WA police reform laws will impact local policing

By on Friday, July 23rd, 2021 in Columbia Basin News Featured Stories

WALLA WALLA COUNTY – Walla Walla County Sheriff Mark Crider, Walla Walla Police Chief Scott Bieber and College Place Police Chief Troy Tomaras have collaborated on a letter to the community addressing the recent passage of multiple bills addressing police reform by the Washington Legislature and how these laws will impact local law enforcement services. Most of these laws take effect Sunday and, as the letter states, “will profoundly impact policing across the state of Washington.”

While the heads of the local law enforcement agencies say they have been asking and are still waiting for clarification from Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office, the public is encouraged to learn about the major reform legislative bills which are House Bills 1054, 1140, 1223, 1310 and Senate Bills 5051, 5066, 5476. The letter to the community states “As a result of these recent legislative changes, law enforcement response to non-criminal calls will greatly decrease.”

Crider, Bieber and Tomaras said, at a minimum, the following are areas in which law enforcement response will be eliminated:

Welfare Checks – generally local law enforcement will not respond; however, a supervisor may give approval if it is determined there is no other alternative. An example being a person lives out of state and hasn’t heard from a relative in over a week and there is no one else locally to check on them.

Involuntary Treatment Act – A director of crisis response must have completed an evaluation and signed the director of mental health program form prior to law enforcement response. Officers will still verify the involuntary treatment act requirements (a danger to themselves, a danger to others, gravely disabled) prior to taking action.

Mental health calls – Generally law enforcement will not respond, and the public should call the Crisis Response Team at 509-524-2999. If a supervisor determines a crime has occurred an officer will then respond.

Civil calls – Generally law enforcement will no longer respond. If an actual crime has occurred, a supervisor will determine if law enforcement response is required.

Suspicious person calls – Dispatch will broadcast for information. Law enforcement will drive by if available to be a visible deterrence but will not make contact unless a crime is observed.

Law enforcement will continue to serve such things as no contact orders and orders of protection. Crider, Bieber and Tomaras end the letter with this this statement: “Unfortunately, over many years, law enforcement has become the default response when people call 911. Whether or not the police were the correct resource to respond, we responded. All three of our organizations take a great deal of pride in the level of service we provide our community. The recent police reform legislation which goes into effect on Sunday, July 25, 2021, places our agencies and personnel in a difficult position; One in which we want to continue providing any and all services our community requests, but at the same time must reduce our responses to certain calls for service in order to comply with the law.”