Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs Fall Conference
November 17, 1999
Thank you, Doug Blair, for that kind introduction. I'm very pleased to be here today. From my days as a young prosecutor, to my years as a county executive, and now in my position as Governor, I have admired the dedication, professionalism, and skill of law enforcement officers across the state, and the leadership you and your colleagues provide.
You know better than I do how demanding and dangerous your work is. Just a month ago I attended the funeral of Trooper James Saunders, who was killed making a traffic stop in the Tri-Cities. As his death reminded us, there's no such thing as a "routine" traffic stop.
Last year many of you were here in Ocean Shores at the services for Officer Jim Davis, who died rescuing a surfer not far from this hotel. Another reminder that protecting and serving our citizens can exact a high price.
Many of you knew other officers who died in the line of duty. When something that tragic happens, every citizen remembers how much we owe our police officers and sheriffs' deputies, and how you put your lives on the line for us every day. This morning Gayle Frink-Schulz spoke about the impact of deaths in the line of duty on family, friends, and fellow officers. Dealing with such deaths has to be one of the greatest challenges a police chief or sheriff faces, personally and professionally.
Another challenge I know none of you wants to face is the aftermath of a school shooting like last year's in Springfield, Oregon, or this year's in Littleton, Colorado. Your workshop on responding to a school crisis is aptly titled "Managing the Nightmare."
Preparing to respond to a school crisis is doubly difficult because none of us wants to think of the possibility of deadly violence in our schools. Schools are supposed to be safe places where children go to learn, to be nurtured, and to grow into productive, law-abiding citizens. Not to kill and be killed.
It's especially hard, I think, for educators to understand the need to be prepared for the kind of horrifying events we have seen in schools across the country these last few years. With everything else they have to do, planning for disasters that may never occur has to be an unwelcome task.
So you may have to take the initiative by reaching out to the school principals and superintendents in your communities, to make sure they are ready to work with you if you ever have to respond to an emergency. Today you are hearing from Jesus Villahermosa, a true expert on violence in schools. I know you'll learn a lot from him. He made a great contribution to our Youth Safety Summit in 1998. And I know you have a school safety committee working on these issues, and I commend you for it.
Last spring, I pushed the Legislature to approve $12 million for programs to prevent violence in schools:
$1 million for school safety planning;
$2 million for prevention and intervention grants;
$2 million to train teachers on dealing with disruptive students;
$3 million for school security staff; and
$4 million to create alternative schools for kids who are expelled from regular classrooms.
But all the money in the world won't make our kids or schools or communities safe if we don't work together. You know, better than most people, that law enforcement can't do the job alone. It requires everyone's commitment and concern. It requires partnerships like the Safe School Zones in Tacoma, the Neutral Zone in Mountlake Terrace, and Options for Youth in Sunnyside, mobilizing communities and helping young people stay out of trouble.
It requires citizens willing to pass on their concerns to law enforcement - like the mother in Snohomish who called police three weeks ago to share her son's concerns about things his friend had been saying - remarks about killing teachers and other students. A search of that 15-year-old friend's room turned up two pipe bombs and four rifles. "I thank God that she called," said the police commander.
A tragedy was averted because a teenager shared his concerns with his mother, who shared them with police, who acted quickly. That incident shows us very clearly: Whether we are in law enforcement, education, business, government, or any other walk of life, we're all in this together.
I know that the state has to be a partner with local government to protect the safety of our citizens, whether they live in big cities or small towns. This past year we've strengthened that partnership in several ways:
The Legislature passed the Offender Accountability Act I proposed. This new law, and the funding that goes with it, will help keep our communities safer by making the state Department of Corrections your partner in the neighborhoods where convicted felons live and work. I deeply appreciate the support WASPC gave to that reform in our sentencing and corrections system.
The Legislature also approved a major expansion in the Basic Law Enforcement Academy - beefing training up to 720 hours - to ensure that your officers have the best possible preparation for their increasingly difficult jobs.
We got funding for a dedicated meth lab response team in the State Patrol - even though we are barely keeping up with the explosive growth in meth labs across the state. I know Chief Sandberg appreciates your support for this as much as I do.
After a major expansion of the State Patrol's crime laboratory, we combined it with the state toxicology lab, for better, more efficient forensic services. And we invested in new, state-of-the-art equipment for DNA sampling and identification.
Finally, let me say something about jails. Some people have gotten the impression that I see jails as solely a problem for counties and cities, and not the state's concern. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Our jails are overcrowded, and increasingly expensive to manage. Some are so crowded that they have to release an inmate for every one they take in. It's not just a problem of mattresses on the floor, or overflows into the dayroom. It's also a problem of kitchen, sewer, and HVAC systems serving twice the number of people they were designed for. It's a problem of meeting the medical needs of inmates who have HIV, or may be pregnant, or have serious mental illnesses, or are in drug withdrawal. It's a problem of having to accept anyone who arrives at the door, at any hour of the day or night, in any numbers.
As a former prosecutor, I know we need jails. As a former legislator, I helped dedicate more money for local jails. As a former county executive, I know jails and prisons are expensive and hard to manage well. As Governor, I know these are problems we all share.
Right across Grays Harbor from here, we are spending $195 million to build a 1,900-bed state prison that will open next spring and be full in about a year, with about 600 employees. We're doing that because of sentencing laws that have dramatically increased prison terms for violent, sex, and drug offenses over the last decade. I voted for these laws in the Legislature, and sheriffs and police chiefs supported them, too.
More recently, you have joined with prosecutors and police rank-and-file groups to ask the Legislature to look more carefully at sentencing bills and to consider long-term costs. You have worked with others in your communities to start drug courts as an alternative to jail for addicts who need treatment. You are trying to increase the use of electronic home monitoring, day reporting centers, work crews, and other ways to hold offenders accountable without taking up jail space. Some of you are impounding cars to keep drunk drivers and unlicensed drivers off the roads without having to keep them in jail. And you are working with the Department of Corrections on a capacity study that will help us measure jail capacity in the state, using consistent definitions and accurate comparisons. I commend you for these steps and urge you to continue that work.
Your jobs, like mine, became a lot tougher when the voters approved Initiative 695. That measure eliminates $277 million in revenue over the next 18 months going to local governments for police, criminal justice, fire-protection, and public health services. It may mean layoffs for your officers, slower processing of cases in the courts, and worsening conditions in jails. Each of you, working with your city and county governments, will have to decide how to deal with this shortfall when it begins January 1.
The voters have spoken and all of us must implement Initiative 695. I am reviewing various proposals that would provide some state funding, including use of a portion of our reserve funds, for the most critical programs in public safety and public health, and to provide local transit districts some temporary help as they address their I-695 impacts. We can't allow our communities to go without basic law-enforcement and public health services, but state support for those programs still will not cover all the lost funds resulting from I-695. Filling the gaps means local governments will have to reach into their reserves, reprioritize their budgets, or go to their voters for new sources of revenue. We in state government can help-we must help-but we can't do it all.
As you may be aware, the State Crime Lab will lose nearly $3 million this biennium as a result of Initiative 695. I want to assure you that we will find a way to replace lost funding for this agency that is so important to law enforcement everywhere in Washington State.
The details of our response to Initiative 695 are being developed now, in consultation with local governments including sheriffs and police chiefs and legislators, but our proposal won't move ahead unless it has bipartisan support in the Legislature. I urge you to share your concerns about the impact of I-695 with your state legislators as well as your county and city elected officials.
Initiative 695 is the biggest, most immediate test of the partnership between local and state governments. Responding to it responsibly will require everyone's best efforts. I will work with you to keep our citizens and communities safe.
Thank you for everything you do to make Washington a better place to live, to work, and to raise a family. Thank you very much.