City Manager Jay Burney's statement on police response and HB1310

Thanks to the community’s approval of the 2017 Public Safety Levy, the City of Olympia has been able to stay on the forefront of contemporary police practices. The Olympia Police Department (OPD) focuses and trains on priorities like de-escalation, and fair and impartial policing. Olympia is fortunate because our policing priorities already align with the intent of much of the police reform legislation recently approved at the State level.

We support that legislation and its intent. However, we’ve heard concern in the community specifically about House Bill (HB) 1310 and its requirements around use of force. Some are concerned that, with HB 1310’s implementation, the Police Department would no longer respond to certain calls – particularly calls involving mental health crises or public nuisance disturbances.

Let me be clear: when our community calls, the Olympia Police Department will respond.

Because of the Public Safety Levy, OPD has been able to diversify its resources and responders. The Police Department is not just an organization with uniformed officers with guns. Our responders also include members of our Crisis Response Units and Designated Crisis Responders, who are licensed mental health professionals.

Depending on the nature of the call, OPD’s response may be the arrival of a police officer, or it may mean the arrival of a Crisis Response Unit, or both in some combination. Depending on the seriousness of the call, OPD’s response may be a uniformed officer in a matter of minutes, or a car driving by the situation, or a follow-up phone call. The community will receive a response.

The Legislature’s actions on Police Reform happened quickly, but those actions are only speeding Olympia up the path we were already taking. While on that path, we already banned choke holds, car chases and shooting into moving vehicles. We already eliminated tear gas. And our police officers already operate under a duty to intervene.

We have been growing our Crisis Response Unit. Our next step is to expand it to a 24-hour service.

In Olympia, we see HB 1310 as an opportunity for us to reimagine alternative approaches to response in the community. It’s an opportunity to continue to build more robust new programs in OPD, our Fire Department and across the organization.

In keeping with these efforts, we are working to Reimagine Public Safety with the community. We invite you to learn more here https://engage.olympiawa.gov/publicsafety, and to participate when you can in this important process.

When called, the Olympia Police Department will respond. Our commitment is to make sure it is the right response. We believe that is what our lawmakers want, what our community wants, and it is what we want.
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