MOSES LAKE, WA – What happens when you call for help and no one comes? People in Moses Lake and other Washington communities are about to find out.
Moses Lake Police Chief Kevin Fuhr has been sounding the alarm since May about a package of new “police reform” laws that have been passed and signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee. Now, the Chief said police will follow the law.
— Dr Karen Carr (@Quatr_us) May 20, 2021
Following the law means that many times, police will not be coming.
Of the laws passed this year, the main one of interest is House Bill 1310, or state Rep. Jesse Johnson’s “use of force” bill. It was signed by Gov. Jay Inslee on May 18 and goes into effect July 25 of this year.
The bill requires police to have probable cause before using force, as opposed to reasonable suspicion.
The law also creates a new board to investigate officers accused of wrongdoing or excessive force, makes it easier to decertify or prosecute officers, and limits their ability to act.
During a June 22 meeting, Fuhr said:
“This is changing completely the way we’ve responded to some of these calls … and there will be some calls that we just absolutely don’t respond to from here on out.”
Fuhr described recent meetings he held with the Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chiefs (WASPC), as well as the Washington Cities Insurance Authority (WCIA). He said both organizations recommend police adjust the way they respond to calls.
Routine community care-taking functions such as welfare checks or mental health incidents should no longer be responded to by the police under the new law, according to Fuhr:
“The unfortunate thing is, I think of the person who’s in mental health crisis in a family member’s home, (and the) family member calls us, and our response is going to be, ‘I’m sorry, it’s not a crime. We can’t respond.’
“Frankly, my argument is (that) an ambulance should be doing that, not a law enforcement officer.”
— The Progress Network (@progressntwrk) May 28, 2021
The new package of laws has made it almost impossible for police to use any force in any situation that is not a crime. For example, if a child runs away from home and is located by an officer, the officer could ask the child to go with him but could not force the child to come.
Coupled with another provision in the law that virtually eliminates qualified immunity, which protects officers from lawsuits if they act within the law, the new use-of-force standard results in police only being able to respond to criminal acts.
WCIA also recommends police not respond to misdemeanor crimes, such as small theft or custody issues. Chief Fuhr explained that often, those cases require the use of force, but the law laws forbid it:
“Sometimes, those incidents require (the) use of force, and we don’t have a legal authority to be there.”
Under the new laws, police are limited on what they can do in traffic enforcement as well. Police can stop a vehicle, but they cannot require the occupants to exit the vehicle, cannot pat them down for weapons without their consent, and cannot put them in handcuffs without probable cause.
The Washington state Legislature starts a new session in Olympia today, with COVID-19, tax reform and police accountability on the agenda.
But the threat of armed protesters hangs over lawmakers’ work. https://t.co/UI4w7wVPDS
— Crosscut (@Crosscut) January 11, 2021
Traffic stops are one of the most dangerous acts an officer performs, and often proactive enforcement of traffic laws leads to arrests for drugs and other crimes. Under the new law, police will not be able to take proactive steps, because they cannot put themselves in a situation where force may be required before probable cause is established.
In addition, police can only pursue a vehicle suspected of major crimes, including robbery, rape, and homicide. The Chief explained:
“It is now law, and so we can’t violate law, and so there is no discussion as far as us doing it, because it’s been enacted.”
Chris Pappas has put Washington special interests over the safety of our police officers. @ChrisPappasNH voted to end qualified immunity for Granite State police officers AND took thousands of dollars from DC Super PACs to do so. #nhpolitics #nh01 https://t.co/zaA10Ary4m
— Team Mowers 🇺🇸 (@TeamMowers) August 26, 2020
In summary of the new laws, Fuhr said people are going to have to adjust to the new normal in Washington state because the law created a situation where the police are not always going to come to their aid. It is not what the police want, but it is what the officials elected by the people want:
“It’s going to change the level of service we give to our citizens. Not because we want to, but because we have to.”
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Destroying law and order: Washington Governor Jay Inslee signs sweeping ‘police reform’ measures
May 19, 2021
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.”
Washington Gov. Inslee signs sweeping police reform measures https://t.co/ScdooL7Vl5
— Daniel Shunra (@shunradan) May 19, 2021
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.”
“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.”
A bold move towards serious police reform by Jay Inslee.
The Associated Press: Washington governor signs sweeping police reform measures.https://t.co/FJyHloUuLN
— James Sayer_The Breakdown (@JamesSa75888275) May 19, 2021
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.
“This process was deeply collaborative, deeply visionary, and deeply intentional about lifting up every voice from community to law enforcement.”
— Jairo Rodriguez (@RealtorJairo) May 19, 2021
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.
“We need to go out there and do things to make sure ALL citizens, including our law enforcement professionals, are safe.”
— TriCities WA News (@tricitieswanews) May 19, 2021
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.
“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.
“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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