Spokane activist Kurtis Robinson began his term as a Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commissioner Tuesday after being appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee.
The commission was created in 1974 to create standards and provide training to law enforcement officers across Washington state. It is responsible for the basic law enforcement training every new recruit in Washington state receives before obtaining their peace officer certification.
The commission is made up of 16 commissioners appointed by the governor that currently include Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Chief of the Washington State Patrol John Batiste and law enforcement leaders from across the state.
Robinson was appointed to the seat held by a member of the general public. His term ends in June 2026.
Prior to his appointment, Robinson worked with the commission as a member of the Initiative 940 community stakeholder group to work on training and police reforms focused on use of deadly force.
That’s where outgoing director Sue Rahr first met Robinson.
“When I think of the many different community people that we worked with, he was one of the people I always appreciated seeing his face in the group because he is so well spoken and so reasonable,” Rahr said.
Robinson said the appointment was “an honor,” but he is also a bit wary, because this is the first time the commission has included a member of the formerly incarcerated community.
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity. I think it shows that they’re in a different place now, and yet also being in that different place we just continue to have to be very wary of why has this never happened before,” Robinson said. “You don’t do business without getting feedback from your clients.”
As a proponent of restorative justice, Robinson hopes to bring accountability to the commission and law enforcement.
“It’s a more expansive dimension of restorative justice,” Robinson said of the practice where victims and offender meet. “We don’t villainize somebody because they did something wrong and we don’t judge them by the worst or by the 10 worst things that they’ve done; instead we look at what happened to them to cause that behavior.”
Robinson said he also hopes to work on avenues to help officers serve both society and themselves better, mentioning the high suicide rates of law enforcement officers nationwide.
Until recently, Robinson served at the president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP and currently serves as vice president for the organization. He is also the executive director of I Did the Time, an organization that works to reduce discrimination against formerly incarcerated individuals.