inspired Farrel-McWhirter Farm Park in Redmond

INSPIRATION BOARD

What Are You Reading? Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, Three Women by Lisa Taddeo, and Dear Girls by Ali Wong

Who Would Play You in a Movie? Either Priyanka Chopra or Mariska Hargitay from Law and Order

Mantra You Live By Be the change you wish to see in the world.

Last Thing You Googled Good takeout near me!

Best Advice You’ve Received The only thing in life we own is our reputation.

Q&A

How does your volunteer work and causes that are important to you inform your work as a state senator?
To me, it all really comes down to our children, like everything else in life. If we really want criminal justice reform long term, you have to make sure that we as a society have a good understanding of the factors that are impacting our children.

What does trauma-informed care look like in terms of the criminal justice system?
It gets down to, “How are we currently responding to individuals who are committing crimes?” I think it’s very important that our jails are doing trauma-informed intakes when people are getting arrested. Our judges should have a grasp on what factors informed this crime, and be able to ask if we can find a way to address those factors with the individual as well as within the broader community. And that is really a lot of what the therapeutic courts did and why they were so successful.

What inspired you to start API Chaya?
When I first moved to Washington for law school, I (had been) working with organizations that served survivors of domestic violence. I reached out to a number of organizations out here and asked them how many Southeast Asian women they serve, and over and over again I heard these agencies say, “We simply don’t see Southeast Asian women, and we don’t think domestic violence is a concern for that community.” And I was like, “No, no, this isn’t right.” … I met all kinds of women who were interested in starting a domestic violence organization specifically for Southeast Asian women.

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    New law requires consent for pelvic exams on unconscious or anesthesized patients

New law requires consent for pelvic exams on unconscious or anesthesized patients

June 16th, 2020|

From The News Tribune

A new law took effect Thursday that prohibits medical providers from doing pelvic examinations on women without their consent if they will be unconscious or under anesthesia.

It took lawmakers two years to pass SB 5282, in part because they crafted an exception to protect sexual assault victims.

Doctors have been required to get informed consent from patients to perform medical treatment including pelvic exams. But an omission in state law didn’t prohibit them – or medical students practicing under their authority – in cases when women would be unconscious or under anesthesia.

Stephanie Wahlgren, a sexual assault nursing examiner at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham, said she supports the new law.

“It’s important to have informed consent when doing anything genital. As health care providers, it’s our mission and our duty to get informed consent, especially for an exam or treatment being performed if a patient is unconscious or under anesthesia,” said Wahlgren, a member of the legislative council for the Washington State Nurses Association.

Although the medical profession is more diverse today, in the past there was a “paternalistic view that male doctors knew best for their female patients and they didn’t need to get consent before doing an exam while they were unconscious,” said state Sen. Marko Liias, a Lynnwood Democrat who sponsored the bill that became law.

The new law prohibits a medical provider – or a student practicing under his or her authority – to perform a pelvic exam on a patient who is under anesthesia or unconscious.

There are two exceptions.

One is if the patient or the patient’s representative gives consent and the exam is necessary for diagnostic or treatment purposes.

The other is if sexual assault is suspected. In those cases, evidence may be collected if a patient is not capable of consent due to a longer-term medical condition, or if evidence will be lost.

Health care providers who violate the new law are subject to discipline by the Washington Medical Commission that ranges from a fine to loss of their license.

“I am assured by the University of Washington Medical Center that they do not engage in this practice when they train their students,” Liias told a Senate committee in 2019 when he testified for the first time about his bill.

The UW Medical Center has informed patients for decades that residents and students will be part of their care for obstetrical and gynecologic surgery which could include exams under anesthesia, if indicated, and requested consent, said Dr. Barbara Goff, a professor and chair of the UW Medicine Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

When the Legislature passed the bill this year, the consent form was changed to specifically highlight that residents and students involved in the clinical care of the patient may do a pelvic examination under anesthesia as part of the surgical procedure and patients can opt out as they could previously, Dr. Goff said.

One of the producers of the show, Lilly Sullivan, explained why she couldn’t interview women who have been examined under anesthesia without their consent.

“These exams don’t become part of a woman’s medical records. They don’t go into their charts at the hospital. And of course, this happens while they’re unconscious. So pretty much, by definition, anyone who’s gone through this will probably never know,” she reported.

THE EVOLUTION OF THE BILL

The first version of Liias’ bill said a health provider could perform a pelvic exam without the consent of a patient who will be anesthesized or unconscious if a court ordered it for the purpose of evidence collection.

That language was removed after Kim Clark, senior attorney for reproductive rights, health and justice at Legal Voice, expressed concern about it. Legal Voice is a nonprofit women’s rights group based in Seattle.

“It is unnecessary because Washington courts do not have the authority to order that a sexual assault survivor undergo medical exams without their consent. The Code of Criminal Procedure does not permit that,” she told lawmakers at a 2019 hearing.

Clark also said providing an exception for court orders is “potentially harmful” because it could discourage women from reporting sexual assaults and “encourages distrust in the medical profession.”

Two Democratic lawmakers from King County, Sen. Manka Dhingra and Rep. Tina Orwall, crafted a new exception for the bill based on the state’s model sexual assault protocol, Liias said.

When the bill was amended earlier this year, Rep. Nicole Macri, D-Seattle, said the provision came at the request of law enforcement and prosecutors.

The goal, she said, was to ensure that evidence could be collected from sexual assault victims who have developmental or other long-term disabilities that prevent them from providing consent.

The new law says health care providers can do a pelvic exam — without the consent of patients if they’re unconscious or under anesthesia – if sexual assault is suspected. In those cases, evidence may be collected if patient is not capable of consent due to a longer-term medical condition, or if evidence will be lost.

Wahlgren, the sexual assault nursing examiner, said informed consent is the “cornerstone” to her work.

“The exception to this rule is when a patient presents to the Emergency Department intubated with a breathing tube and there was a question to the assault being a sexual assault. This is the only time that I collect evidence without an informed consent and it is only if there is no next of kin or spouse to make that decision for us. We do our best to obtain consent from next of kin prior to evidence collection.

“The evidence collection process does not always entail a pelvic examination. It includes taking swabs from the genitals, but the only time our recommended state guidelines encourage a pelvic exam is when there is hemorrhaging from the genital region and/or there was an object used during the sexual assault and there is a possibility of lacerations that need repaired,” she said.

Wahlgren said health care providers refer to it as “assumed consent” if a sexual assault victim is unconscious and evidence must be collected. Law enforcement usually is involved through 911 calls and the transport of an unconscious victim to the hospital in an ambulance.

“We don’t give the evidence over to the police until we get informed consent from the patient,” she said.

Russell Brown, executive director of the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, said the new law balances privacy interests with the need to collect evidence in sexual assault cases.

“I hope this threads the needle appropriately,” he said.

By James Drew

The Domestic Violence Discussion podcast with Ariel Gliboff

May 26th, 2020|

Sen. Dhingra was interviewed about emergency protections for domestic violence survivors during the coronavirus pandemic on Ariel Gliboff’s podcast The Domestic Violence Discussion. You can listen here or wherever you get your podcasts .

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    Public Officials Share Insight on the Next Steps to Reopen the State

Public Officials Share Insight on the Next Steps to Reopen the State

May 13th, 2020|

From the Woodinville Weekly

As states around the country begin to ease off COVID-19 restrictions and allow people to go back to work, experts and officials express concern about the public health infrastructure needed to prevent a second wave of infections.

During a telephone town hall Thursday, May 7, state and federal lawmakers addressed concerns about the response to the virus outbreak. 

Sen. Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond), Rep. Larry Springer (D-Kirkland) and Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland) partnered with U.S. Congresswoman Suzan DelBene and Ingrid Ulrey, policy director for Public Health, Seattle-King County, to address federal and statewide responses to the ongoing pandemic. 

“This has been a trying time for our entire community in terms of making sure that folks are safe and healthy,” DelBene said. “The economic impact has already been devastating. We know that this is also an unpredictable time, so we’ve been working hard in Washington D.C. to provide support to help families.”

She said Congress has passed four bills so far to provide aid for small businesses, unemployed Americans and the healthcare system as hospitals surge at capacity. 

Washington state, under the direction of Gov. Jay Inslee, has launched a four-phase approach to reopen businesses while taking effective precautions. Springer said Inslee’s first priority is to get the virus under control before focusing on the state’s economic recovery. 

On the day of the call, Ulrey said there were 6,740 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases and 473 deaths in King County. Community mitigation measures and social distancing are essential to fight back against this virus, especially without a vaccine or cure, she added.

“By adhering to these measures, we’ve been very successful thus far in reducing the number of cases and reducing the number of deaths,” Ulrey said. “If we loosen up too quickly on the community mitigation, we will see a significant uptick in cases and deaths across the population.”

Contact tracing, which is used to break chains of transmission and prevent future surges of cases, has been a large topic of conversation to avoid a second wind of infections. DelBene said the act of contact tracing has prompted concerns about medical privacy and the protection of individuals who catch the virus.

“We absolutely need to use information to help fight this public health threat, but we also need to make sure that we protect people’s personal information,” she said. “And we can do both, but we’ve got to make sure we have clear privacy guidelines there.”

DelBene said contact tracing cannot happen without more testing. With shortages of product across the country, she said a constant and reliable supply is needed from a coordinated federal response before considering contact tracing. The same is true for personal protective equipment, she added.

“The virus is very skilled at finding new hosts and will continue to spread unless we can understand who is positive and ensure that those individuals are isolated,” Ulrey said.

In terms of a broad national contract tracing program, DelBene said the focus will be providing resources and guidance to states. According to Dhingra, Washington state is looking to hire 1,500 people to do contact tracing.

As children continue to learn from home, the public officials are addressing hunger relief and broadband access for working families to ensure basic needs are being met. Dhingra said farmers are donating produce that would otherwise go bad to fight food insecurity. Springer added that the legislature is working hard to create a statewide broadband policy, while also looking for innovative ways to put short-term measures in place.

There has been a spike in serious domestic violence due to the stay-at-home order. Goodman said King County has seen two murders in the last week, one attempted murder and one arson linked to domestic violence. So far, the county has had a 30% increase in domestic violence at both the felony and misdemeanor levels.

Goodman said he has been monitoring detention facilities, adult jails and prisons, and juvenile detention facilities across the state. There is no evidence of the virus in the juvenile system, although one staff member at a juvenile rehabilitation facility tested positive and has been isolated.

Monroe Correctional Complex is the only adult residence with positive cases and all 18 prisoners, who were located in the same unit, have been isolated. Goodman said there has been strict screening, quarantining and isolating for the incarcerated population.

“That’s only 0.1% of the entire prison population, which is remarkable given the congregated living circumstances compared to homeless shelters or housing for migrant labor and foreign labor,” Goodman said.

He said those who are not a threat to the public are being treated in the community rather than being incarcerated, signaling a potential shift in the system of criminal accountability. 

The 45th Legislative District extends through Woodinville, Duvall, Kirkland, Redmond and Sammamish. DelBene represents the 1st Congressional District, which extends from northeastern King County to the Canadian border.

By Madeline Coats

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    Gun violence data collection agency to be established, not yet clear how it will operate

Gun violence data collection agency to be established, not yet clear how it will operate

May 10th, 2020|

From the Columbia Basin Herald

On April 2, the governor signed into law a bill that will establish the Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention under the Department of Commerce, tasked with collecting and sharing gun violence data in collaboration with law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and researchers to promote strategies to reduce gun violence in Washington.

Spokesman for the Grant County Sheriff’s Office, Kyle Foreman, said it is not yet clear exactly how the office will operate in coordination with law enforcement, and said the specifics likely will not be known until the office is established in June.

Senate Bill 6288 came down to a close 25 to 24 Senate vote to seal its passage in March.

Many Republican senators expressed concerns that the office would be used as a gun-regulation advocacy agency.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, said that is not what this program is about. She said the office will provide the potential to gather demographic information and other kinds of data to learn about what kinds of populations are at risk of gun violence and how they can be helped.

Dhingra said the office will also provide grant funding to community-based initiatives working to prevent gun violence, as well as programs that benefit the victims and witnesses of gun violence.

Senate minority leader, Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said he felt the bill was biased and said he was concerned the newly created bureaucratic office would be filled with people advocating for gun regulation.

Schoesler said he was never lobbied by any law enforcement agencies or prosecutors in favor of this legislation, indicating to him that it was an unnecessary expenditure.

“Most of the information is already readily available,” Schoesler said about the data the agency is intended to collect.

When asked whether Grant County Sheriff’s Office needed access to certain kinds of data it does not already have, Foreman said more data will always be beneficial and that everyone could benefit from data sharing.

Foreman said departments could also be helped by the grant funding the office will offer. He said while it is not exactly clear how the office will work, it does seem to have the potential to do good things in the effort to reduce gun violence.

By Cameron Sheppard

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    Washington Republicans Block Extension of Domestic Violence Protections

Washington Republicans Block Extension of Domestic Violence Protections

May 9th, 2020|

From The Stranger

On Saturday Republican leadership in the statehouse—particularly Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler— blocked the extension of an emergency proclamation regarding protections for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

The proclamation, set to expire May 11, allows victims to file no-contact orders online. It also allows law enforcement to serve those orders electronically or telephonically, and to remove any guns “when courts have ordered firearms to be surrendered” in a given domestic violence situation.

This batshit decision from a batshit political party is particularly batshit given the surge in domestic violence reports happening locally and, more than likely, across the country.

The state’s prosecutors and sheriffs associations both requested that the legislature extend the order, citing the need to protect victims and officers forced to serve papers in-person during the middle of a global respiratory virus outbreak.

Senior deputy prosecuting attorney David Martin, who chairs the domestic violence unit King County, noted the “very real increase in domestic violence we are now experiencing” and urged legislators to sign off on the extension.

“Felony domestic violence in King County is up 20% in new cases filed,” Martin wrote in a letter to the legislature. “Seattle police and other agencies are reporting stark increases in domestic violence calls for service and arrest. Over the last two weeks in King County there have been three domestic violence homicides, a very public domestic violence attempted murder, and two officer involved shootings of domestic violence offenders.”

“This is not a partisan issue,” said Democratic Sen. Manka Dhingra, who also founded API Chaya, a nonprofit that supports DV victims, “Home is not a safe place for everybody, and we have to make sure we’re protecting the most vulnerable.”

“Given my work in domestic violence for decades, [electronic filing] is such a crucial tool for victims to be able to reach out and get help,” Dhingra added. “And it’s good for law enforcement. Being told to serve orders in-person puts them at risk.”

In a joint statement, Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig and House Speaker Laurie Jinkins called the Republican blockade “incomprehensible.”

“We urge Senate Republican leadership blocking this extension to reconsider their decision,” they said.

Republicans will likely argue that the proclamation violates due process and Second Amendment rights, despite the fact that it doesn’t, because Extreme Risk Protection Orders within the proclamation allow cops to remove guns in certain situations.

“We know that when a gun is present in a domestic violence situation, it’s extremely dangerous for the victim. This is not a rhetorical or academic discussion. We are seeing victims of DV being killed by guns,” Sen. Dhingra said. “And the reason we have an extreme risk protection order is for those times of extreme risk.”

When the legislature is not in session, all four caucus leaders have to sign off on extensions of emergency powers that the legislature has granted to the governor. So far, Republicans have blocked two other extensions; one giving officers more discretion over sending probation violators to jail, and another temporarily lifting fingerprint background checks for child care workers.

By Rich Smith

Filibusters Live on KXRW with Jay Inslee and Manka Dhingra

May 6th, 2020|

The hosts of Filibusters radio show on KXRW invited Sen. Dhingra and Gov. Inslee to come on to discuss the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can listen to the show here.