RENTON Doug Baldwin continues to not just talk the talk but absolutely walk the walk.
The Seahawks’ top wide receiver and social activist with more than just words but a plan walked to the podium for his weekly press conference Wednesday while conspicuously holding a piece of paper.
“All right,” Baldwin said once he got behind the lectern. “I’ve got something to say.”
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It was far more meaningful than the norm from a professional athlete. It was far more than “Angry Doug Baldwin,” too.
It was more of his real-world action to affect change in our state and country, a manifestation of months and years of Baldwin testifying at the State Capitol in Olympia, meeting with police groups, listening and asserting the need for change police officers’ use of force and more emphasis on deescalation of encounters with citizens.
“I’ve spent the last year and a half, two years now working on things in our communities, with the intent of bridging the gap between law enforcement and our communities,” Baldwin, the son of a law-enforcement officer in Florida, said before practice Wednesday for Sunday’s game at Jacksonville. “As a human I feel extremely compelled to use my platform and my influence in whatever way for the benefit (of all), and not just the benefit for myself.
“I’ve spent countless hours meeting with community leaders, public officials, members of our law-enforcement community, politicians, technology companies and a number of other groups that had any type or form in this topic. And all these issues spread into communities across our country (but) I decided to focus my energies right here in the state of Washington in which I live, in an attempt to create a model for similar efforts across the country.
“So here in Washington state I’ve supported efforts to provide our law-enforcement officers the training and resources required to meet their changing and demanding needs of their job. In doing so I feel the community and law enforcement relationship will greatly benefit from renewed responsibility and accountability. So today I want to announce my public and financial support for Initiative 940.”
Initiative 940 is the Washington measure proponents hope will be go on the ballot soon that would require law enforcement to receive violence deescalation, mental-health, and first-aid training. It would provide first-aid training and increased ability for officers to administer first aid. It would change standards for use of deadly force, adding a “good faith” standard and independent investigation.
“This initiative aligns with my goals in seeking solutions that bridge the gap between communities and the law enforcement,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin has said for the past year what police organizations truly need to reform and progress in communities is money. He signed a $46 million contract extension before the 2016 season, so he is a better position than most to turn advocacy into action.
Baldwin is doing just that.
The 29-year-old Stanford graduate and National Honor Society member from the Gulf Coast of Florida outside Pensacola is the son of a law-enforcement and Homeland Security officer. He has been a face and voice of the Seahawks’ protest movement nationally since last year. He’s met and talked with police organizations from across the state, and with Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Baldwin has been advocating the need for new training and policies for police in their use of deadly force.
Baldwin talked Wednesday how Initiative 940 has bipartisan support in Olympia. How there are varying sources of funding that need to be synchronized. How there is a police strategy of "verbal judo" his father has explained to him, as an effective way to deescalate situations in the street that otherwise might end with the use of deadly force.
It was absolutely not the normal “we respect our next opponent, we are preparing very well” press conference from the typical pro athlete.
Baldwin’s work and outlook are indeed extraordinary. They go far beyond the push for the playoffs he and his Seahawks (8-4) are on. He told the story of going to speak at a dinner for SWAT officers a few weeks ago and that as he went to give his remarks he felt the officers there wanted to know why he was even there. After Baldwin spoke, he said the officers came to understand he is not “anti police” but instead is advocating to bridge the gap between law enforcement and its citizens who may or may not trust its officers.
“There has been some disparity and the understanding of what good faith means, so this initiative would eliminate the confusion of good faith in the regards to use of deadly force,” Baldwin said. “It’s been my desire to support efforts to aim at healing the relationship between law enforcement and the community, so I believe that this initiative is the step in the right direction...
“Obviously, my father being a law enforcement officer for 36 years, I understand the difficulties and the dangers that come with his job. I understand the inerrant risks, so I don’t want to take away from that. We never wanted to take away from that. We understood that this was a very serious topic to be addressing.
“However, it’s not necessarily trying to take anything away from what they’re doing. This initiative and the initiatives that we’ve supported in the past have always been about giving our law enforcement more resources and more training, so they can adapt to the dynamic job that they have. The communities are changing and our society is changing, and sometimes I feel like our law enforcement and the public services don’t have enough resources to keep up with the changes that we see in our society. This initiative, I believe, directly addresses that issue.”