A slew of new police reforms in Washington state force police officers to allow suspects to flee crime scenes in many cases, even if they are suspected of committing a violent crime.
Democratic Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed a dozen police reform bills into law in May, saying “we have a moral mandate to uproot systemic racism in our society” and that he believes Washington can become an “anti-racist state.”
The bills, some of which went into effect last week, were passed by the state’s Democrat-controlled legislature.
The spate of new reforms hamstrings cops in their ability to immediately detain violent criminals by requiring that they have “probable cause” to arrest them before they detain them, a much stricter standard than the previous “reasonable suspicion” standard. A police officer may also detain a suspect if the person poses an “imminent threat,” a term that lends itself easily to subjective interpretation after the fact.
Washington’s new laws do allow a cop to ask a fleeing suspect to stop and be detained, but the officer cannot use any force to prevent the suspect from escaping if “probable cause” is absent. The laws have been beset by confusion at police departments, but the new rules appear to mandate that even if the person is suspected of murder or rape, the cop cannot forcibly detain him on that suspicion alone.
Cops are also now required to use the “least amount of physical force necessary” in dealing with a suspect, rather than the previous standard of using “reasonable” force, restricting officers even further.
One of the bills drastically restricts when officers are allowed to engage in police car chases, apparently making it easier for officers to chase a drunk driver than a person suspected of committing a murder or sex offense.
Another reform cracks down on so-called “military equipment.” When the law went into effect, police departments in Washington were required to surrender all of their “military equipment,” which included machine guns, armed helicopters, bayonets, and grenades as well as firearms and ammunition of .50 caliber or greater. This had one apparently unintended effect — police had to turn in some of their less lethal weapons that happened to be .50 caliber or greater, including bean bag launching shotguns and foam round launchers. The law effectively stripped Washington’s police departments of several of their less lethal options for responding to violent crime.
The sweeping reforms also ban chokeholds, neck restraints, and “no-knock” warrants, and they restrict the use of tear gas.
In one change that could dramatically affect how police conduct is scrutinized, one of the bills creates a new agency to investigate and charge law enforcement officers statewide. In the past, that type of investigation would normally have been handled by local prosecutors.
Police say they are extremely concerned about how the new reforms will impact crime in their communities as well as the safety of officers. Morale at police departments in Washington has already been plummeting for months.
“There’s a real concern that it could increase crime, and it could increase reckless driving, traffic fatalities,” said Steven Strachan, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC).
This is an excerpt from The Daily Wire.
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