[The following story comes to us from our sister publication the Stranger.—eds]
Last week, Equal Rights Washington held their annual lobbying day—modified a bit, since many lawmakers aren’t in Olympia this year—and while in previous years the organization focused on bills that address LGBTQ+ issues, this year’s theme was far more broad: Nearly every bill on which ERW lobbied legislators was connected to police accountability.
“What people have to remember about Stonewall was it wasn't like, ‘Yay, we get to have a parade,'” says Monisha Harrell, board chair of Equal Rights Washington. “It’s a celebration of our durability. Stonewall was a fight against law enforcement trying to police the identities of queer people, and police accountability is an issue that reaches deeply into most marginalized communities.”
And while the focus on reigning in law enforcement may have been a surprise to some, lawmakers should get used to it—today is the cutoff for new legislation, and depending on which bills lawmakers choose to advance, police reform advocates will likely redouble their efforts.
“Thirty percent of LGBTQ people are people of color,” Harrell says. “It has to be an issue that we address as a social justice organization.”
One of the bills they’re pushing the hardest is SB5051/HB1082, which would prevent officers with a history of misconduct from bouncing from one department to another. That bill enjoys strong public support.
“Our statewide agencies have a responsibility not to shuffle the deck chairs on the Titanic, but clean house,” Harrell says.
Other ERW-backed bills would establish an office to investigate killer cops (SHB 1267); another requires officers to intervene when observing a colleague abusing their power (SB 5066); another requires the collection and publishing of data on use of force (SB 5259); and another prohibits practices including the intentional concealing of badges (HB 1054).
Times being what they are, it was an unusual lobbying day, with volunteers calling in via video call instead of driving to the capitol. That presented a few logistical challenges, Harrell told me, but there was an added convenience to the travel-free lobbying, with about 80 meetings scheduled throughout the day.
Some lawmakers were instantly receptive, like Representative Nicole Macri. “She looked at our list and said ‘Yup, yup, yup, thanks for letting me know,’” Harrell says. Other meetings went less smoothly—Harrell declined to name names, and delicately described them as “not having heard from constituents on these issues.”
Once it’s clear which bills will advance to the next round of the reality show that is state government, ERW may organize a second mini lobby day, using the logistical lessons they now have under their belts. Anyone can participate, and Harrell encourages volunteers to get in touch through the website or by calling (206) 324-2570.
And it’s fine if you’re not in the mood for talking to a legislator (to which I am deeply sympathetic; it’s my job and I don’t like calling those people)—you can write letters.
“Legislators keep track of every person in support or in opposition,” Harrell says. “We welcome people adding their voices to this work.”