Several Democratic lawmakers in Washington state proposed a bill that would open up law enforcement and firefighter applicant eligibility to those who cannot read or write English.
The proposed legislation, SB 5274, would remove the English language requirement for city police officers, firefighters, fish and wildlife officers, and individuals applying for positions with the sheriff's office.
According to state Senator Javier Valdez (D) and ten other Democrats who sponsored the bill, it seeks to "expand eligibility in certain civil service positions to allow lawful permanent residents to apply."
The amended version of the bill, which passed the state Senate in March, states that it "removes the requirement that applicants for certain civil service positions must be able to read and write in English."
Democratic lawmakers proposed the legislation to address the state's job shortages and "promote diversification of Washington's public service by encouraging and highlighting bilingualism and multilingualism."
"This bill gives job access to people who are qualified but have previously been excluded from applying," the legislation reads. "With current job shortages and not enough workers to fill the roles, this intends to expand the pool of candidates. It expands applications to legal residents and waives some language requirements. They still have to meet the minimum requirements of the job."
The House Committee on Community Safety, Justice, and Reentry is anticipated to hold an executive session next week regarding the bill.
Jason Rantz, a Seattle-based conservative radio talk show host, slammed the bill as attempting to advance the Democrats' "equity agenda" and a "transparent attempt" to socially engineer diversity while hiring unqualified candidates.
"If they cannot read English as a police officer, how will they be able to understand written policies or read information from the Mobile Data Computer inside police vehicles? How do they prepare required reports if they cannot write in English?" Rantz asked.
"It puts our safety at risk. These are public safety jobs. One misunderstood policy or incorrectly completed form can harm people or lead to a criminal's release. Is that inevitability truly worth this ridiculous attempt to force diversity?" he added.
Earlier this month, KING-TV reported that the Seattle Police Department has been losing more officers than it can hire. As of March 1, the department lost 16 employees for various reasons and hired only 10 new officers. SPD hopes to hire an additional 125 officers in 2023.
The department recently implemented a new training program called "Before the Badge," which aims to attract more recruits by focusing on "interpersonal relationships and wellness before law enforcement tactics."
The program includes classroom sessions for officers to learn about the "profession's racist history, gender responsiveness, and the science of relationship-based policing."
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