KENT, Wash. - Rep. Kim Schrier was in Washington on Tuesday to learn how to better support smaller police departments across the nation.
Schrier took notes in south King County that will help craft two of her proposed amendments.
"To make sure they have the tools that they need to do their jobs well and to keep everybody safe in our communities, including our police officers. Body cameras are at the top of that list, mental health professionals are also at the top of that list," said Schrier.
The District 8 representative spent the day, Tuesday, with the Kent Police Department riding along with officers to learn more about what their needs are to help them better protect and serve the community.
"Our police officers want to feel heard," she said. "It’s the first time [Kent] had a politician come for a ride-along to hear their perspective. And how can you craft legislation if you’re not listening to the people on the front lines?"
One of Schrier’s proposed amendments would provide more funding for smaller agencies to access body worn-cameras.
"They’re telling me, ‘We need body cameras. We need the money to have them and we need the money for the tapes to keep the backup data,’ and it’s very expensive. And so, sometimes the bigger departments can handle that cost, but smaller departments can’t," said Schrier.
The Congresswoman’s second amendment would help police departments hire and train social workers when responding to mental health crisis calls.
"It’s more funding to get social workers to accompany or to go in the place of police when it’s really not a police issue," said Schrier.
Assistant Chief Jarod Kasner said the department and city are already trying to include more mental health service in their response and believes the amendment would boost their efforts.
"Having those wrap-around services is really where the importance and solutions come," said Kasner. "The added help and getting it to the other departments surrounding us really is where you’ll see a force multiplier and the benefit really take hold."
Kasner said Washington’s new reform laws are presenting new challenges on law enforcement. He said he hopes other elected officials take the time to sit in the passenger seat with officers to help gain a better understanding of the rules towards safer neighborhoods.
"I think with ride-along like this, we can bridge that gap of where did the intent stop or where did it go? What were you looking for and how can we help you? It’s all about perspectives at different levels. And making those meet, you get a concept that actually works and it’s beneficial," said Kasner.
"Our police officers, they want to do the job of policing. They want to serve and protect," said Schrier.
Tuesday’s visit to the Kent Police Department was Schrier’s third ride-along with an officer. She said she will be taking what she learned back to Congress to help in the decision-making on her proposed amendments.
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