Agencies "Brace" for Annual Spate of Training to Enforce Newly Passed Laws

Ever-evolving laws governing both police and citizen behavior isn't news for which law enforcement agencies and/or officers must "brace" themselves, but it's also news that cannot be ignored.

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Earlier this month, a local television news station in Alabama posted to its website stating that police agencies across the Yellowhammer State are "bracing for new law changes" that "could be hectic for law enforcement."

According to WAFF-TV, one of the new laws going into effect allows concealed carry firearms without a permit, necessitating training on interaction with those individuals.

Apparently, Alabama General Counsel Jeff Bradley is traveling around the state to provide officers with training on asking the question "Are you carrying something concealed?"

First off, a news headline declaring that police are "bracing" for such a "training" requirement seems excessively exercised. Further—and not to put too fine a point on it—if an officer isn't asking some version of this question of any and every person being detained for questioning should probably enroll in a refresher course on Officer Safety 101.

Continual and Ongoing

Training to update officers on changes to policy and procedure—resulting from newly enacted legislation and/or relevant court decisions—is continual and ongoing, and it's not limited to the annual change of the calendar year.

In March, the Los Angeles Police Commission unanimously approved the new policy mandating that officers with the LAPD making "pretextual stops" record themselves on their body-worn cameras stating their reasons for suspecting a more serious crime has occurred.

In July, officers in Alabama became subject to a new law that prohibits police from using facial recognition as the sole basis to make an arrest or establish probable cause during an investigation.

Also in July, officers in New York had to get updates on newly adopted regulations on the Empire State's already restrictive concealed carry laws. Those new requirements—including a stipulation about people who apply for a license to carry a concealed weapon to prove their 'good moral character'—were subsequently suspended pending the outcome of a Second Amendment challenge to the law.

As for new laws going into effect that directly impact actual law enforcement, most—with the very important exception of what's happening in Illinois—are rather insubstantial and innocuous.

Several states have enacted laws that address the growing popularity of "autocycles" or "ebikes" and incorporate their operation into a host of vehicle codes, including subjecting their riders to moving violations. 

In California, AB 2147 makes it illegal for law enforcement to stop a pedestrian for jaywalking "unless a reasonably careful person would realize there is an immediate danger of collision with a moving vehicle..."

This California law is problematic on many levels, but the most hilarious is the fact that anyone committing a "jaywalking" violation under the previously existing statute would necessarily be either unreasonably careful [read: careless] or not realize the danger inherent in walking into the path of oncoming vehicles.

In all seriousness, however, there are a few new laws taking effect next week that will have a significant effect on law enforcement in some places—most significantly, the abovementioned Democratic Republic of Illinois.

Never Trust a Law's Name

The Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today Act—commonly known as the SAFE-T Act—has garnered national news media attention for entirely ending cash bail (more on that in a moment)

The SAFE-T Act also bans chokeholds and establishes a duty-to-intervene requirement for officers in the Prairie State. In addition, it requires all law enforcement agencies to use officer-worn body cameras by 2025. All three of those latter changes have training ramifications for which agencies statewide will have to allocate time and money.

Meanwhile it's important to note that the so-called "bail reform" legislation has a fundamental impact on public safety, officer, and thus, police training.

Consider the fact that to date in Chicago—the state's biggest city and the third-most populous in the United States—more than 3,000 people have been shot (nearly 650 fatally) in roughly 2,500 separate incidents. It's abundantly clear that there haven't been 2,500 gunmen committing those crimes—it is a finite number of violent criminals, many of whom have been recently released from brief incarceration.

Under the SAFE-T Act, individuals arrested for a wide variety of crimes will be pretty much immediately released back onto the streets pending their appearance in court. Nearly every one of them will not be particularly interested in returning to jail, and at least some number will commit another crime before their next court date (some won't show up to court at all), potentially placing them in further contact with police.

States attorneys holding office in more than half of the counties in Illinois have filed lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of various elements of the SAFE-T Act, but beginning next week, it will go into effect. Only time will tell what effect it has.

Ever Evolving Training

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least half of all states "have enacted legislation limiting the use of neck restraints" since 2022 and "at least 20 states addressed state level standards for use of force" in recent years. Each of those new laws prompted police trainers to provide training that enables officers to remain compliant with expectations.

States have also enacted legislation mandating new or revised training in crisis intervention, de-escalation tactics, emotionally disturbed persons, human trafficking, implicit bias, officer mental health, and other areas.

Ever-evolving laws governing both police and citizen behavior obviously necessitates ever-evolving training. This isn't news for which law enforcement agencies and/or officers must "brace" themselves, but it's also news that cannot be ignored.

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