← More Issues

Public Safety

As a former deputy prosecuting attorney, handling both civil and criminal matters, Ryan has a deep understanding of the law, and how to make it work to protect the people of Anacortes.

Core Values

Anacortes is blessed with a relatively low violent crime rate, first-class police department, and a dedicated fire and EMS staff. While public safety issues are fewer here in Anacortes than other cities, they do occur, and we ought to equip and train our first responders for all types of scenarios.

Drugs are a problem in Anacortes just like any other community. New state drug laws this year will send more cases to our municipal court that previously went to county (Superior) court. We need to plan for resources for that and ensure that police are go after those cases despite the new approach. We will also need more prosecutor resources because our current prosecutor is a contract position with other clients. We'll need to analyze caseloads and adapt quickly to maintain our a high level of service to the public.

Another recurring issue is drug houses, which are particularly difficult to address given Fourth and Fifth Amendment protections. I feel strongly we must address those issues in our neighborhoods, however, for the safety and security of everyone else. I'd leverage the authority of every City department to target and address such houses from all sides until the residents are either sufficiently motivated to move out of town, or we're able to make an arrest.

Anacortes also routinely encounters problems with burglaries, generally associated with a single individual, and when we do we need to have sufficient staff available to solve those crimes and remove the offender from the streets.

Homeless people are usually not public safety threats, and I've written separately how to deal with homelessness generally. Where public safety is at issue, however, the City needs to swiftly deal with law breaking. And where public safety is threatened due to a person's mental illness, we need to use the involuntary treatment statute to commit such persons to mental health treatment. I've recently encouraged our police department to pursue that in one high-profile case and have had some success, but have largely been stymied by the lack of resources in the state mental health care system.

Even more serious matters are always possibilities here in Anacortes. Right now, for example, Anacortes has a missing persons case. On that case, and whenever such cases occur, we need to have sufficient detectives available to ensure we can pursue leads and conduct thorough investigations. The first few hours after an event are critical to being able to successful resolve such a situation.

Police Reform

In the last legislative session, the Legislature passed a suite of police reform bills that included a great number of useful and important measures including bans on the use of chokeholds, requiring uniformed officers to be identifiable, restricts the use of tear gas, requires officers to intervene if they see another officer using excessive force, and other similar measures. Those meastures largely on't affect our police department (because, e.g., we already prohibit chokeholds).

There are other provisions in the bills, however, that were well-intentioned but need to be re-examined and adjusted. As a former prosecutor, I find the text of these provisions overly broad or restrictive and requiring excessive interpretation. Those include the tactics provisions governing excessive use of force and de-escalation and restricts vehicle pursuits. We all want to avoid excessive force and want to pursue de-escalation as a first step, but I don't believe the precise text of these provisions in these bills hits the right mark or leaves enough discretion to the officer on the scene. The state legislators I've talked to about these provisions have sounded open to revisiting and attempting to fine-tune them. In the meantime, we need to identify ways to work around these limitations to preserve the level of public safety citizens have a right to expect.

Background Image 

copyright © 2021 Ryan Walters