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Law enforcement must protect both public safety and the rights of individuals. This is why arrests and use of force should be last resorts, not first options, for police. The ACLU-WA advocates for stronger laws involving police use of force, alternatives to arrest and incarceration, and de-escalation practices and  training. And to ensure law enforcement is accountable to the people they serve, the ACLU-WA works for greater community oversight, such as independent civilian review boards with disciplinary authority.
Cover of the wallet card: What to do if you're stopped by the police

Topic Resources

Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Last Monday, just before 9 o'clock at night, a half dozen Seattle police officers in black tactical gear, with guns drawn, broke down the front door of an apartment with a battering ram and put the man they found inside in his bathrobe face down on his kitchen floor at gunpoint. The officers' search revealed two marijuana plants, each roughly 12 inches tall, and a document establishing that the man on the kitchen floor had been authorized by his physician to engage in the medical use of marijuana as provided under Washington state law. Read more
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Last week saw the release of two annual federal government reports which highlight the pervasiveness of Marijuana in the U.S. Unfortunately, only one of these reports received attention from U.S. Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske. Read more
Monday, September 13, 2010
Prescription opiate abuse (powerful pain killers) is a serious problem requiring smart policy solutions. Two policies intended to curb abuse of these powerful drugs highlight the right and wrong approach for dealing with the issue. Read more
News Release, Published: 
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
In the wake of the tragic shooting of a Native American wood carver, the ACLU-WA told Seattle leaders they must provide leadership in preventing overreactions by police. Among other changes, officers must be trained to understand that “appearing different” doesn’t make someone a threat to public safety.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Gangs present a serious public safety challenge to our communities.  But the approach that our state has instinctively turned to in the past—relying on arresting and jailing those believed to be involved in gangs—fails to get to the root causes of the issue, and likely makes it worse.  To be sure, for Washington cities dealing with violent crime, such as those in the Yakima Valley, meeting this challenge means appropriately punishing violent offenders.  But it is equally critical to find avenues through which individuals can leave gangs and reenter the community.  Simply imprisoning gang members and telling them to leave gangs doesn’t work if there’s nothing else for them to do, and no resources to help them get out. Read more
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
A feature story in the Washington Post this week highlighted what has become a nationwide problem since 9/11: police and security officers interfering with the rights of people to take photographs. As the Post put it, “Almost nine years after the terrorist attacks, which ratcheted up security at government properties and transportation hubs, anyone photographing federal buildings, bridges, trains or airports runs the risk of being seen as a potential terrorist.” Read more
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
People rarely think about police accountability until their city is faced with a disturbing and well-publicized incident of police misconduct.  In Spokane that incident was the 2006 death of a mentally disabled man during an arrest.  Community outrage came immediately, but it took two years of public debate and discussion for the City Council and Mayor to enact an ordinance creating the Office of Police Ombudsman.  A little over a year ago, the City of Spokane took the next major step toward advancing police accountability by hiring its first Police Ombudsman.     Read more
Friday, July 16, 2010
In 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the right to remain silent during the now-famous court case Miranda v. Arizona.  But last month the Court redefined the process of invoking one’s Miranda rights. In Berghuis v. Thompkins the Supreme Court ruled, in a 5-4 split, that one must declare that she or he is invoking her or his right not to speak to police either before or during a police interrogation. In her dissent, Justice Sotomayor said the majority had created a kind of paradox: “A suspect who wishes to guard his right to remain silent,” she wrote, “must, counter intuitively, speak.”
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Recently obtained documents show that the University of Washington Police Department authorized an officer to spy on, collect information about, and participate in meetings of the UW Student Worker Coalition, without any suspicion of criminal activity. The ACLU of Washington is working with the SWC to uncover the extent of surveillance, and to encourage the University to take the steps necessary to prevent suspicionless surveillance in the future.   Read more
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Like publishing ideas in books or newspapers, demonstrating in the streets has been one of the fundamental outlets for speech throughout our nation’s history.  The Supreme Court has long held that speech gets maximum protection in certain kinds of public places, like parks, sidewalks, and streets.  People with soapboxes need somewhere to put them, after all. In these public places, speech may be limited only for narrow and very specific reasons.  States are allowed, for example, to prohibit demonstrators from blocking access to buildings like hospitals or fire stations.  We allow the government to make and enforce laws designed to keep those vital public services operating, even when it might limit people’s right to demonstrate in certain areas.  Courts call these “time, place, and manner restrictions,” and as long as they meet certain criteria, they’re constitutional. Read more