GRANT COUNTY, Wash. -- Grant County Sheriff Tom Jones expressed his concerns with the upcoming law enforcement reform laws that are set to go into effect on July 25, 2021.
These new laws will change the way police will be able to deliver their services to the public, specifically relating to "use of force" and "police tactics".
Jones said that he will begin mandatory training for all commissioned and limited-commissioned police personnel to help officers adjust to the new laws.
In his statement, Jones focused on House Bill 1310, which dictates "uses of force" in policing.
Jones explained the new bill saying "the current standard is called the “reasonable officer standard” and use of force was determined to be lawful if under the totality of the circumstances, it was objectively reasonable. Under the new law, a deputy sheriff in Washington can use force under only three affirmative circumstances: (1) when probable cause exists or to make an arrest; (2) to prevent escape (a legal term, not just someone running away); or (3) to protect against imminent threat of bodily injury to a person."
Jones also goes into how the new laws change the threshold of when police can use force to "probably cause" instead of the previous "reasonable suspicion". He provided an example of how these changes would look in a real-life scenario, saying "under the current law, if a man was to break into your shop, you confront him and he runs away, and you call 911 to provide a detailed description, it has always been considered reasonable that if a law enforcement officer arrived in the area and saw a suspect matching this description, we had the legal authority to stop him. If he ran, we were allowed to use reasonable force to chase him and detain him. This would be allowed under the current “reasonable suspicion” threshold. Effective July 25th, under HB 1310, we are no longer allowed to use force, even if he is running from the deputy, until probable cause is established."
Jones provided another example, this time relating to how police could respond to people experiencing a crisis. Previously police could detain someone suffering from a crisis and get them help at a medical facility. Under the new law, Jones says deputies can no longer detain a person simply for the purposes of involuntary treatment.
"Sadly, there may be times deputies will have to walk away from the situation. With this law, the legislature signaled its intent to have more behavioral health intervention as opposed to law enforcement response. I fully support our behavioral health partners, but I do not believe they are sufficiently staffed to respond, nor properly equipped to deal with people who have may have a propensity towards violence or actively acting out. It’s just not as safe without law enforcement protection" said Jones.
Another bill that will go into effect soon is House Bill 1054, which changes certain tactics deputies can use to de-escalate and make arrests. This includes police pursuits. "The new law virtually eliminates all police vehicle pursuits. Moving forward, deputies must have “probable cause” to believe a person in the fleeing vehicle has committed a specific violent crime. This is a very high standard and nearly impossible to meet" said Jones.
Below is a list of House Bills that were passed into law that directly affects law enforcement. Jones added that he strongly encourages citizens to familiarize themselves with the new bills and how they impact the way police respond to incidents.
- HB 1054 Peace Officer Tactics
- HB 1140 Juvenile Access to Attorneys
- HB 1223 Recordation of Custodial Interrogation
- HB 1267 Office of Independent Investigations
- HB 1310 Permissible Uses of Force
- HB 5051 State Oversight
- HB 5066 Duty to Intervene
- State v. Blake (Possession of controlled substance).
These new laws can be found at the following link: https://leg.wa.gov/
"I believe these laws will have negative and long-lasting consequences for the residents of our great county. As our office adjusts to the new ways of providing police services, know that our deputies will still be accountable to the citizens we serve. Please know that the men and women of this office are the best of the best. We will continue to respond to calls, but regrettably, in many cases, it will look different" said Sheriff Jones in closing.