Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.) introduced the 911 Diversion to Unarmed Personnel Act, which would provide funding for unarmed 911 response programs that divert nonviolent 911 calls to specialized service providers instead of law enforcement.

“It’s abundantly clear that we need to fundamentally reimagine public safety and what law enforcement looks like in our country,” said Rep. Adam Smith. “Too often, law enforcement officers are tasked with responding to situations they are neither trained nor equipped to handle. Directly addressing systemic racism and restructuring law enforcement’s approach to public safety must recognize the range of urgent needs that are best addressed without police involvement in a holistic, equitable way that centers on getting individuals the resources and services they need.

“With guidance from members of the community, I authored the 911 Diversion to Unarmed Personnel Act to support programs that enable 911 call dispatchers to direct nonviolent calls toward unarmed, specialized responders who can connect people with the care they need,” Rep. Smith continued. “Community-based public safety programs across the country have shown incredible success in responding to nonviolent 911 calls, and instead of sending police to a behavioral health crisis, specialized service providers like social workers, medical professionals, and peer support counselors would respond. These programs reduce violent and hostile encounters, help restore trust between law enforcement and community members, and provide better services and care for public safety.”

911 receives more than 240 million calls every year. The overwhelming majority of these calls involve nonviolent, non-criminal incidents such as neighbor disputes, nuisance complaints, truancy, reports of “suspicious” activity, requests for wellness checks, and mental health crises. Both the police and policing reform advocates often assert that specialized service providers—such as social workers, paramedics, and peer support counselors—are better equipped to handle such situations than armed officers. The “send the police to everything” approach that prevails in much of our country often places armed law enforcement officers in situations they are neither equipped nor trained to handle and leads to encounters between police and civilians that turn violent and, in many cases, deadly.

The 911 Diversion to Unarmed Personnel Act would provide funding to state, local, or tribal jurisdictions to support unarmed 911 response programs that divert nonviolent 911 calls toward specialized service providers and away from traditional law enforcement.

The bill requires that the programs are managed independently from state or local law enforcement agencies. These diversion programs will help ensure that individuals who are experiencing addiction crises, homelessness, or developmental or intellectual disability, or other mental health issues are met with professional service providers capable of providing screening, assessment, de-escalation, and transportation to immediately necessary treatment.

The 911 Diversion to Unarmed Personnel Act one-page summary is available here and text of the bill can be found here.

Statements of Support:

Washington State Representative Jesse Johnson:

“This legislation is about doing all we can to prevent another needless death. Another funeral. Preserving and protecting human life should be our highest value. The 911 Diversion to Unarmed Personnel program is common sense because it prioritizes de-escalation and alternatives to incarceration for those experiencing a mental health crisis, homelessness, addiction or a disability. It will help reduce violence and build trust in the system with communities of color because everyone deserves to be safe and to be protected. Every life should be valued.”

Michelle Merriweather, Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle:

“Everyone deserves to be treated with humanity, including those who face mental health crises. 1 in 10 police interactions involve a person with a mental illness. Our Black and Brown folks living with disabilities need support, not potential jail time. Having a diversion program to ensure that when someone is in crisis, they are not met with an armed police officer will provide public safety so that everyone makes it out alive. The 911 Diversion to Unarmed Personnel Act will provide vital funding for our community in Washington state and make sure we are protected.”

Sakara Remmu, Washington Black Lives Matter Alliance:

“The nation has reached a pivotal point, both in awareness of community safety through the experiences and deaths of Black Americans, and in deciding to stand up and take action to make the changes required to better serve all communities. It is time to go beyond imagining a new way—it’s time to begin to implement alternatives to an armed police response when someone needs help, or is having a mental health crisis. Law enforcement officers are not social workers, they aren’t doctors.  Attempts at de-escalation are more likely to fail when someone with a gun shows up. With this bill, Congress is beginning to take steps to make changes to policing and community safety that we have demanded for decades.”

Lyn Idahosa, Federal Way Black Collective:

“The summer of 2020 taught us a lot, as organizers in community we have heard calls for true change had a goal to create a solution that removes the burden of utilizing the police as a catch all agency and also clearly sets a priority to change the way mental health services are delivered to the public from a more holistic and dignified perspective. Having trusted messengers in community to respond in times of mental crisis is important not only for future patients but also in restoring trust in systems and the improving community trust and outcomes. Congressman Smith is honing in on clear practical policy that makes sense and is the response community has been calling for every time we say the name of the victims that have lost their lives because we need the right kind of service providers addressing these calls.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) released the following statement after the House passed H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021, and H.R. 1446, the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis, gun violence has only grown worse, ending an average of 100 American lives each day. Even with many Americans staying home to prevent the spread of COVID-19, gun purchases spiked in March 2020 and firearm fatalities rose in the following months. Today, Congress has begun to address the epidemic of gun violence with two pieces of strong, bipartisan legislation.

"It’s is overwhelmingly clear that background checks work. Every day, background checks stop approximately 170 felons, 50 domestic abusers, and 20 fugitives from obtaining a gun. However, major loopholes exist in the system that allow unlicensed dealers and vendors at gun shows to sell guns without running any background check at all. Ninety percent of Americans, including responsible gun owners, recognize the value in keeping firearms away from people who can’t pass a background check. H.R. 8 closes the background check loophole to bring all states forward in requiring background checks on every gun purchase.

“I’m also proud to have finally closed a major loophole in gun laws that armed the shooter in the tragic massacre at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, that killed nine innocent people. Commonly referred to as the ‘Charleston Loophole,’ federal law allows licensed gun dealers to hand over guns to individuals who may not qualify if their background check has not been completed by the FBI within three days. Despite being prohibited by law from possessing a firearm due to his history of unlawful controlled substance abuse, the shooter obtained a gun due to this technicality. H.R. 1446 provides the FBI with the crucial time needed to complete a background check on a potential firearms purchaser before a licensed dealer can transfer a gun.

“With the passage of the Bipartisan Background Checks Act and the Enhanced Background Checks Act in the House, Congress has taken a foundational step toward saving lives from gun violence and keeping our communities safe.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.) released the following statement after the House passed the American Rescue Plan Act, sending it to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

“The American Rescue Plan Act will provide the tools needed to beat COVID-19 and support individuals, families, and small businesses struggling from the economic crisis. This package provides direct cash assistance to families, ramps up vaccine distribution, gives schools resources for COVID-19 prevention and mitigation, and supports small businesses.

“The American Rescue Plan delivers immediate relief to the workers and families bearing the brunt of this pandemic. The bill will provide direct housing assistance, nutrition assistance for 40 million Americans, and expand access to safe and reliable child care. It includes the most significant expansion of affordable health insurance in a decade to keep affordable health care within reach for millions of people. Unemployment insurance is extended so that 18 million American workers can afford to pay their bills and put food on the table. The bill also strengthens economic recovery by expanding the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit to cut child poverty in half and support more than 17 million low-wage workers.

“While we still have much work to do, this package lays the foundation needed to help bring an end to the pandemic, support students and schools, get shots in arms, put dollars into families’ pockets, and help people get back to work.”

For more details, please see the H.R. 1319, American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 One-Pager here and full Fact Sheet here.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.) released the following statement following House passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which would protect workers’ basic rights to join a union by empowering workers to collectively bargain, hold employers accountable for violating workers’ rights, and secure free, fair, and safe union elections.

“Over the last several decades, wages have not kept pace with the rising costs of education, child care, housing, and other basic necessities—a situation exacerbated by the pandemic and current recession. This is a direct result of state and local policies, and a lack of strong federal protections, that have enabled the assault on workers’ rights.

“Strong unions are one of the biggest and time-tested tools to combat economic inequality. I am proud to support the PRO Act, which will streamline the process for workers seeking to organize a union, protect employees from retaliation for collective bargaining, crack down on worker misclassification, and authorize meaningful penalties for companies and executives that violate workers’ rights.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown just how vulnerable workers are without the ability to collectively bargain for safe working conditions and fair wages and benefits. The PRO Act is the most significant upgrade to US labor law in 80 years. It is a giant step towards restoring a fair and equitable economy that protects workers’ rights to collectively bargain for better pay, benefits, and on-the-job safety.”

To learn more, you can view the PRO Act Fact Sheet here.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, today issued the following statement after the Biden administration explicitly supported efforts to replace the existing Authorizations for Use of Military Force (AUMF).

“Much has changed since the initial passage of the 2002 AUMF, namely the democratic Iraqi government is now our partner in our counterterrorism mission. Given that the 2002 AUMF was passed to authorize the Iraq war, and because circumstances in the region have changed so significantly over the past 19 years, this authorization should be repealed.

“As a legislator and policy maker, I am glad that the Biden administration is willing to work with Congress to review the existing authorities. It’s not enough to just repeal the 2002 AUMF – serious reforms to the 2001 AUMF are also required, and I look forward to working on substantive changes with my colleagues in Congress.”

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