Sen. Dhingra Newsroom

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

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

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

July 6th, 2020|Uncategorized|
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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

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

July 6th, 2020|News|
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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

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

July 2nd, 2020|News|
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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

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

July 1st, 2020|News|

E-news: Youth criminal justice forum; mask up, WA

Dear Neighbors,

Over the past weeks, I have attended protests, marches, and rallies all over our district and King County, while wearing my mask and practicing social distancing. I have met with community members impacted by police violence as well as with law enforcement officers, and I have responded to so many of you who have reached out to me. I am listening to the stories, tracking data, and working with my colleagues to craft legislation that reflects your voices. I have been especially inspired and impressed by the sheer volume of young people who have reached out to me, who are standing up for justice, and who are demanding change. I want to continue the conversation with the young people of our district and would like to invite you to attend a youth town hall on criminal justice reform. It will be over Zoom, at 2 pm on July 14. You can sign up here.

 

King County moves to Phase 2

In Phase 2, social gatherings may be held with five or fewer people outside your household. Restaurants can reopen at less than 50% capacity, and retailers at less than 30% capacity. Businesses must follow state guidelines to ensure the health and safety of employees and customers. These include social distancing, regular hand washing and wearing cloth masks. You can read more about Phase 2 here, and you can find the guidelines for businesses and employees here.

Mask Up, Washington

Despite the progress we have made, we are seeing a worrisome uptick in coronavirus cases across Washington. Recent research suggests that one of the best ways to reduce transmission is by wearing cloth face masks. The masks protect other people from getting the virus from us when we talk, cough or sneeze.

Even if you don’t have symptoms, you could still be a danger to others. Between 20% and 40% of people with COVID-19 don’t show any symptoms but can still spread the virus. Wearing masks in public places helps protect everyone you meet and is a crucial way to allow for safe reopening of economic activity.

That’s why the governor has issued a statewide mandate for mask-wearing in public. There are exemptions for people with some health conditions or disabilities and people who are deaf or hard of hearing. And there are times when you can remove your mask, like when eating at a restaurant. You also do not need to wear a mask when you are alone or only with the members of your household, or when you are outdoors and six feet from other people.

Until a vaccine or cure is developed, masks will be our best defense.

This mask rule is like the speed limits on our roads—it’s about preventing reckless behavior that can hurt others. Please do your part to protect our community.

Sincerely yours,

Sen. Manka Dhingra
45th Legislative District
Deputy Majority Leader

June 25th, 2020|E-News|

The List: Manka Dhingra

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.

June 24th, 2020|News|
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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

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

June 16th, 2020|News|

We have work ahead

Dear Neighbors,

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:

  1. Prohibiting the use of chokeholds.
  2. Prohibiting law enforcement agencies in our state from accepting surplus military equipment.
  3. Requiring the use of body cameras statewide.
  4. Prohibiting law enforcement officers from covering their badge numbers while on duty.
  5. Requiring state collection of data on police use of force.
  6. 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.

Sincerely yours,

Sen. Manka Dhingra
45th Legislative District
Deputy Majority Leader

June 4th, 2020|E-News|

The Domestic Violence Discussion podcast with Ariel Gliboff

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 .

May 26th, 2020|News|

E-news: Be on alert for fraudulent unemployment claims

Dear Neighbor,

During the pandemic, it’s important to be on alert—this crisis has led to a rash of fraudulent unemployment claims filed with the WA Employment Security Department.

Fraudsters file these claims in innocent people’s names using data they have stolen from corporate data breaches, not from the Employment Security Department. ESD paused payments for two days last week to combat this fraud.

Here’s what you can do to protect yourself:

  • Be aware of false websites. If you apply for unemployment benefits, use only ESD’s official website: esd.wa.gov.
  • Applying for unemployment benefits is free. ESD will never ask for a payment to process your claim.
  • Be wary of solicitors asking for your personal information online or by phone. ESD will only ask you for information through official correspondence and through your ESD eServices account. If we call you, you can ask the agents to identify themselves.

If you get a letter from ESD referencing an unemployment claim number, but you did not file a claim,

  • Report the fraud here.
  • You can also try calling 800-246-9763.

If you suspect you have been a victim of identity theft:

  • File a report with your local law enforcement.
  • Report the fraud to the IRS.
  • Use the resources at IdentityTheft.gov.

Request free credit reports via AnnualCreditReport.com and review them for other frauds.

Stay safe and take care.

Sincerely yours,

May 20th, 2020|E-News|