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Jason Rantz: Washington's anti-police tactics – are they a test case for the rest of the country?

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Wondering why Washington state Democrats were silent as Antifa and other radicals attacked police for eight straight months in Seattle? They were busy drafting legislation that radically reimagines policing, while simultaneously releasing dangerous criminals from jail.  

These moves serve as a test case for the country. The policy wins here will undoubtedly inspire similar or more drastic moves from coast to coast. 

Seattle’s shameful anti-police posture has spread statewide, codified into legislation that will soon become law. What’s worse, Democrats are also forwarding a light-on-crime agenda that will prematurely release some of the state’s worst criminals.  

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The region spent much of 2020 mostly ignoring the rampant violence from Antifa and Black Lives Matter radicals. Riots were passed off as peaceful protests. Yet, Downtown Seattle looked like a war zone after arson and looting in May, a portion of a neighborhood was occupied by armed radicals in July, and police have been under a constant barrage of assault for the last eight months.  

Rather than enforce the law, Seattle police were routinely hamstrung by local politicians. 

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Despite their hands-off approach, mandated by the City Council, police were still punished. They suffered 20% defunding with promises of more to come. Council members are even trying to fire the department’s White officers, on the basis of their skin color, to ensure a more diverse force.  

Now, the same anti-police posture is showing up in legislation that impacts every department in the state. These moves threaten to permanently change Washington for the worse, making the state more dangerous.   

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House Bill 1054 severely restricts tear gas. The non-lethal tool had been used last summer by law enforcement to disperse “peaceful protesters” as criminals peacefully threw rocks, frozen water bottles and explosives at Seattle police and police buildings. 

The original bill, which was written before consulting law enforcement, banned tear gas. That begged the question: how would police disperse large, riotous crowds without tear gas? Guns and tasers? If the goal is to lessen fatalities and serious injuries, banning non-lethal tools seems foolish.  

After hearing from law enforcement – a move he should have made before introducing the bill – it’s sponsor, Democrat State Rep. Jesse Johnson, had a change of heart. He removed the ban and instead codified a five-step process before using tear gas to “alleviate a present risk of serious harm posed by a riot, barricaded subject or hostage situation.”   

As a dangerous riot unfolds, where every second counts, officers must “exhaust alternatives to the use of tear gas,” though this process isn’t defined. They must also announce their intent to use tear gas at least two times and get permission from either their sheriff or police chief.  

A roundabout way of defunding or abolishing the police is to severely handcuff law enforcement.

The bill bans chokeholds or neck restraints, regardless of the circumstances. There’s no carve out for emergencies where this could be used as a last-ditch effort to save lives.  

Johnson argues that the neck restraint can be deadly if not applied properly. But any tool can be dangerous if not used properly.  

The ban actually ensures officers will use more violence when stopping a criminal. If a suspect has a victim in a chokehold, the officer may be forced to use their baton or handgun rather than the safer vascular neck restraint, which can render a suspect unconscious in seconds.  

“This bill does not appear to consider officer safety removing the vascular neck restraint as an option for police officers and increases the likelihood that an officer will be left to resort to more violent means to gain compliance from a resisting subject,” warned a law enforcement officer to the legislature during a public hearing. Democrats ignored him and other law enforcement voices. 

This bill makes policing more dangerous. Perhaps that’s the point?  

A roundabout way of defunding or abolishing the police is to severely handcuff law enforcement. That the job is so dangerous officers won’t engage the rioters Democrats have been appeasing or arrest the criminals that activists keep claiming are mere victims of a racist system. From Seattle and Portland to New York and Minneapolis, unreasonable restrictions and mistreatment have pushed police officers out of their departments.  

This bill passed the House on a party-line vote. Afterward, Johnson sniped at police, claiming this is a step toward “accountability and racial equity. Black and Brown communities deserve to walk down the street or sleep in their bed without fear of violence from police.” 

But it’s those minority communities that will suffer the most. Communities of color tend to be most impacted by violence. Not only are officers more limited in their enforcement, Democrats are pushing to vastly reform early release of the most violent criminals from jail. This is a deadly combination. 

If you’re well-behaved in prison, you get time shaved off your sentence. House BIll 1282 expands the amount of time a prisoner can be released early to 33% across the board, up from 10-15% for certain crimes like felony sex offenses.  

But most controversially, it would be applied retroactively. That means, when a prosecutor made a plea deal, they were at least banking on a certain number of years being served. This bill would render those negotiations useless, effectively tying prosecutors into a plea deal they never would have offered because it would let the criminal off too lightly. 

“The retroactive aspect is troubling. First of all, it gives the biggest benefit to the worst offenders,” Pierce County, Washington, Prosecuting Attorney Mary Robnett told me on my Seattle-based talk radio show. “In other words, many offenders in Department of Corrections already earn a third off if they’ve committed nonviolent offenses. But the violent offenses get the sudden windfall… and it’s indiscriminate, it gives it across the board to everyone, without any regard to the public safety risk or a calculation of that on an individualized basis.” 

The two motivating factors behind this bill? The belief that a racist criminal justice system unfairly targets people of color and a desire to dramatically cut budgets as the state recovers from a COVID-economy.   

Is this really the best time to release criminals from prison? Crimes are skyrocketing across Washington state. 

Seattle saw a 68% increase in homicides in 2020, the highest number in over a quarter-century. In Tacoma, the same tragic reality: record high murders, most from shootings, the highest since 1994. On the east side of the state, Spokane, did no better, recording a 186% increase in homicides in 2020, the most since 2002. 

The crime surge coincided with the activist war on policing. What started as calls for reasonable police reform devolved into demands to defund or abolish police departments. Antifa and BLM radicals have commandeered the cause, using violence to forward their agenda. And the Democrat party has rewarded them with policy wins, ensuring those deadly tactics will continue. 

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Seattle City Council defunded the Seattle Police Department, with more cuts promised. Tacoma and Bellingham, too. Local leaders promise changes to policing, listening exclusively to left-wing activists, while shutting out voices supporting law enforcement. It has created an environment of lawlessness.  

Democrats are now imposing their will on the state. Your state will be next. 

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