Police-080521

Over the last week, several new laws related to police went into effect in Washington State, including HB 1310, HB 1054, and SB 5066. These laws impact police departments on a range of issues and will change how Woodinville Police operates. Here’s why you should care: if you call 911 because you’re reporting a crime or a crisis, police may respond in a way that you weren’t expecting. You deserve to know why.

The goal of many of the recently enacted laws is to reduce police uses of force by prioritizing de-escalation. I can tell you this goal is shared by our Woodinville deputies who work every day to use the least amount of force necessary to keep our community safe and solve crime. Since 2016, Woodinville deputies have responded to more than 16,000 calls for service, 1,000 traffic collisions, and have made well over 125 arrests each year. In that same five-year period, Woodinville deputies have used force that was judged likely to cause injury or did in fact cause injury only four times. De-escalation is a practice our department values highly and has been training and working on well before this recent legislation was introduced.

Many of the new laws codify the high standards and conduct Woodinville Police were already operating under, but some of the laws will significantly change our operations going forward. HB 1310 limits the authority of police to use physical force in ways impacting how police respond to reports of crimes in progress and crisis calls.

Here are three ways police response may be different than in the past:

• Slower and more deliberate response. The new laws did not come with built in training or clear application to all situations. Deputies will be working hard to assess each call for service and determine what our authority is to intervene based on the language of these new laws. We will still be responding and assessing, but I’m asking for your patience as we work to comply with these requirements. I really believe it was the intent of the legislature to encourage police departments to slow down and consider outcomes, alternatives, and the scope of police authority before acting, so that is what we will do.

• More emphasis on follow-up investigations. HB 1310 limits the ability of police to physically prevent someone from fleeing a scene of a crime unless we can determine “probable cause” (a higher burden than the old standard of “reasonable suspicion”). That means some of the crime solving we used to be able to do on-scene as part of the initial police response will now be done by detectives after the fact. We are still committed to solving crimes, but you may see deputies taking care not to confront or chase suspects. This isn’t because we don’t care about the crime or victim, it’s because we are required to refocus our efforts on other methods of crime solving.

• Supporting rather than leading crisis calls. Woodinville deputies are working with our fire, mental health, and crisis response partners to transition to a new role when responding to crisis calls. In the past, police often took the lead on responding to crisis calls, however new laws limit our ability to compel a person to seek resources or get medical care. Instead, police will be responding to these calls first and foremost to ensure the safety of everyone involved and engage in ongoing consultation with our partner agencies about how to best help given our limited authority. 

As Woodinville’s new Chief of Police in this moment of transition, I’m very proud of the commitment our police deputies have shown to the high standards of our profession. I’m fortunate to work with a great group of women and men who are service minded and dedicated to public safety.

Thank you to all of you who have spotted me out in the community and said “hi!” over the last few weeks. I appreciate the warm welcome!

Originally published on the city of Woodinville’s website

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