New police reform laws raise concerns for local police departments

SPOKANE, Wash. — Thirteen laws passed during the 2021 legislative session will directly affect law enforcement, when a majority of them go into effect on July 25.

Across the state, concerns are already being raised by local police departments because of their impact on public safety.

For example, military equipment of weapons 50 caliber or greater cannot be used, eliminating current shotguns and the less lethal beanbag shotguns used in situations of de-escalation.

Tear gas, which was used during the protests, can only be used for barricades, a hostage situation, or for riots outside a correctional facility. However, before law enforcement can use it, they have to get permission from the highest jurisdiction. For local police departments, this will mean the mayor.

911 calls relating to domestic violence and mental health will not be responded to, unless certain conditions are met. Also, police pursuits are now limited.

“The new policy that impacts the entire state only allows pursuits for a handful of violent crimes, and you have to have probable cause that the person who committed the crime is in that vehicle,” said Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl. “Reform to me means that something is broken, to me. I don’t think, that majority of law enforcement in Washington State is broken. I think what we need to do, and what we are obligated to do, is constantly evolve.”

Spokane Police Department has already been putting these laws into effect. While Chief Meidl understands the reasoning behind the laws, he’s also concerned.

“I do feel like, based on the language of the bills that were passed and will become law on July 25th, I think this has gone too far, and I think this is going to create dangerous communities,” Chief Meidl said.

Liberty Lake Police Chief Damon Simmons has been keeping a close eye on these bills that were passed. He believes, some of these laws directly contradict their police oath.

“We in law enforcement are going to experience the inability to protect the public in the matter that which we’ve been sworn to do so,” Chief Simmons said. “It actually sickens me to think that people are going to call 9-1-1 and ask for assistance and they’re not going to get it.”

Liberty Lake Police Department will be discussing these new laws and how they will affect the community during their city council meeting on July 20th. The meeting will be available on Zoom.

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