Group claims cops have ‘intentionally misinterpreted’ state’s new police accountability laws

Aug 10, 2021, 8:21 AM | Updated: 11:44 am
White Center homicide suspect, policing laws...
Police at the scene after shooting a homicide suspect in White Center in early August. (KIRO 7)
(KIRO 7)

While many in law enforcement have argued that recently enacted police accountability bills have hindered their ability to do their job, one group is claiming that officers have “intentionally misinterpreted” the new laws.

State AG: Nothing in new police laws prevents cops from responding

Police have pointed to several recent instances where they believe the new laws kept them from adequately responding to active crimes. The Washington Coalition for Police Accountability, though, is accusing law enforcement across the state of engaging in “a disinformation campaign surrounding the 2020 legislative package.”

“This is a coordinated political attack, where officers are refusing to do their job and falsely blame the defund movement,” WCPA member and Not This Time Director DeVitta Briscoe said during a Tuesday press conference.

That had one of the bills’ sponsors, state Rep. Jesse Johnson, voicing concerns last week over how officers have been interpreting the bills. Speaking to KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson Show, Rep. Johnson pointed to a recent incident where Pierce County Sheriff’s Office deputies claimed the new laws prevented them from pursuing a suspect in a Puyallup murder. Police stated that because no one witnessed the suspect pull the trigger, they did not have probable cause to forcefully detain him under the conditions laid out in the Legislature’s bills.

Johnson took issue with that interpretation.

‘Legitimate issues that need to be addressed’ in new state policing laws

“When you look at law enforcement policy, ‘probable cause’ is when (the officers) deemed that a crime had most likely been committed,” he noted. “In my mind, when I saw that — and I’ve talked to numerous law enforcement across the state — probable cause was established the moment they arrived and they had a suspect that matched the description.”

Others with the WCPA have further claimed that officers have “done everything in their efforts to undermine” the legislation since it was implemented this year.

“They are turning this into a political bloodbath, and the people who will suffer from this are members of the community,” said Katrina Johnson, the cousin of Charleena Lyles, who was shot and killed by Seattle police officers in 2017.

“Law enforcement was involved — they had input in the legislation,” WCPA member Sonia Joseph added. “These laws were passed to reduce violence and increase accountability; the intent was clear, but rather than embracing these changes, some law enforcement members have decided not to do their job.”

While stopping short of calls to defund police departments, the WCPA issued a challenge to Washington mayors, asking that they take action to ensure that their officers are acting in good faith with the state’s new accountability laws.

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Group claims cops have ‘intentionally misinterpreted’ state’s new police accountability laws