How Everett Police will adhere to police reform laws
EVERETT — Multiple police reform laws that went in effect July 25 will restrict and modify how law enforcement deals with crimes.
The Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman noted his department already had rules against some of the tactics now illegal statewide, such as bans on chokeholds, shooting at moving vehicles and using “no-knock” warrants to enter. It already had strict guidelines on police pursuits that meet, and in some areas exceed, the new state law. It established a duty-to-intercede policy, where Everett officers already are required to intervene or report to superiors if witnessing another officer acting with excessive force, prior to state law making this a law.
“We’re still responding, but the response might look different,” Templeman said.
For example, officers must firmly ascertain probable cause before detaining a subject. It may mean on certain types of calls, such as welfare checks, officers will ask a lot more questions to determine probable cause to be in compliance with the law, Templeman said.
The city has published synopsis reports on each law from Everett Police’s point of view at www.everettwa.gov/policelaws
Many law enforcement agencies are grappling with interpreting how to best adhere to the new laws. Attorney General Bob Ferguson is due to publish model policy documents to use as guides, but has until 2022 to publish them.
On Aug. 11, City Councilman Scott Bader made a motion that the city draft a letter to ask Gov. Jay Inslee to send state lawmakers back into session to address confusing gaps in policy and to demand the Attorney General develop and release model policies immediately. The Council will vote whether to approve sending this letter at a future meeting.
Among the handful of new laws are House Bill 1310, which restricts when police can use force and changes the rulebook on detaining a person.
Everett Police interprets the rule requires officers to first establish probable cause of a crime before detaining a person with any physical force. Past practice was that an officer could apply light physical force to detain a subject for questioning if there was reasonable suspicion of a crime, which is a lower threshold.
It prohibits “Terry stops,” the chief said. These are where police initiate a stop to question someone because they “match the description.”
Police must use de-escalation methods first and foremost, and assess the situation before ever using force. This includes considering if the person is displaying signs of mental, behavioral, or physical impairments or disabilities before considering using force to hold them.
The law may change how Everett Police handle mental health calls. Incorrectly applying force during a situation can now be used against an officer’s certification to work in law enforcement, Templeman emphasized.
• House Bill 1504 limits police on traffic pursuits and from using military surplus. Everett Police have shelved their “sponge” rounds for riot control, Templeman said.
• House Bill 5051 tightened conduct controls on police behavior, and enlarges what constitutes misconduct.
An officer can lose certification to work in law enforcement if found to have engaged in prejudice or discriminatory acts, including what they post online; violate use-of-force policies; failing to intervene if seeing another officer act with excessive force; are in any extremist organization; and more.
• State vs. Blake
The state Supreme Court decision of State vs. Blake no longer makes drug possession a felony.
Officers now might give a person a substance abuse referral card and then walk away. Officers can only cite for drug possession upon the third encounter. “I know it may be frustrating, but our officer is following state law,” Templeman said.
Templeman said the department is considered a progressive police force. “I align with a lot of the goals of the Legislature,” including de-esclation, Templeman said.
“These new laws have already, and will change, how we respond to calls, but we have not applied a blanket ‘no response’ to calls” because of the laws, Templeman said. “I believe some members of the community will have to reset their expectations on how police respond.”
Relevant to this story:
Several new police accountability bills went into effect in Washington state July 25, changing some of the ways police officers can interact with the public. This explainer article plainly describes what law enforcement can and cannot do in relation to mental health calls, approaching people for questioning, detaning people, the limitations on considering someone a suspect and more.
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