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Washington lawmaker pushes bills to improve police training, outreach

Seattle PD continues to face staffing issues. (Adam Cohn, Flickr Creative Commons)

As cities like Seattle continue to struggle to recruit new police officers, one Washington lawmaker is looking to provide some relief on the state level.

That comes in form of a quartet of bills proposed by state Rep. Jacquelin Maycumber, designed to improve training, recruitment, community outreach, and more.

“This is a multifaceted problem,” Rep. Maycumber told KTTH’s Jason Rantz Show. “(Police have told me), ‘Don’t give us money, give us men on the ground and women, and help us with our numbers.’ And that’s been the number one thing I’ve heard.”

Maycumber cites data that ranks Washington 50th out of all 50 states for officers per capita, something she describes as “shocking.”

“The series of bills are put together to make sure that we’re reaching the capacity where we should be in the state of Washington,” she noted.

One measure calls for the full funding of 19 police academy classes, something Rep. Maycumber calls “just standard.” In the state’s current budget, only nine of those classes are funded.

Another bill is centered around community policing, and helping train officers to engage with people across all cultures and walks of life.

“Understanding that there are different communities that speak different languages and look different… I think that outreach is so important,” said Maycumber.

This all comes as Seattle has struggled to recruit and retain police officers. Low staffing numbers are nothing new in the city either. After initially denying earlier reports of a “mass exodus” of officers leaving the department due, in large part, to a lack of support from the City, Mayor Jenny Durkan reversed her talking point and began an urgent recruitment effort to bring qualified applicants to the force.

The result of the recruiting effort hasn’t been promising, with a net gain of just 16 new officers (97 new hires, most of which are new recruits, and 81 separations, the majority of which are resignations) based on the latest available numbers.

“It’s devastating,” said Rep. Maycumber. “Seattle PD have worked very hard — those men and women are definitely in the forefront of the battle, and to see them leaving in droves, it’s hard.”

Maycumber — who points out that her proposals are garnering bipartisan support in Olympia — hopes those issues will be addressed at least in part soon.

“Everything that I can do in these four bills maybe will alleviate some of that stress.”

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