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    Chokeholds, tear gas, police reform top agenda for WA Legislature

Chokeholds, tear gas, police reform top agenda for WA Legislature

July 6th, 2020|

From Crosscut 

Washington state lawmakers plan to pursue a broad range of police reforms the next time they meet, including possibly limiting police use of tear gas and chokeholds.

The protests that erupted worldwide after George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer have created new momentum for police accountability measures at the state Capitol.

“If people are willing to march in the street for 26 days because we are continuing to kill African American men, and African Americans in general, then we need to take action,” said state Rep. Debra Entenman, D-Kent, who chairs the Black Members Caucus in the state House.

Many lawmakers said the need to reform policing is so dire that it will be a leading topic if the Legislature meets in an emergency session this year to address the state budget.

Even if no special session is held in the coming months, police reform will remain at the top of legislators’ agenda when they convene for their scheduled 105-day session in January, key lawmakers said.

“This is just one aspect of the question of race in our society — but it is the most acute and the most high-stakes issue, because it really is about life and death,” said state Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, who chairs the House Public Safety Committee, which deals with law enforcement.

The reform ideas under discussion are wide ranging, with many coming from community groups and family members of people killed by police.

Some of the proposals Goodman considers “low hanging fruit” include limiting the purchase of military equipment by police, as well as potentially banning police use of chokeholds and other neck restraints.

Many lawmakers also want to restrict police use of teargas and rubber bullets during protests, he said.

Other priorities, such as establishing an independent office to review investigations of police misconduct, may take longer to hammer out, Goodman said.

State Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, said one of his ultimate goals is to ensure that officers accused of misconduct can’t evade an investigation by simply resigning.

That would mean beefing up the process for decertifying officers, along with ensuring that police agencies complete misconduct investigations and report the findings to the state Criminal Justice Training Commission, which handles officer certifications.

“Right now, what happens is the discipline process starts within the department against a cop. And if the officer kind of sees the writing on the wall that he or she is not going to prevail, the officer resigns in lieu of discipline,” said Pedersen, who chairs the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

“Well, that stops the investigation. And because the investigation stops, there’s no decertification process,” he said.

That means “somebody who resigns in lieu of discipline in Renton can go to Tukwila and get hired, or Federal Way,” Pedersen said.

“That’s the kind of thing that we need to figure out how to stop,” he said.

The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) said it is on board with some of those reforms. In a June 24 letter to lawmakers and the governor, leaders of the police group supported changing state law so officers can lose their certification for excessive use of force, repeatedly breaking rules or “other serious breaches of the public’s trust.”

Attorney General Bob Ferguson similarly wants the Legislature to expand the criteria for revoking an officer’s certification.

The attorney general and WASPC also agree on the need to require all law enforcement agencies in Washington to report incidents where officers use deadly force. Right now, that data collection and reporting is lacking, Ferguson says.

There’s also a need for a process to review use of force investigations after they are completed, to make sure that existing laws and protocols are being followed, according to both WASPC and the attorney general’s office.

Although Washington voters approved Initiative 940 in 2018 to require independent investigations of killings by police, Ferguson’s office said it’s clear agencies don’t always obey those rules.

A recent report in the The Seattle Times highlighted how the independent inquest process broke down in the case of Manuel Ellis, who was killed in the custody of Tacoma police in March.

Many lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee want to set up a new, independent oversight agency to investigate allegations of deadly police misconduct. But creating such an agency would cost money, which may prolong discussions during the current state budget crisis.

Other police accountability measures could also get complicated if they require changing the terms of police union contracts.

State Rep. Brad Klippert of Kennewick, the ranking Republican on the House Public Safety Committee, said so far he hasn’t been involved in the conversations with majority Democrats about police reform. He said he would have to see the language of specific proposals to form an opinion about them.

Still, he said any independent body that investigates officers “should have someone who is actually experienced in law enforcement” serving on it.

“You can watch TV shows all day long and watch the news all day long and see reports of what happened, but until you have actually been a police officer and actually been there and done the job, it would be very hard for you to make an accurate appraisal of an officer’s actions,” said Klippert, a longtime sheriff’s deputy in Benton County.

State Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, said one thing she wants to do is empower officers to intervene when they see their colleagues misusing their power.

That would mean outlining officers’ duty to intervene when they see an abuse of force or other misconduct, as well as training officers how to step in, she said.

In Minneapolis, multiple officers stood by as officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for about 8 minutes, even as the dying Floyd cried out, “I can’t breathe.”

Dhingra said she thinks the Legislature will approve new standards for peer intervention training, if not approve rules for when officers must intervene.

Inslee is also interested in legislation that would require law enforcement to report misconduct witnessed by fellow officers, his office said.

One thing lawmakers aren’t pursuing aggressively at the state level is the idea of defunding the police. Goodman, the House Public Safety Committee chair, said that’s largely because most police funding comes from local government, rather than the state.

However, in the future lawmakers hope to boost funding for behavioral health services and housing, which Goodman said could help reduce the burden on police to address homelessness and mental health crises.

House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, said he, too, is interested in “creating a system that is more selective about who needs to respond,” so that police aren’t taking every call.

The idea is “making sure the right services are responding based on the crisis — not just because you call 911 and you get cops,” Wilcox said.

State Rep. Jesse Johnson, D-Federal Way, said he thinks this year feels different when it comes to the potential to make real progress on police reform.

“The reality is there is just so much disproportionality right now when it comes to health outcomes — and you add in the economy and police brutality, and enough is enough,” Johnson said. “I think people are just tired of it.”

“I think this is the best time to get some of this done,” he added. “It’s unfortunate it comes at the hands of some people in our state losing their lives, but we have an opportunity to make really positive change on this issue.

“I think there’s a lot of energy behind it.”

By Melissa Santos

Sen. Dhingra’s Session Report Card

August 10th, 2019|

Dear Neighbor,

Thank you for the privilege of continuing to serve as your state senator. After completing another historically productive session, I am proud to provide you this legislative update with an overview of what we accomplished on behalf of our district and state.

For the first time in 10 years, the Legislature completed a 105-day session on time with three balanced budgets that invest in ensuring Washington continues to be an economic and social leader. We continued to build on the foundation laid out last session by focusing on bills that strengthen our communities.

This year we made historic investments in health care, including behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment, higher education, and the environment — and kept our promise to Washington’s 1.1 million students through additional investments in schools in every corner of our state. We tackled criminal justice reform, improved election transparency, increased voter access, enhanced workers’ rights, and worked hard to ensure protections for all residents of the state of Washington.

We continued to put people first by committing our state to a path toward 100% clean energy, adopted the nation’s first public health care option, and became the first state to adopt publicly-funded long-term care.

Thank you to all of you who worked with my office this year to shape legislation and participate in the work we do in Olympia. I am always excited to hear from you about how we can partner to address the needs of the 45th Legislative District.

Please reach out to me using the contact information in this newsletter if you have comments, questions, or suggestions. I look forward to hearing from you!

Manka Dhingra

To read the full update, click below:

Dhingra named NAMI-WA Behavioral Health Champion for 2019

July 25th, 2019|

OLYMPIA – Sen. Manka Dhingra was recognized by the Washington branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI WA) for her work as chair of the Senate’s Behavioral Health Subcommittee and for her commitment to improving the entirety of Washington’s behavioral health system.

Because of her work, the Redmond lawmaker was selected as one of NAMI WA’s 2019 Behavioral Health Champions.

“Sen. Dhingra played a pivotal role in improving our state’s behavioral health system,” said Brad Forbes, NAMI WA’s Director of Public Policy & Advocacy. “Her important work on medical privacy and improving the Involuntary Treatment Act will reduce the stigma of mental illness and help patients for years to come.”

Senate Democrats placed an intensified focus of the state’s behavioral health system with the creation of the Behavioral Health Subcommittee. As chair, Dhingra saw through numerous policies to invest in the state’s behavioral health facilities, support services and training opportunities for prospective behavioral health professionals.

“I am so proud of the work we did in the Senate to not only invest in our state’s behavioral health system, but really to start looking at this issue through a modern, evidence-based lens,” Dhingra said. “Every family has been touched by a behavioral health issue in some way. We must speak openly and thoughtfully about it and ensure that we have an early intervention system that leaves no one behind.”

“Thank you to everyone who worked so hard on this issue this year, and thank you to my friends at NAMI for your long history of advocacy for people and families in crisis.”

Dhingra has been on the board of NAMI-Eastside since 2010 and is a past President of that organization’s Board of Directors.

Other recipients of the 2019 Behavioral Health Champion award include: Rep. Eileen Cody (D- 36th District); Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-27th District); Rep. Nicole Macri (D-43rd District); Rep. Joe Schmick (R- 9th District); Rep. Carolyn Eslick (R- 39th District); Rep. Noel Frame (D- 36th District); Rep. Tana Senn (D- 41st District); Sen. Manka Dhingra (D- 45th District); Sen. David Frockt (D- 46th District); Sen. Jeannie Darneille (D- 27th District); Sen. Steve O’Ban (R- 28th District).

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    Dhingra: “Today we will be giving survivors of sexually violent crimes the closure they deserve.”

Dhingra: “Today we will be giving survivors of sexually violent crimes the closure they deserve.”

May 10th, 2019|

Legislation to remove the state’s statute of limitation for certain sexual crimes against minors passed off the House floor today.  

“Childhood survivors sexual crimes have worked for years to change our state’s statute of limitations law, I am so proud that we worked together to get this bill done,” said Sen. Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond), sponsor of the legislation. “Our criminal justice system puts a unique burden on victims of these crimes. SB 5649 strikes a good balance of allowing victims time to process while holding offenders accountable” Dhingra continued. 

“As a law enforcement officer, I have seen first-hand the long-lasting impact these crimes have on victims. One of the worst feelings in the world is having someone confide in you that they were sexually assaulted as a child, and then telling them the law prevents them from getting justice.

“It often takes years for victims of childhood sexual abuse to even acknowledge what has happened to them. We know that the effects of child sexual abuse can be devastating on victims.  This bill says the state is taking this crime seriously. We have seen multiple accusations in public this year, but only a handful of victims have been able to seek justice for the crime due to the statute of limitations.”

SB 5649 would remove the evidentiary requirement that the victim clearly expressed their lack of consent by words or conduct to prove rape in the third degree. The legislation would also eliminate the statute of limitations for several crimes.

Having passed both the House and Senate, SB 5649 heads to the Governor’s desk for signature.

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    Trueblood lawsuit agreement bill heads to Governor’s desk for signature

Trueblood lawsuit agreement bill heads to Governor’s desk for signature

May 10th, 2019|

The legislature passes a bill to support outpatient competency restoration services guaranteed to individuals in the Trueblood settlement agreement, a move which signals reforms to Washington’s behavioral healthcare system.

“This bill is about reforming how our state treats individuals with mental illness as they interact the criminal justice system,” said Senator Manka Dhingra (D – Redmond), sponsor of Senate Bill 5554. “Our jails do not have the resources to meet the growing demand for mental health services; we’re seeing individuals with severe mental illness sit in jail instead of being diverted out of the criminal justice system to get the behavioral health treatment they need.”

SB 5444 improves the competency evaluation and restoration services system while also emphasizing arrest diversion and community-based support services for people with mental illness.

The bill will also grant statutory authority to forensic navigators, who will be able to assist individuals who are referred for competency to stand trial evaluations. Forensic navigators will also help with those navigating the forensic court process and coordinate community services for individuals who are ordered to receive outpatient competency restoration.

“I have spent this session working to ensure that our state can adequately care for everyone’s behavioral health needs from cradle to retirement. We must continue to move away from a reactive model of care by investing in diversion and intervention programs. This bill is the first step in reform.”

SB 5444 passed both chambers unanimously; it now heads to the Governor’s desk for signature. 

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    Dhingra: “We are reshaping how we treat behavioral health through historic investments.”

Dhingra: “We are reshaping how we treat behavioral health through historic investments.”

May 10th, 2019|

Senator Dhingra released the following statement on the 2019 capital and operating budgets:

“ Budgets are values statements, and the behavioral health investments made this year sends a clear and strong message to Washingtonians that lawmakers will address the behavioral health needs of people around the state. We are shifting how we talk about and treat behavioral health disorders.

“We are investing in a continuum of care while making sure that our state builds robust programs to meet people where they are at. We can no longer be a crisis focused state. It is time to build for the future.

“What is laid out in this budget package boils down to responsible governing. We can balance a budget while also investing in programs that give Washingtonians a full-spectrum of behavioral care starting at birth. By taking care of the needs of all our communities in a holistic manner up early on, there will be less of a burden on the taxpayers later on.”

The 2019 behavioral health budget investments will help pay for the following projects and programs: forensic mental health care, adolescent behavioral health,  geriatric behavioral health, psychiatric payments in rural areas, behavioral health integration, children’s mental health, UW’s behavioral health campus, arrest & jail alternatives, substance use disorder treatment system, substance use disorder professionals, behavioral health facilities, recovery support services, and adolescent behavioral health.   

Capital Budget Investments

 Community-Based Behavioral Health Beds ($119.9 million)

  • The Department of Commerce is provided $47 million for a competitive process to expand community-based behavioral health services.
  • $70.9 million is provided for community-based projects for a variety of behavioral health services including long-term civil commitments, triage, crisis diversion, detox, and adolescent services.

Mental Health State Facilities ($154.4 million)

  • The University of Washington (UW) is provided $33.2 million for predesign, planning, and design of the new 150-bed Behavioral Health Teaching Facility
  • An additional $500 thousand is provided for UW for predesign of a facility for the Behavioral Health Institute at Harborview Hospital.

The Department of Social and Health Services is provided funding for the following behavioral health projects:

  • $58 million for patient safety enhancements, preservation, and ward renovations at Eastern State Hospital and Western State Hospital
  • $1 million for predesign and siting of a new forensic hospital
  • $28.7 million for construction of two new forensic wards providing 60 additional forensic beds at Western State Hospital
  • $8 million for a new Treatment and Recovery Center at Western State Hospital.
  • $25 million for predesign, design, siting, and site work of two state constructed community civil bed facilities; one providing 16 state-operated civil beds and one providing 48 mixed-use beds of which 16 beds would be state-operated civil beds.

Operating Budget Investments

The Senate operating budget increases behavioral health spending by $350.5 million over the next two years in the following ways:

HOSPITAL OPERATIONS – $70.0 MILLION  

  • Funding is provided to cover increased staffing costs necessary for the current state hospital operations at Western State Hospital, Eastern State Hospital, and the Child Study and Treatment Center.

TRUEBLOOD SETTLEMENT – $74 MILLION

  •  Funding is provided for services required for phase one of the settlement agreement under Trueblood et al. v. DSHS concerning the provision of inpatient forensic services within court-mandated timelines by funding diversion and outpatient restoration services.

WESTERN STATE HOSPITAL SAFETY MEASURES – $21.9 MILLION

  • Funding is provided to improve the safety for patients and staff through increased training, more security guards, the enclosure of nursing stations, and the implementation of a STAR ward for patients with increased behavioral issues.

COMMUNITY LONG-TERM INPATIENT BEDS – $47.3 MILLION

  • Funding is provided to contract with private community hospital and evaluation and treatment beds to provide long-term inpatient care for individuals on 90 and 180-day commitments. These beds are intended to replace beds at the state hospitals over time.

ENHANCED DISCHARGE PLACEMENTS – $32 MILLION

  • Funding is provided for enhanced bed rates to create available beds in settings such as adult family homes, assisted living facilities, enhance service facilities, and nursing homes to create discharge placements for individuals coming out of state hospitals.

EXPANDED COMMUNITY SERVICES AND BEDS – $35.3 MILLION

  • Funding is provided for services and beds in the community to meet increased needs and provide more appropriate services for individuals with behavioral health needs. Services include items such as intensive outpatient treatment, clubhouses, intensive behavioral health facilities, wraparound services, assertive community treatment, and suicide prevention.

Both budgets were passed by the legislature and now go to Governor Inslee’s desk for signature.

Dhingra bill to provide property tax relief for seniors and veterans passes out of the Legislature, heads to Governor’s desk for signature

April 28th, 2019|

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — April 28, 2019

Dhingra bill to provide property tax relief for seniors and veterans passes out of the Legislature, heads to Governor’s desk for signature

OLYMPIA – The Legislature today passed legislation sponsored by Sen. Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond) to provide property tax relief to those who can least afford an increase — senior citizens, persons with disabilities, and veterans who reside in areas with a high cost of living.

“Affordability is a huge problem in the 45th Legislative District and surrounding communities,” Dhingra said. “Seniors and people on fixed incomes, many of whom have called the 45th home for decades, are being priced out of their homes.”

Under current law, the senior property tax exemption is calculated based on statewide income thresholds that do not account for the different cost of living in different counties. Senate Bill 5160 will base eligibility instead on each county’s median household income. The bill also adjusts the disability rating qualification for the disabled veterans property tax exemption program to 80 percent.

“Current exemptions do not account for regional differences,” Dhingra said. “This bill fixes that.”

SB 5160 passed out of the House and Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support. It now heads to Gov. Inslee’s desk for signature.

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For more information: Bre Weider (360) 786-7326

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Legislation expanding options for adolescent behavioral healthcare access passed off the Senate floor today.

April 15th, 2019|

OLYMPIA – Legislation recommended by the state’s Children’s Mental Health Work Group passed off the Senate floor today. House Bill 1874 expands family-accessed treatment provisions for adolescents throughout the state.

“This legislation will help address the behavioral health needs of youth across our state. We are shifting how we talk about and treat behavioral health disorders,” said Sen. Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond), chair of the Senate Behavioral Health Subcommittee. “By centering families in the treatment process, we will be removing barriers to access and eliminating stigma,” Dhingra continued. 

HB 1874 expands family-initiated treatment provisions for outpatient treatment to specify that a parent may access up to 12 outpatient sessions for an adolescent with a specific professional within a three-month period. Partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient treatment would also be authorized if recommended by a professional. The legislation also makes technical amendments to clarify the definition of parent for family-initiated treatment and defines language related to the privacy of a minor’s mental health information.

“This bill is about striking a balance where we get young people the treatment they need while keeping families involved as much as possible,” Dhingra said. “Our youth are hurting; it is the responsibility of the adults in the room to get them the care they need. I am focused on moving Washington to integrated behavioral health models where we holistically treat people. This legislation is key to that kind of systemic change.”

Since HB 1874 was amended on the Senate floor, it now must go back to the House for concurrence.  

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For information:    Bre Weider, Senate Democratic Communications, 360-786-7326

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Dhingra: “Today we line up the science of how people experience and process trauma, with our legal system of prosecuting some of our most heinous crimes.”

April 12th, 2019|

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Dhingra: “Today we line up the science of how people experience and process trauma, with our legal system of prosecuting some of our most heinous crimes.”  

OLYMPIA –Legislation to remove the state’s statute of limitation for certain sexual crimes against minors passed off the House floor today. 

“Survivors of sexual violence have worked for years to change our state’s statute of limitations law, I am so proud that after years of hard work, we were finally able to get this bill passed,” said Sen. Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond), sponsor of the legislation. “SB 5649 strikes a good balance of aligning how victims process trauma while holding offenders accountable” Dhingra continued. 

“As a prosecutor, I have seen first-hand the long-lasting impact these crimes have on victims. One of the worst feelings in the world is having someone confide in you that they were sexually assaulted and then telling them the law prevents them from getting justice.”

“It often takes years for victims of sexual abuse to even acknowledge what has happened to them. We know that the long term psychological effects of sexual abuse can be devastating on victims. This bill says the state is taking this crime seriously and values the voices of survivors.”

SB 5649 would eliminate the statute of limitation for those crimes that involve the most vulnerable in our society; our children. It also extends the statutes of limitations for several sex offenses in order to hold the true violent predators accountable. It would also, remove the requirement that the victim clearly express their lack of consent by words or conduct to prove rape.

“Our criminal justice system puts a unique burden on victims of these crimes that is not placed on any other victim. This bill puts a stop to that.”

Having passed both the House and Senate, SB 5649 heads to the Governor’s desk for signature.

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For information:    Bre Weider, Senate Democratic Communications, 360-786-7326

Sen. Manka Dhingra’s Legislative Update – 3/29/19

April 1st, 2019|