Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs
June 14, 2000

Thanks for that introduction. It's great to be here.

I feel at home in this group because you and I have been working for the same goals - building safer communities and neighborhoods, reducing crime and bringing criminals to justice.

I've been working for those goals - as a prosecutor, legislator, county executive, and now as Governor, for more than two decades.

As a young prosecutor in King County:

I prosecuted drunk drivers, murderers, and every other kind of criminal.

I worked closely with police officers from all over the county, and I learned a lot from them - including how tough your jobs are and how much you put into them, day after day.

And when my father was shot during a robbery, my family and I experienced what it's like to be crime victims - the fear, the anger, the frustration.

As a legislator for eleven years, serving on the Judiciary Committee and chairing the Appropriations Committee:

I led the fight to override Governor Gardner's veto of the bill that made prison mandatory for residential burglars.

I wrote legislation like making parental kidnapping of a child a felony so arrest warrants could be issued and enforced nationwide.

I worked to pass the Community Protection Act, to keep sex offenders behind bars and keep track of them when they get out.

I supported a "three strikes" bill to put away murderers, rapists, and other repeat violent criminals for life.

I secured the original funding for the Automated Fingerprint Identification System that helps solve crimes and insisted it be a statewide system.

As King County Executive, running the second largest government in the state, I built a new jail, on time and under budget.

So by the time I became your Governor, I'd walked the walk for law enforcement and community safety. That's why I couldn't and wouldn't speak at The Evergreen State College commencement along with convicted cop-killer Mumia.

That's why I'm so proud of what we've done with the law enforcement community in the last three years to fight crime:

We more than doubled the sentence for manufacturing methamphetamine.
We created a dedicated meth lab response team in the State Patrol to help law enforcement across the state.
We reformed the juvenile justice system, with stiffer penalties for serious crimes and repeat offenders, and more discretion for judges in dealing with first offenders.
We provided more than $17 million in new funding for safer schools, including more security staff.
We strengthened our domestic violence laws, raising the penalty for violating protection orders.
We passed one of the toughest drunk driving laws in the country, including a .08 alcohol limit, automatic license suspension, ignition interlocks, and a limit of one deferred prosecution in a lifetime - and we provided money to help counties and cities to implement those laws.
We're strengthening parole officers' authority to supervise felons who get out of prison or jail, focusing on those at the highest risk of committing new crimes, and putting parole officers in neighborhood police stations to work with you to protect the communities you serve.
We increased the length of the Basic Law Enforcement Academy, from eleven weeks to 18 weeks, so new officers will have more training as they begin their careers.
We put rank-and-file officers on the Criminal Justice Training Commission, the body that runs the Academy and oversees training policies.
We've just opened a new prison that will have nearly 2,000 beds for violent criminals, repeat offenders, and drug dealers.
We're starting to build a 400-bed commitment center on McNeil Island, for sex offenders who are too dangerous to release when their sentences expire.
And when the voters approved Initiative 695 last fall, we restored over $100 million that cities and counties lost in public safety funding - for police and sheriffs, courts, jails, and crime prevention.
We have been busy, and so have you.

You are no longer just patrolling the streets, responding to calls. Now, more and more, you are working with citizens and community leaders to solve problems that contribute to crime.

You are not just locking up criminals. You're stopping crime before it starts, and you're efforts are succeeding.

Crime rates are down again, across the state. Last year, statewide crime rates went down eight percent, declining in every single major category - murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, arson, and theft - including auto theft. Since 1996, the rate of violent crime has dropped 14 percent, and the rate of property crime over 12 percent.

You can take a lot of pride in those numbers. We all know that many things contribute to rising or falling crime rates, but effective police work is a big part of the picture. So I thank you not just as Governor but also as a citizen and a parent. I want our children to grow up in a safe community.

While we've been working to cut crime and punish criminals, we've also tried to recognize the service police officers perform, and the toll it takes on you and your families. When I was in the Legislature, I prime-sponsored legislation changing the LEOFF 2 system so you can retire two years sooner, and get a better pension even if you retire early.

And I'm going to make sure the state covers the extra cost of the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Olympia. You have raised half a million dollars in private donations to pay for that memorial. It's going on state land, and the state will pay for the costs related to siting it on that land.

One day, not too long from now, I look forward to dedicating that memorial to law enforcement officers who have fallen in the line of duty, making the ultimate sacrifice in the service of the people of our state. I hope you will all be there that day, on that beautiful bluff overlooking Capitol Lake and Puget Sound.

I will be thinking especially about State Trooper Jim Saunders, who gave his life last year on what looked like a "routine" traffic stop. You and I know that there's no such thing as a "routine" traffic stop.

Jim Saunders' death reminds us that statistics don't tell the whole story. Falling crime rates are no consolation to his widow, or to the victims of the brutal crimes that are committed every day in our state. Crime statistics didn't mean a thing to my family when my father was shot. Passing bills and funding programs are important, but they mean little if citizens don't feel safe on the streets of their own neighborhoods.

And you are the ones who make them feel safe.

That's why I salute you - your dedication, your skill, your accomplishments. I thank you for making Washington a better place to live, work and raise a family.
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