Governor set to endorse Republican proposal for improved police training programs

Padden says governor’s endorsement is appreciated, but public safety remains a mess

OLYMPIA – A Republican proposal to improve police training statewide appears to be gaining steam in the Washington Legislature as Gov. Jay Inslee prepares for a press conference Thursday to announce his support.

Numerous police and sheriff’s officials have been invited to join the governor for the news conference, set for 1:30 p.m. today.

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said the governor’s endorsement of a Republican public-safety proposal is a refreshing about-face after a few years of legislation that has weakened law enforcement and sent crime rates soaring.

“We are delighted the governor has recognized the soundness of this idea,” said Padden, ranking Republican on the Senate Law and Justice Committee. “We couldn’t make any headway when it was introduced in the House in 2020. Our colleagues wouldn’t even give it a hearing. We didn’t even bother in 2021, given the tone of the anti-police legislation that sailed out of the Legislature that session. But we were planning on making another push next year – we’ve already drafted the bill.

“Unfortunately, improved police training programs will do nothing to solve the enormous problems that have been created in public safety over the last few years. In 2021, our colleagues passed more than a dozen bills imposing sharp restrictions on police, including a ban on most police pursuits. On top of that, the Legislature has weakened sentences, opened the prison doors, released convicted felons en masse, and decriminalized possession of hard drugs like heroin. Police agencies in some areas have become so demoralized they are having trouble finding new recruits – Seattle is even offering a $25,000 bonus to officers who transfer from other departments.

“The public is furious right now about what is happening on our streets. So it’s terrific that our colleagues have found a public-safety proposal they can embrace. If they are interested in fixing the mess they have created, we have a number of other proposals for them as well.”

The proposal for improved police training programs statewide surfaced first in the Legislature in the form of House Bill 2538, which would have launched a Basic Law Enforcement Academy program in Spokane. Currently the state program, operated by the Criminal Justice Training Commission in Burien, offers only limited course offerings elsewhere in the state. Recruits must pass the full 720-hour course before they can be certified as peace officers. Limited slots and locations have proven a bottleneck for police agencies looking to hire.

Padden’s more-expansive proposal, drafted for introduction during the 2023 session, would allow recruits to obtain peace officer certification through regional training programs operated by law enforcement agencies. At present, local training programs supplement the state course. Under Padden’s proposal, the expanded regional programs would have to meet standards set by the Criminal Justice Training Commission.