Publisher's Note: Want Safer Communities? Uncuff the Police

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The police officer who strangled George Floyd is in jail, convicted of third-degree murder, now serving the first of his 22 years. Other officers on the scene that night also face charges. The American justice system worked. 

What didn't work was the overreaction by politicians to "defund" and restrict the ability of police and the justice system to catch and punish criminals.

That overreaction has cost an enormous number of lives. 

Twelve of the largest cities in the country have broken homicide records this year, including Portland, Oregon. There are two glaring reasons for the explosion of crime in our country in the last two years. The first is the policy of ignoring smaller crimes and the second is the defunding of the police.

Robert Boyce, retired chief of detectives for the New York Police Department and an ABC News contributor, said that one national crime statistic stands out to him. 

"Nobody's getting arrested anymore," Boyce said. "People are getting picked up for gun possession and they're just let out over and over again."

FBI crime data shows the number of arrests nationwide plummeted 24% in 2020.  Police officers will tell you that when a criminal isn't arrested for committing a smaller crime, in many cases, they will follow with larger crimes.

Chief LeRonne Armstrong, of the Oakland Police Department, reports that the lack of resources to fight crime is one of the reasons he suspects his city is seeing the highest number of homicides in decades. Armstrong said his department of 676 officers is the smallest staff his agency has had in years with 70 fewer officers this year. 

Armstrong said this "definitely impacts our ability to address public safety."

Left-leaning politicians who dominate Olympia today joined in the national push to defund police, release criminals early from jail and restrict the ability of police to make arrests.

One Olympia "police reform" law, HB 1310, restricts an officer from detaining a person fleeing the scene of an armed robbery even when the person fleeing matches the description of the suspect.

Another new state law restricts police from conducting routine traffic stops and use of non-lethal weapons. Officers across the state are saying that criminals know the hands of the police are tied and this is leading to more crimes.

Because of our size, Lewis County will never be highlighted on national stories about rising crime. At least we can all hope we won't. But law enforcement officials here report an increase in crime, including thefts and burglaries, and they believe these increases are directly tied to the recent laws coming from Olympia.

In just the last six months, thefts are up 76% in this county when compared to the same period last year. Drug cases are down 83% over the same period. It may shock some people in Olympia to learn that these two statistics: burglary way up and drug arrests way down are directly related, but they are.

In a recent conversation with Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza, he explained that all three bills, the two in the House, HB 1310 and HB 1054, and the one in the Senate, SB 5476, are knee-jerk reactions created based on emotions, not facts.

“These bills create suspects being loose in our community who continue to commit additional crimes and victimize people that live here,” Snaza said. “I fear our community and our state as a whole will continue to see a rise in crime.”

In the face of bad news about rising crime, we also see the good news that the tide may soon be turning. Last week, San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced a crime crackdown at an emergency police intervention.

"It's time the reign of criminals who are destroying our city, it is time for it to come to an end,” Breed said. “And it comes to an end when we take the steps to be more aggressive with law enforcement. More aggressive with the changes in our policies and less tolerant of all the bull sh-t that has destroyed our city."

When the mayor of San Francisco and the publisher of The Chronicle see things the same when it comes to crime and public safety, we know things have changed. We are optimistic that the public across the country is going to demand elected officials take steps to roll back the ill-advised laws giving criminals a free hand.

We are also hopeful that our local Republican legislators will make headway in their efforts to uncuff the police here in Washington.

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Chad Taylor is publisher of The Chronicle. He and CEO Coralee Taylor are the owners of CT Publishing.