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Pierce County looks to avoid defunding in effort to reform law enforcement

(Pierce County Sheriff's Department, Facebook)

In the midst of historic cuts to Seattle’s police budget, law enforcement agencies in Pierce County are looking to take a different tact with police reform.

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“We are having some very important conversations about making sure that our law enforcement and justice systems are fair, and just, and equitable,” Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier told KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show.

In Seattle, those efforts are coming in the form of budget cuts, as well as a reduction of up to 100 officers. The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, though, is actually looking to hire.

“It just seems like now in particular, we’ve got two great opportunities to improve public safety and Pierce County,” Dammeier said. “First, we can get some outstanding experienced professional law enforcement lateral transfers from other agencies to come to Pierce County.”

“The second thing we can do is being a really good position to have us lead in terms of recruiting new officers, new deputies into law enforcement,” he continued. “We’ve been working on diversifying the personnel in our law enforcement and our sheriff’s department  — we want our deputies to look like our community and be able to relate to our community.”

The department intends to hire at least 15 new deputies in the next week, and then an additional nine sometime after that. It will also offer a $10,000 hiring bonus for officers leaving other law enforcement agencies to join the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department.

On a larger scale, Dammeier hopes to see Pierce County make improvements in other areas, especially when it comes to providing more resources to 911 responders.

“In the last three years, we have found ways to support our police and our firefighters in terms of co-responders — people who are experienced in dealing with behavioral health,” he described. “We have mobile teams out there that are targeting high 911 utilizers, who have predominantly behavioral health issues. They’re working proactively with those people to help them with their issues, so law enforcement and fire don’t have to engage with them.”

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Other measures include the possibility of expanding the use of body cameras, which agencies in the county are not currently required to wear.

“I think that’s something that we absolutely need to do,” he said. “I am all about transparency and accountability, and I think body cameras are a key toward that.”

That all being so, he also notes that large-scale defunding efforts are unlikely to take place in the county.

“We want to always do better, but as it comes to defunding the police, that’s not a discussion we are having down here.”

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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