Washington state House Democrats have announced a pair of bills intended to clear up confusion around police accountability laws passed last year.
House Bill 1735 is sponsored by state Reps. Jesse Johnson, D-Federal Way, and Alicia Rule, D-Blaine. The bill clarifies that officers can use force, subject to the newly established reasonable care standard, in behavioral health circumstances, for involuntary treatment commitments, in instances of child welfare, and other related circumstances, the Chronicle reports.
"Ultimately, these two bills do exactly what we committed to doing a while ago. There were several claims by law enforcement that the policies we enacted last year prohibited them from actions that they thought were in the best interest of public safety. In most cases, that was not true," said state Rep. Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver, who represents the 49th District and is a co-sponsor of the new legislation.
Republican lawmakers and law enforcement officials have been critical of the new laws since they went into effect in July, saying officers can no longer respond to certain crimes, such as a mental health crisis or domestic violence dispute; if a crime that has not been committed yet; or cannot arrest a suspect unless the officer witnesses the crime.
In those cases where the new laws are unclear, Stonier said law enforcement are the experts, and Democrats took their guidance when crafting the new legislation.
House Bill 1719, sponsored by state Rep. Dan Bronoske, D-Lakewood, will address the ban on firearms over .50 caliber, which Democrats said some law enforcement interpreted as inadvertently banning the use of less-lethal weapons and beanbag rounds for shotguns. The bill clarifies that the prohibition only applies to rifles and not shotguns or less-lethal munitions launchers.
Republicans announced their "Safe Washington" package of bills last week targeting the police reform bills. With 22 House bills and 21 Senate bills, the package includes bills to repeal the new laws and others with major overhauls. One bill sponsored by state Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, would increase the penalties for theft of a firearm, and another bill would allow victims of domestic violence to be present at all sentencing hearings. Wilson is also sponsoring a bill to amend the state constitution to allow courts to withhold bail in felony domestic violence cases.