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Rantz: King County Sheriff’s Office, other agencies pull several non-lethal tools thanks to Democrats

Mitzi Johanknecht is sworn in as the King County sheriff. (Hanna Scott/KIRO Radio)

Thanks to poorly written and researched so-called “police accountability” laws, the King County Sheriff’s Office has pulled several of its non-lethal tools. It’s not the only agency to make this move.

House Bill 1054, the brainchild of police critic State Rep. Jesse Johnson (D-Federal Way), bans the use of “military equipment.” But like too many anti-gun lawmakers, they do not understand what military equipment actually means. Indeed, law enforcement agencies do not use military weapons — unless you redefine the term. The bill did just that.

The bill defines military equipment as “firearms and ammunition of .50 caliber or greater.” Naïve lawmakers think the larger the caliber size, the more deadly the weapon. They’re wrong.

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Less lethal tools are now banned

Under the definition of the law, agencies may not use bean bag guns or the 40mm blue nose foam munitions. Both are non-lethal tools police use to cut down on serious use of force. Instead, they will now be forced to use considerably more lethal or less effective tools.

To Rep. Johnson and the other Democrats who signed off on this asinine law, the bean bag shotgun is given equal weight to “rockets, rocket launchers, bayonets, grenades, missiles,” and other banned tools that are not used by law enforcement.

Several agencies are now following the law to the letter.

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King County Sheriff following the letter of the law

In a memo acquired by the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH, Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht informed the Puget Sound Police Managers Association (PSPMA) that she would follow the letter of the law.

Johanknecht explained that based on her deputies’ “fear and anxiety,” she would follow the law as written because the consequences of violating them could lead to their decertification. She said that members of the King County Police Officers Guild (KCPOG) expressed significant “fear and anxiety” at a recent training to discuss the changes in the law.

“KCPOG members make up the majority of our commissioned personnel, including patrol, so they are most directly impacted in a scenario where a less-lethal alternative is used, contrary to state law. I am unwilling to put them in that position. They are very aware of the consequences of decertification under the new law and fearful of anything exposes them to that scrutiny,” Johanknecht wrote.

Johanknecht’s letter was in response to the PSPMA’s apparent assertion that following the letter of the law, in this case, is an outlier. The sheriff says that assertion “that we are an outlier is not correct.” She notes that the Washington State Patrol has made the same decision after advice from the Attorney General’s Office.

But more agencies are making the same move.

Other agencies make the same move

Other law enforcement agencies in Washington state have made the same tough decision to follow the law. They did this to protect their officers from even the threat of decertification.

Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney confirmed to the Jason Rantz Show that they’d pull those non-lethal weapons from the units that use them.

Both the Spokane Police Department and the Bellevue Police Department are doing the same.

“We decided to ground our less-lethal shotgun as well, until there’s further clarification on the law. We don’t want to put our officers in a situation where they use a piece of equipment that we give them, and it goes against what the law said. And so we’d rather side on the side of caution …,” Interim Bellevue Police Chief Wendell Shirley told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

Like other chiefs, Shirley called out the confusing, poorly-drafted laws.

“I certainly would have liked, and I’m sure my fellow chiefs and sheriffs would share the same thought, that the laws would have been much, much clearer than they are,” Shirley noted. “So that there’s not this confusion, and we’re having to backtrack and try and figure it out while we’re implementing it, right when it came into effect.”

Republicans try to make fixes

Democrats have downplayed concerns over the new laws. State Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland) called it a “bump in the road,” adding that “this is not a crisis.”

Goodman’s comment came in the same week that Puyallup police didn’t pursue a murder suspect, a bus thief wasn’t chased in Chelan County, and a teen exposing himself to women wasn’t detained by Kennewick officers due to the new laws.

Republicans in Olympia, however, are demanding action.

Sen. Chris Gildon and Reps. Kelly Chambers and Cyndy Jacobsen, all Republicans from Puyallup, have implored Governor Jay Inslee to call a special session so that they may “pass new reforms that will allow law enforcement to quickly and effectively stop criminals and keep Washingtonians safe.”

Citing the “recent legislation enacted which law enforcement officers across the state have said will put the public at greater risk,” several Republican lawmakers penned an open letter to Washington citizens.

State Reps. Vicki Kraft (R-Vancouver), Brad Klippert (R-Kennewick), Jesse Young (R-Gig Harbor), and Jim Walsh (R-Aberdeen) pledged to uphold their oath to support the U.S. and state Constitutions.

Was this by design?

The ban on less-lethal weapons by lawmakers who don’t understand weapons isn’t the only issue, of course. I wrote an in-depth piece looking at the various non-sensical laws for The Federalist that I hope you’ll check out.

I certainly believe incompetence could have played a role. But the laws were so poorly written it almost feels like Democrats did this intentionally. Is this by design? Their language indicates it may be.

Democrats set out to “reimagine policing,” pretending that former Officer Derek Chauvin represents officers we have in Everett, Redmond, Seattle, or Vancouver. They believe the system is broken and must be rebuilt. But they don’t understand policing; they don’t even have data to back up their anti-police animus. They don’t seem eager to do either.

Consequently, they passed a series of laws that don’t just make policing more dangerous for the officers; they’re putting members of the public at risk. Rather than address the issue, they downplay concerns. Their goal is, after all, to dismantle policing. Perhaps exposing the public to more dangers is justifiable to these Democrat lawmakers? If it weren’t, they’d join their Republican colleagues in getting back to Olympia to make the necessary fixes.

Did you like this opinion piece? Then listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz  on  Twitter,  Instagram, and Parler, and like me on Facebook

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