Washington passed insane “police reform”. Crime skyrocketed. So they changed their minds and are trying to take it back.

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OLYMPIA, WA – In 2021, the Washington state legislators passed several police “reform” bills that Governor Jay Inslee signed into law. These new requirements in the state covered everything from police background checks in the hiring process to which circumstances could lead to an officer being decertified.

Each of the acts stemmed from activities that started in 2020 after the death of George Floyd.

Seattle was one of the cities that saw civil unrest violence and extreme lawlessness. There was even a section of the city that was declared an “autonomous zone”. Police were forced out of their own precinct building and members of the zone’s leadership extorted business owners and residents by offering “protection.”

We covered the bills that Inslee signed in May of 2021. It took less than a year for the state to reverse some of those limitations they placed on law enforcement.

Even the Democrat lawmakers who sponsored last year’s reform bill said that it went too far and made it harder for the police to do their job and safeguard their communities.

One of the more glaring issues from the reforms was House Bill 1310.

This bill legislated, in part, that officers could only use force when they had probable cause to make an arrest or to prevent imminent injury. The law also required that “proper de-escalation techniques” be employed before using force, unless absolutely impractical to do so.

Please note, this is not specific to use of deadly force. This is use of any force.

As reported by Oregon Public Broadcasting:

“Police said the measure hindered their response to crime: Often when officers show up at a scene, they need to detain people to figure out if they were involved in a crime. But under House Bill 1310, they couldn’t use force to detain them unless they already had probable cause to arrest them, they said.”

Under HB 1310, people could simply walk away, and the police believed they were powerless to stop them.

Advocates of the new law claimed that, far too often, police use force against the wrong people, most specifically, people of color.

The Washington Coalition for Police Accountability asked the governor to veto the section of this new bill, House Bill 2037, that allowed force to be used to detain an individual.

In a statement, they argued that HB 1310 was “deliberately written to address discriminatory policing and reduce violence.”

Coalition member Leslie Cushman said, “Police don’t need additional authority to use force.”

State Representative Jesse Johnson sponsored HB 1310. He said that an unintentional consequence of the bill was that it restricted the “ability of police to detain fleeing suspects.”

HB 2037 allows police to effectively do their jobs while using no more force than necessary.

Last year’s version of reform only restricted when force could be used. It did not define what constituted force. The new legislation lays out exactly what they mean by force.

It is defined as any act reasonably likely to cause physical pain, or any act exerted upon a person to compel or gain control of them.

Pat-downs and handcuffing a compliant suspect is not considered to be a use of force.

Inslee has signed other bills into law recently that rolled back sections of reform from the 2021 legislative session.

According to the Associated Press:

“One of the newly signed bills makes clear officers may use force to help detain or transport people in behavioral health crisis, while the other corrects an oversight that seemed to inadvertently prohibit police departments from possessing certain less-lethal weapons.”

On numerous occasions, Washington residents would call police to help transport individuals in a mental health crisis, only to be told that they couldn’t unless they had committed a crime.

For Diane Ostrander, that limitation became a reality. After repeated attempts to get her 34-year-old, homeless son the help he needed during a psychotic episode, he assaulted her in January. At that point, police were able to intervene, and he has been in a psychiatric facility receiving treatment since his arrest.

Ostrander spoke about the signing of one of these new bills.

“[This bill] means my son will never have to go homeless or get arrested again for being in a mental health crisis.”

Another aspect clarified in the new laws is the use of less than lethal weapons.

House Bill 1735 “restricted police departments from having certain military equipment, including firearms of greater than .50 caliber. That inadvertently banned some bean-bag shotguns or other less-lethal weapons.”

The state’s Attorney General tried to offer clarification that the bill was not intended to include less than lethal weapons and agencies could continue to use them.

Many departments left them on the shelf, awaiting clarification from legislators, just be sure.

There is one final police reform roll-back awaiting approval before Inslee signs it.

Last year, lawmakers passed massive restrictions on high-speed pursuits. Senate Bill 5919 was passed by both chambers, but amendments made by the House must be approved by the Senate before making its way to the governor’s desk.

This new bill lessens the restrictions to allow certain types of pursuits to originate based off reasonable suspicion. The previous version required probable cause.

Only time will tell if these steps ensure that police can more effectively and safely do their jobs in the state.

 

Washington passed insane "police reform".  Crime skyrocketed.  So they changed their minds and are trying to take it back.

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DEEPER DIVE

Destroying law and order: Washington Governor Jay Inslee signs sweeping ‘police reform’ measures

SEATTLE, WA – On Tuesday, May 18th, Democratic Washington State Governor Jay Inslee signed a dozen bills that are designed to improve accountability for law enforcement.

According to the Associated Press (AP):

“The dozen bills Inslee signed include outright bans of police use of chokeholds, neck restraints, and no-knock warrants such as the one that helped lead to Taylor’s killing in Louisville, Kentucky.”

The legislation requires officers to intervene if their colleagues engage in excessive force, which is reportedly a demand that was inspired by the officers indirectly involved in the George Floyd incident.

The bills also create an independent office to review the use of deadly force by police, making it easier to de-certify police officers for bad acts, and require officers to use “reasonable care,” including exhausting de-escalation tactics in carrying out their duties.

The bills make the use of tear gas and car pursuits restricted and it is now easier for individuals to sue officers when they inflict injury.

Before signing the bills, Inslee said in a statement:

“As of noon today, we will have the best, most comprehensive, most transparent, most effective police accountability laws in the United States.”

He added:

“These bills are all going to work in coordination with one another to create a system of accountability and integrity stronger than anywhere else in the nation.”

In 2020, Inslee convened a task force to suggest ways to guarantee independent investigations of police use of deadly force. This task force was put together after community outrage over the death of Manuel Ellis, who was reportedly claiming he could not breathe while being restrained by Tacoma police.

When signing the bills, Inslee did so at a community center in Tacoma. Under the legislation recommended by the task force, the state will have an independent office that will hire regional teams to review such cases.

There are also restrictions on hiring police or former police officers as investigators and eventually the investigations will be conducted by civilians with other areas of expertise, such a behavioral health.

Reportedly, the measures were driven by Democrats, who control both houses in Olympia and several of the key lawmakers pushing the bills were people of color.

According to Rep. Jesse Johnson of Federal Way, these individuals worked closely with families of people killed by police, community activist groups, and police groups themselves, such as the Washington Fraternal Order of Police, in developing some of the other bills.

He said:

“This process was deeply collaborative, deeply visionary, and deeply intentional about lifting up every voice from community to law enforcement.”

Some of the bills, including one signed earlier by Inslee that reforms the private arbitration system by which officers can appeal discipline, had bipartisan backing.

A coalition of Washington state law enforcement unions, representing more than 14,000 officers, said it could accept some measures, including the arbitration reform and duty-to-intervene bills.

However, the coalition did express concern that the decertification bill threatened the due-process rights of officers.

The Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs, which represents 60% of the states fully commissioned law enforcement officers, opposed the bill restricting police tactics and the measure requiring” reasonable care” in using force.

Marco Monteblanco, Washington State FOP’s President, said that the organization worked hard to bring these bills into a place that is workable to allow officers to still do their duties and keep communities safe.

He said:

“We need to go out there and do things to make sure ALL citizens, including our law enforcement professionals, are safe.”

Rep. Johnson, who is also a member of the legislature’s Black Members Caucus, said in a statement:

“All of these bills together I think are a constellation of efforts to create accountability and justice within the system and I think it’s going to make things safer.”

Many Republicans have disagreed. Sen. Mike Padden, the ranking Republican on the Senate Law and Justice Committee, went so far as to call the package of bills “hostile to law enforcement.”

Padden specifically criticized the ban on the Lateral Vascular Neck Restraint, a technique used by many departments nationally, which he argued if applied properly, can be safe and effective.

He stated:

“It’s a shame to see that tool take out of the tool box.”

Monteblanco, who is also a Kennewick Police Department detective, also said:

“I’m optimistic, even with the bills I didn’t particularly agree on.”

Monteblaco was reportedly involved in the entire process of these laws, communicating with lawmakers and community members and giving his input from a police perspective.

He said:

“We are having these discussions on a local and national level and it is an obligation of police to listen and be at the table of those discussions. We may not agree on everything, but we are listening and that helps build trust and open communication from all sides.”

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Maryland Democrat lawmakers override Governor’s vetoes, pass sweeping police reform legislation

April 11th, 2021

ANNAPOLIS, MD- On Saturday, April 10th, the democratic-majority led Maryland General Assembly voted to override Governor Larry Hogan’s (R) vetoes of three police reform bills that are part of the four-part Maryland Police Accountability Act.

That makes Maryland the first state to repeal a Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights and enact sweeping changes to the state’s law enforcement procedures.

Shortly after Gov. Hogan vetoed three major bills in the landmark police reform package, state lawmakers were on a mission to override the governor’s rulings in the final days of the legislative session.

Hogan contended that central provisions of the sweeping four-part police reform act go too far and will treat police officers unfairly. On Friday, April 10th, he vetoed three bills containing those sections.

By Saturday afternoon, April 10th, the Democrat-controlled General Assembly had voted to override the vetoes. Reportedly, the first provisions of the Maryland Police Accountability Act will take effect later this year.

The legislation will overhaul the disciplinary process for officers accused of misconduct, allow public scrutiny of complaints and internal affairs files, and create a new legal standard requiring that police use only “necessary” and “proportional” force.

Officers who do use excessive force will face additional criminal penalties, including up to 10 years in prison. Police also be limited on when they can obtain “no-knock” warrants or raid homes at night.

Supporters of the legislation stated that it is the most far-reaching police reform in the state’s history, an advance they claim will begin to restore frayed community trust in law enforcement. House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D) sponsored key portions of the package and said in a statement:

“Now, for the first time in our nation’s history, the rights of officers will not be held above the rights of individuals and policing in Maryland will be transparent and citizen-centered.” 

On Friday, April 9th, during his veto message, Hogan said:

“The police reform effort was overtake by political agendas that do not serve the public safety interests of the citizens of Maryland and that he bills be vetoed would further erode police morale, community relationships, and public confidence.”

Republican lawmakers echoed the Governor’s concerns and said that the provisions would leave officers fearful that split-second decisions under dangerous circumstances might cost them their jobs or send them to prison.

Maryland Fraternal Order of Police President Clyde Boatwright warned that the legislation would have a “significant impact on the hiring and retention of law enforcement officers in our state.”

Under one of the bills passed over Hogan’s veto, complaints against officers, even those rejected by internal affairs investigators as baseless, will become public records and subject to potential release.

Critics of the legislation, including police unions and many Republican lawmakers, fear that the transparency measure will end up smearing the reputations of officers by airing baseless complaints. Sen. Robert Cassily, a Hartford County Republican, accused Democrats of “anti-police animus” in passing the legislation.

Among other far-reaching provisions passed over Hogan’s veto is the repeal of Maryland’s Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, a 1974 law that guarantees job protections and due process rights for officers accused of wrongdoing that critics have long alleged shields officers from accountability and has been among the biggest impediments to reform.

Maryland was the first state in the nation to pass such a law, which dozens of other states have since copied, and now it is the first state to repeal it.

Complaints, infractions, and allegations of wrongdoing against officers will now be handled by a new disciplinary system controlled largely by civilian committees that will weigh evidence against officers and recommend discipline.

Del. Matt Morgan, a Southern Maryland Republican, suggested that those in favor of the legislation read the names of the hundreds of people murdered in Baltimore each year. He said the legislation “does not make our citizens more safe.”

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