Mountlake Terrace will join Snohomish County mayors public safety coalition

Mountlake Terrace Police Chief Pete Caw speaks Thursday night to city councilmembers about the need for public safety reforms during the upcoming legislative session.

The Mountlake Terrace City Council agreed during its Thursday, Nov. 17 work/study session to join a newly formed coalition of mayors and business leaders who said they are committed to addressing ongoing community concerns about public safety in Snohomish County.

The group — Mayors and Business Leaders for Public Safety — is a nonprofit organization. Organizers said it was created in response to increased incidents of property and violent crime across Snohomish County, and to address mental health and homelessness challenges that are primary drivers of the increase.

The coalition, which was announced Oct. 4. says it has 15 members. It did not originally include Mountlake Terrace, even though mayors in the neighboring cities of Brier, Edmonds and Lynnwood had signed on. While the city had not yet officially joined the coalition, Mountlake Terrace Mayor Kyoko Matsumo Wright did sign a letter — sent to Snohomish County legislators Nov. 15 — outlining the group’s priorities, which include:

– Legislation addressing the Blake decision, which decriminalized nearly all drug possession in Washington state.

– Criminal justice policies that will allow officers to more effectively use their training, experience and judgment in the field.

– Increased funding for both law enforcement and social services.

The council talked about joining the coalition during its Oct. 13 work/study session, but some councilmembers said they wanted more information about the group before deciding whether to participate — and set a date of Nov. 17 for additional discussion.

On Thursday night, councilmembers reached consensus to participate.

“I think it’s important that we as a city join the coalition and that we support safety in the community,” said Mountlake Terrace City Councilmember Rick Ryan, adding the city needs “to work together as a team in support of Snohomish County to help some of the problems that we’re addressing right now, as many have been reported with our own police department.”

Councilmember Erin Murray asked Mountlake Terrace Police Chief Pete Caw if he could clarify how the effort will specifically help the city’s police department. Caw replied that the coalition’s focus is on addressing two laws passed by the state Legislature that “created more problems than they solved.”

The first was the Legislature’s response to the Washington State Supreme Court’s Blake decision, which decriminalized nearly all drug possession in the state. The Legislature passed a law stating that drug possession would be a misdemeanor, but there is a two-year sunset on the law unless lawmakers take additional action.

The second was legislation that determines when police can engage in vehicle pursuits of a suspect.

“In our mind, that (vehicle pursuits) is a command decision that should come from the police chief, not from the Legislature and it’s made things very complicated,” Caw said. Mountlake Terrace has a “very conservative” pursuit policy, he added.

Each city participating in the coalition pays a fee — for Mountlake Terrace it is $3,750 — that covers the cost of a consultant to guide the effort.

— By Teresa Wippel

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