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  • Wes Cormier

Is Olympia Arm-Chair-Quarterbacking Law Enforcement?

It is no doubt the responsibility of the Washington State Legislature is to make laws. Generally, most states give local governments a role in sorting out some of the details. Not Olympia, not this year.

There are several bills in the Washington State House and Senate that seek to micromanage local police and sheriff departments statewide. Democrats in the House and Senate, in the midst of the George Floyd incident and the Black Lives Matter movement put forth several bills micromanaging police and correctional officers.

House Bills 1310, 1054, 5056, 1082/5051, 1088/5067, 1089/5069, 1078/5086 all seek to, in some way, reforms law enforcement.

House Bill 1310

This bill would establish a statewide standard for the permissible use of force by law enforcement and corrections officers. Under the bill, a peace officer may use physical force against another person when necessary, to effect an arrest, prevent an escape, or otherwise protect against an imminent threat of bodily injury to the peace officer or another person. A peace officer may use deadly force against another person only when necessary, to protect against an imminent threat of serious physical injury or death to the officer or another person.

An Amendment was offered by Rep. Gina Mosbrucker (Clark) (R) that tried to clarify terms.

Provides that the terms "appropriate," "imminent," "minimal," "necessary," and "reasonable" must be interpreted according to an objective standard which considers all the facts, circumstances, and information known to the officer at the time to determine whether a similarly situated reasonable officer would have determined the action was appropriate, minimal, necessary, or reasonable, or the threat was imminent.

The amendment failed.

House Bill 1054

This bill would either ban or restrict certain police tactics, including choke-holds and neck restraints. It would also change policies on vehicle pursuits statewide. The bill, as passed, would allow law enforcement agencies to use tear gas, but only as “necessary to alleviate a present risk of serious harm posed by a riot, barricaded subject, or hostage situation.”

Senate Bill 5066

This bill would require law enforcement officers to intervene and try to stop excessive force by fellow officers. Police officers who witness excessive or attempted excessive force by a fellow officer would need to step in, or face suspension or decertification. The bill would also require that officers report any wrongdoing by another officer to that officer’s supervisor. Anyone can support accountability, but this bill is far too subjective.

House Bill 1082 (in committee)/companion Senate Bill 5051

This bill would greatly expand the Washington state Criminal Justice Training Commission’s (CJTC) authority and capability to investigate police misconduct and revoke or suspend a police officer’s professional certification. It would increase the number of reasons for which officers could lose their badge, adding use of force in violation of law or department policy to those reasons. Under the bill, the CJTC would be allowed to add investigators to pursue more cases against officers, and to suspend an officer for a broader range of alleged misconduct. The CJTC, and other boards and panels that review misconduct cases would be made up by a majority of civilians unaffiliated with law enforcement. The CJTC would also be authorized to begin decertification processes against officers accused of wrongdoing without waiting for a local sheriff or police chief to discipline such officers.

Opponents said the bill would give the state too much control over local police decisions, and demonstrate a lack of support for law enforcement officers who put their lives in danger to protect the public.

House Bill 1088/companion Senate Bill 5067 (in committee)

This bill would require law enforcement agencies to report to prosecuting authorities an officer's misconduct affecting credibility or any act of an officer that may potentially support a defendant’s not-guilty plea. It would also require law enforcement agencies, prior to hiring an officer with previous law enforcement experience, to inquire whether the officer has ever been subject to removal procedures.

House Bill 1089/companion Senate Bill 5069 (in committee)

Concerning compliance audits of requirements relating to peace officers and law enforcement agencies.

This bill would authorize the State Auditor to review a deadly force investigation to determine whether those involved complied with all applicable rules and procedures. It would also authorize the State Auditor, upon request by the Criminal Justice Training Commission, to review a law enforcement agency to ensure compliance with all applicable rules and procedures governing the training and certification of the agency's peace officers.

House Bill 1078/companion Senate Bill 5086

This bill would automatically restore voting rights to felons immediately upon their release from state prison. Under current law, released felons must wait until they finish all conditions of their release (including restitution), including community supervision before they can re-register to vote.

Tarra Simmons, (D) a representative out of Bremerton, Washington, who spent 20 months in jail as a convicted felon proposed and passed an amendment in House Bill 1078.

No doubt there are instances in every industry or profession where bad apples make headlines. There are examples of teachers or clergy taking advantage of children, fire fighters becoming arsonists, doctors or nurses intentionally killing patients. Law enforcement is no exception to this rule when it comes to bad apples, but to say that there is a systemic problem within any of these professions is absolutely meritless.

Is Olympia arm-chair-quarterbacking law enforcement or are these laws justified?

You decide.



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