Local-government, law-enforcement officials testify in favor of Holy bill to help communities hire more officers

Sen. Jeff Holy’s effort to reestablish public safety across Washington by halting an exodus of law-enforcement officers received strong support when it came before the Senate Ways and Means Committee yesterday.

Officials with local-government organizations and law-enforcement agencies testified firmly in favor of the 6th District senator’s proposal, Senate Bill 5841, which would provide cities and counties with more funding to hire more officers.

“The positive testimony clearly shows this would be an effective way to reduce crime and improve public safety in our communities,” said Holy, R-Cheney. “Smaller cities and counties often can’t afford to pay their portion for future officers to attend a police academy, and they sometimes can’t afford to replace officers who are leaving the force or retiring. This bill would promote having an adequate number of officers on the streets to keep our communities safer.”

Officials with the Association of Washington Cities, Washington Association of Counties, and Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs testified in support of SB 5841, as did Wenatchee Police Chief Steve Crown and Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict.

“Washington now has fewer law-enforcement officers per capita than any state, and the decrease in officers, combined with the sharp increase in crime, is making communities less safe,” said Holy. “Restoring public safety is one of the main priorities for our Senate Republican Caucus this session. This bill would help cities and counties hire more officers and reduce crime.”

Holy’s proposal has two components. First, it would direct 0.1% of the current state sales tax to local governments to let them hire more law-enforcement personnel. The bill is expected to produce about $250 million a year to help cities and counties hire more officers. The revenues would be used by local governments to hire law-enforcement officers up to at least the national average per capita (2.4 per 1,000). Once that threshold is reached, local governments could use the funds in ways they consider best to reduce crime.

SB 5841 also would increase the number of training classes at the state’s basic law enforcement academy to a minimum of 25 per year.

“There is a long backlog that is causing hired officers to have to wait several months to get the training they need to be on patrol. More training slots mean more hired officers can get to work in their communities sooner,” said Holy.