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Washington lawmaker: New policing laws ‘a bump in the road, not a crisis’

A police vehicle follows behind a group of demonstrators near Pike Place Market as they protest the death of Daunte Wright on April 12, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

New policing laws passed by the Washington Legislature have seen many in law enforcement state concerns over a lack of clarity, while others have defended it as necessary for crucial police reform.

Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo — in an interview with the Dori Monson Show on KIRO Radio — suggested that his office has been hamstrung by new police reform and accountability measures.

House Bill 1310, passed May 8 and effective July 25, stipulates parameters for the use of lethal force. This includes a requirement to use de-escalation tactics and alternatives to deadly force.

These changes represent one aspect of the Legislature’s police reform and accountability measures. Elfo expressed concern about the new laws.

Confusion besets new policer reform laws in Washington State

“These laws are going to profoundly affect our officers and deputies’ ability to detect and prevent crime, apprehend dangerous criminals,” he said. “Ultimately, it is going to make our communities less safe.”

Elfo provided several examples of encumberment and inefficiencies on the ground.

He referenced legislation that curtails police access to military equipment, which includes the .50 caliber shotguns used by police to deploy less lethal bean bag charges.

King County Sheriff’s deputies say new law takes away less than lethal tool

“I put in a supplemental budget request for $90,000 to equip our deputies with air guns as an alternative means for delivering less lethal [rounds]. … The 12-gauge shotgun has worked fine for us for years,” he said.

Earlier in the week, Dori also spoke with state Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, chair of the House Public Safety Committee. Dori echoed concerns from local police about their ability to work effectively under the new police reform measures.

Goodman spoke to how these new laws are merely a codification of training practices already put in place by the Criminal Justice Training Commission.

“I can tell you, the Seattle Police Department says that the laws we just passed will have minimal effect on their current policies and their current practice is not going to change,” he pointed out.

Goodman spoke to his perception of the reaction from law enforcement to the new legislation as favorable, saying that they understand the intent of the law is to better serve communities in terms of equity and treatment of people.

“This is a bump in the road — this is not a crisis,” Goodman said.

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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