by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Washington state just reimagined policing with sweeping so-called “police accountability” bills that went into effect this week. Led by anti-police activists enabled by allies in the Democrat-controlled legislature, the consequences of these dramatic changes will be worse than you can imagine. And Democrats don’t seem to care.
Police use of force is now strictly limited. Car chases and tear gas are almost entirely banned. Chokeholds are now forbidden, requiring officers to use more lethal tools at their disposal. Some bills even conflict with others.
“The challenge is — I’m going to be very frank — the laws were written very poorly, and the combination of them all at the same time has led to there being conflicts in clarity and in what was intended versus what was written,” Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla told ABC News.
HB 1310 dictates only three scenarios where officers may use force. The most significant shift mandates officers can only use force when “probable cause” exists for an arrest.
Before the changes, “reasonable suspicion” was the standard. That is, police lack concrete evidence for an arrest but there is a reasonable suspicion to temporarily detain the suspect because officers think they committed a crime. The bar for probable cause is much higher because it requires some kind of concrete evidence (eyewitness affirmation, a confession, discovery of a warrant if the suspect gives his name, etc.).
The instances when police can use force are now to make an arrest, prevent an escape, or protect against an imminent threat of bodily injury to the peace officer, another person, or the person against whom force is being used.
HB 1054 severely restricts vehicle pursuits. Police cannot pursue suspects in vehicles unless there’s probable cause to believe that the suspect “committed or is committing a violent offense or sex offense.”