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Washington candidates for governor spar over public safety plans

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(The Center Square) – Gubernatorial candidate and Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson is not impressed with Republican candidate Dave Reichert’s newly released public safety plan.

“Dave Reichert must really like Bob’s public safety plan, because he copied much of it,” Ferguson’s campaign told The Center Square in an email.

Ferguson’s public safety plan, unveiled in March, was criticized by Reichert, who told The Center Square at the time he blames Ferguson’s lack of leadership and lack of understanding of law enforcement for the current state of public safety in Washington.

“We have the lowest number of officers per capita in the entire country,” he said. “Seattle is down almost 400 officers, King County is close to 150 down and in some of the smaller community departments, if you’re down 5, 8, 9 or ten cops. That’s a huge chunk of your resources.”

According to the findings of the annual Crime in Washington report for 2022, the state’s per capita total of officers was 1.36 that year, the lowest on record, compared to the national average of 2.31 officers per capita.

Reichert, a former King County Sheriff and former U.S. House of Representatives member, touted his law enforcement background in discussing the public safety agenda he intends to implement if elected governor this November.

“I have a 33-year long experience in the law enforcement world, beginning with working as a patrol cop, and working in the jail back when King County Sheriff’s had a jail,” he told The Center Square this week. “Then I worked as a detective and homicide detective, also SWAT commander and hostage negotiator.”

Reichert’s 10-point plan emphasizes bolstering efforts to recruit police officers, directing the Washington State Patrol to enforce the law, utilizing grant program funds to identify and arrest cartel and gang members trafficking fentanyl, combating juvenile crime, and prioritizing efforts against domestic violence and human trafficking.

“When you talk about recruiting officers, it’s all about protecting officers who are acting in good faith, without malice,” Reichert said. “The laws that I worked under for many years were very strong in protecting the community against bad cops, and I’ve fired several bad cops for dishonesty or use of force.”

A Ferguson campaign spokesperson derided Reichert’s plans as duplicative “from adopting new technologies and partnerships to prioritizing domestic violence, trafficking, and drug crimes.”

The Ferguson campaign email went on to say, “Reichert’s plan does not adequately address the staffing challenges facing law enforcement agencies statewide. We need resources to recruit, train, and retain professionals in communities to promote community safety.”

For his part, Reichert called out what he described as Ferguson’s silence regarding ongoing pro-Palestinian protests on campuses in Washington and across the nation.

“Especially at the University of Washington and also protesters shutting down I-5 in Seattle and the airport, he didn’t make a single statement or utter a word, and people’s lives are in danger, and these are not peaceful protests,” Reichert said.

The Center Square reached out to the campaign of Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, who is also running for governor.

“Dave Reichert and myself have always found lots of common agreement on the importance of public safety,” Mullet said. “Our differences have always been around supporting women’s reproductive rights and marriage equality. While I support reproductive choice and marriage equality, Reichert does not.”

Mullet also differs with Reichert on local law enforcement cooperating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“We don’t want undocumented residents to be afraid to call the police out of fear of deportation,” he explained.

The Center Square also reached out to GOP gubernatorial candidate Semi Bird, who last month secured the endorsement of delegates to the Washington State Republican Party Convention in Spokane.

The Bird campaign did not return a request for comment.