Safe Communities

Part of our role as public servants is to keep Washingtonians safe. Our state already leads the nation in innovative and effective criminal and juvenile justice policy, but we work hard to continue to improve public safety in our communities while also ensuring that we have a fair and equitable system of justice.

Current Work

  • Reducing gun violence. Thousands of families across Washington have experienced the tragedy of gun violence. Gov. Inslee is working to pass additional common sense measures to keep our schools and communities safe, and to keep firearms away from people experiencing a mental health crisis. Washington is one of the top 10 states for gun laws that include a first-in-the-nation initiative requiring universal background checks, and additional measures to help prevent suicide, protection orders that keep guns out of the hands of those in crisis, and a ban on bump stocks.
  • Results Washington. Gov. Inslee’s goal for decreasing violent infractions in prison met its 2017 target.
  • Emergency preparedness. Gov. Inslee is taking steps to protect lives and help communities in the aftermath of a large-scale earthquake or tsunami. Washington's proximity to the Cascadia Subduction Zone — a major fault line off the Pacific Coast of North America — puts the region at significant risk for major earthquakes and tsunamis. The Resilient Washington Subcabinet convenes regularly to better prepare our state for earthquakes, tsunamis, wildfires, drought, storms and flooding.

2021 Session Successes

House Bill 1267, sponsored by Rep. Debra Entenman, creates a new office to conduct competent, unbiased investigations of police use of excessive force. These investigations will be required to be truly independent of the involved law enforcement agency to improve accountability, transparency and public confidence.

The bill was developed by the Governor’s Task Force on Independent Investigations of Police Use of Force, which included members from families and communities hurt most by inequitable application of law enforcement use of force.

Senate Bill 5051, sponsored by Sen. Jamie Pedersen, which will increase oversight and accountability requirements for the state’s law enforcement and corrections officers by:

  • Changing certification and background check requirements for police officers,
  • Requiring more thorough internal reviews if there is misconduct by an officer, and
  • Requiring more consistent reporting of such by law enforcement agencies.

Under this legislation, the public may now see the results of internal investigations and know whether an officer was previously held accountable for misconduct.

House Bill 1054, sponsored by Rep. Jesse Johnson, responds to concerns about use-of-force tactics used by law enforcement officers by establishing requirements for tactics and equipment used by officers.

The bill prohibits chokeholds and neck restraints, restricts vehicular pursuits, and limits the use of tear gas. It creates a consistent statewide standard for these tactics, and provides greater oversight when they are employed by officers.

Key Successes

  • Updating deadly force standards. The first bill signed by the governor in the 2019 session updates the standard for use of deadly force by law enforcement officers and requires them to complete violence de-escalation and mental health trainings. The new law is the result of a multi-year effort that brought community advocates and law enforcement together in an unprecedented collaboration to enact agreed-upon changes to Initiative 940, approved by voters in 2018.
  • Justice for domestic violence and sexual assault victims. The legislature approved a bill and funding to eliminate the backlog of more than 10,000 untested sexual assault kits, establishes specified rights for sexual assault survivors, and remove the statute of limitations on certain assault cases. Other bills passed that establish policies and procedures for law enforcement response to domestic violence incidents and increase access to sexual assault protection orders.  
  • Reducing gun violence. Gov. Inslee signed nearly a dozen bills that build upon the state’s nation-leading policies to reduce gun violence. Among the bills he signed is one to ban untraceable “ghost guns,” empowers law enforcement to remove firearms from the scene of a domestic violence arrest, and further strengthens the state’s Extreme Risk Protection Order law that keeps firearms out of the hands of those deemed a risk to themselves or others, including minors.
  • Expanding marijuana justice efforts. Building on Inslee’s Marijuana Justice Initiative, the legislature passed a bill that requires courts to vacate misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions if the person was 21 or older at the time of the offense. This bill will help relieve the burden of misdemeanors for marijuana possession and allow people to move on with their lives.
  • Reducing juvenile incarceration. The governor signed several bills aimed at more effectively helping troubled youth stay out of the criminal justice system. Among the bills signed is one allowing young offenders who are tried as adults for crimes committed as juveniles to now be held in juvenile rehabilitation services instead of prison until the age of 25.


  • Firearm regulations. Gov. Inslee championed and signed SB 5992. The bill bans “bump stock” devices, which enable a firearm to shoot multiple rounds when holding down the trigger. The governor also signed SB 5553, which allows a person experiencing a mental health crisis to waive their firearm rights; SB 6298, which adds domestic violence harassment to the list of crimes that prevent someone from possessing a firearm; and HB 2519, which reforms rules for concealed pistol licenses.
  • Juvenile justice. Gov. Inslee supported SB 6160, which helps reduce the number of youth who are charged and tried as adults. Sending minors to adult prisons often leads to worse outcomes than keeping those young people in the juvenile justice system.
  • Summit on gang prevention. Gov. Inslee hosted a statewide summit on gang prevention and intervention in Yakima, convening experts from the state and the nation to discuss ways to reduce violent gang activity.
  • Notification of failed background checks. Under legislation passed in 2017, firearms dealers are required to notify law enforcement when a customer who is trying to purchase or transfer a firearm fails the background check. The bill, HB 1501, also allows a person to be notified when the subject of their protection order tries to purchase a gun.
  • Safer roads. The governor signed legislation that cracks down on distracted driving. The measure, SB 5289, makes any use of a mobile phone while driving a primary offense. He also signed SB 5037, making a person’s fourth driving-under-the-influence offense a felony rather than a gross misdemeanor.
  • Reduce firearm fatalities and suicides. In January 2016, Gov. Inslee announced an executive order launching a statewide public health initiative to reduce and prevent gun-related fatalities and injuries. The order also implemented the Statewide Suicide Prevention Plan. 
  • Safe and strong communities through successful reentry. Gov. Inslee issued an executive order that removes barriers for people reentering society after a term of incarceration to better help them become working, contributing members of society. Successful reentry helps reduce recidivism and improve community safety.
  • Crisis Intervention. Gov. Inslee championed SB 5311, legislation that ensures police officers get crisis intervention and de-escalation training.
  • Medical marijuana. Gov. Inslee worked with legislators to pass SB 5052 which regulates medical marijuana, ensures a safe product and keeps marijuana out of the hands of kids. This was an important, related part of the governor’s efforts to implement I-502 and create a system that works for patients. 
  • Sexual assault. The governor’s office helped pass HB 1068, legislation that helps identify perpetrators of sexual assault by creating a process to catalog and test thousands of untested rape kits in our state. 
  • SR 530 slide response. Gov. Inslee and Snohomish County Executive Lovick formed a joint commission in response to the SR 530 landslide of March 2014. The commission’s recommendations were the basis of policy changes and legislation to improve preparation and response to similar events in the future. Gov. Inslee led numerous other efforts to help the community recover and rebuild.
  • Death penalty moratorium. In February 2014, Gov. Inslee announced a moratorium on capital punishment in Washington. This action does not commute the sentences of those on death row or issue any pardons, but allows for a debate on the merits of the continued application of capital punishment in this state.
  • Justice Reinvestment Initiative. As part of Washington’s commitment to continuous improvement in state government, Gov. Inslee, with the support of bipartisan legislative leadership and the courts, convened the Justice Reinvestment Task Force. The task force analyzed current criminal justice trends in Washington and examined ways to reduce crime and recidivism, effectively leveraging our public safety dollars and increasing public safety in our communities.
  • Marijuana regulation. In 2014, the state implemented a three-tier regulatory system for the legal production, processing and sale of marijuana. This structure includes extensive requirements which ensure that safe and tested products are available for responsible adult consumption while providing safeguards to minimize youth access and accidental ingestion.
  • Stronger DUI laws. The governor worked with a bipartisan group of legislators to enact strong new DUI laws with a focus on repeat offenders. (SB 5912)