Clarity for police reform laws is coming; local leaders hope ASAP
SNOHOMISH COUNTY — Come January, state legislators will begin cleaning up ambiguities within the slew of police reform bills passed this year to make them clearer to follow, according to Snohomish County Council members who have spoken with key state Legislators.
Since the laws went into effect July 25, police agencies have had to identify for themselves on best practices on adhering to the new rules.
Local jurisdictions have begun sending letters requesting Gov. Jay Inslee call state Legislators into a special session to develop clearer guidance and to push state Attorney General Bob Ferguson to release model policy guidelines sooner. Ferguson has until July 2022 to publish his model policy documents.
The Snohomish County Council, though, isn’t one of them. A Democratic majority on County Council declined a request from Republican
Sam Low and Sheriff Adam Fortney to send a similar letter in a 2-3 vote Sept. 15.
Council Chair Stephanie Wright, and members Jared Mead and Megan Dunn voted no. Each said they support getting the police laws clarified, but called it premature to ask for a special session if the solutions are not concrete for legislators to act on.
Mead, previously a state legislator, indicated things could go awry in Olympia if solutions aren’t ready to present. Louder Legislative leaders would begin calling the shots instead of working hand-in-hand with community members or law enforcement.
Low requested the letter, saying clear answers couldn’t come soon enough.
Fortney said the laws disrupted morale and created uncertainty within the Sheriff’s Office ranks.
Fortney said in a 10-minute pitch, which early on he stated presumption a council majority would not support it, called sending the letter a non-partisan action.
Locally, Monroe’s bipartisan City Council unanimously signed a letter last week asking Inslee and Ferguson to develop clearer guidance as did Lake Stevens’ council. Everett’s City Council unanimously approved a similar letter in early September.
The most-cited ambiguities relate to having clear thresholds for when it is allowable to use force, setting by-the-book policies on when to detain someone and clear answers for how far de-escalation methods need to be taken before an officer can legally consider using force to control a person.
Incorrectly applying force during a situation can now be used against an officer’s certification to work in law enforcement under the new laws, which has only intensified the need for clear-cut model policies.
Related 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.
More on this story...
Calling all Snohomians
Who’s the oldest Snohomish Panther still around? Maybe it’s your relative? Maybe it’s you? The Tribune wants to find out. Tell us who you think it is: write to P.O. Box 499, Snohomish, WA 98291, email to firstname.lastname@example.org
or call 360-568-4121.
Watch for the Jan. 25 Tribune to
see some recognitions.
Check out our online publications!