New Legislation: Impact to Policing in Pullman

New Legislation: Impact to Policing in Pullman
Posted on 07/23/2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 23, 2021

Gary Jenkins, Chief of Police

Pullman Police Department

(509) 334-0802

 

New Legislation: Impact to Policing in Pullman

 

It is important to us that you are informed about recent Washington State legislation that will significantly impact our ability to serve you. A number of “police reform” bills were passed by the Washington State Legislature, some of which go into effect July 25, 2021, and others January 1, 2022. Here is a brief summary of two of the bills, which will have the most obvious impact on local policing, beginning July 25:




HB 1054

  • Prohibits use or acquisition of “military equipment”. The definition of military equipment includes any firearm greater than .50 caliber.
    • Pullman PD has been utilizing a 40mm less lethal impact device, which can be deployed to temporarily incapacitate persons who pose a threat of bodily harm to officers and the public. This device is very similar to a “bean bag” device, except that it is more accurate and less likely to cause injury. This device has been removed from service as required by the legislation.
  • Prohibits vehicular pursuits, unless the officer has probable cause that a specified serious crime has occurred (such as murder, assault in 1st degree, kidnapping 1st degree, or rape), or DUI.
    • As described in the HB 1310 summary below, probable cause is typically developed after officers arrive on scene and are conducting their investigation, not when they are initially responding to a 911 call. This bill will virtually eliminate all police pursuits, including those involving suspects who are leaving the scene of a serious crime.

 

HB 1310

  • Restricts officers from using any degree of force, unless “probable cause” exists to arrest, prevent an escape (after arrest), or protect someone from imminent harm.
    • “Probable cause” is developed during investigation of a crime where the evidence leads to a likely suspect. Officers currently can detain a suspect on “reasonable suspicion”, a lower standard than probable cause, while they investigate a crime to potentially develop probable cause for arrest, or release the person if probable cause is not developed.
      • Example: Officers respond to a possible burglary at your residence and see a person walking quickly away from your house, wearing clothing that matches witness descriptions. Current law allows officers to detain that person at the scene, while they conduct a preliminary investigation to determine whether a crime was committed, and whether the person being detained likely committed that crime. When the new legislation becomes law on Sunday, July 25, officers are prohibited from detaining the suspect.
  • Restricts the ability of law enforcement to assist persons with mental health issues.
    • Currently, officers can take a person who is suffering a mental health crisis into protective custody, to transport them to the hospital for an evaluation. Since officers can no longer use any degree of force unless probable cause exists for a crime, we cannot take persons into protective custody who are suffering a mental health crisis unless they commit a crime.
  • Requires that an officer exhaust available and appropriate de-escalation tactics prior to using any physical force, taking as much time as necessary without using physical force or weapons, and leaving the area if there is no threat of imminent harm and no crime has been committed, is being committed, or is about to be committed.
    • How long is required? One hour, three hours, two days, …? Unfortunately, this law provides no definitions or additional guidance.
  • Even if law enforcement would otherwise be capable of providing assistance through resources, negotiation or peacekeeping, officers will now be required to leave the area if there is no crime or threat of imminent harm.

 

The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) works with legislators every legislative session, to provide law enforcement input regarding proposed legislation and its impact on law enforcement and community safety. When WASPC made suggestions to mitigate the negative consequences of these bills, the authoring legislators indicated they had no interest in their suggestions. I will note that local State Legislators, Senator Mark Schoesler, and Representatives Mary Dye and Joe Schmick, did not author or support these bills. Our local representatives have been very supportive of law enforcement and community safety.

 

These new laws threaten the safety of our Pullman community, while increasing risks faced by law enforcement officers. Please know that the Pullman Police Department remains committed to providing you with the best service and safety. We will continue to work within the restraints of these laws, to keep Pullman as safe as possible.

 

For more information about these bills, please visit https://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/. If you wish to voice your concerns about the impact that these laws will have on public safety in our local community, and throughout the State of Washington, please call the Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000, or visit http://app.leg.wa.gov/memberemail/ for an email contact list.