SPOKANE, Wash. — Governor Inslee is making changes to sweeping police reforms enacted last year. While he says it’s a step in the right direction to clarify some of the laws, police accountability activists say the changes are harmful.
House Bill 2037 makes clear police can use force to stop people from fleeing crime scenes. Police have been calling for an overhaul to many of the bills passed last year while others felt the progress the bills made was substantial.
“This bill is a result of that hard work,” said Governor Jay Inslee at a bill signing on Thursday where he signed HB 2037 into law.
Inslee sees House Bill 2037 as clarifying police reform laws, but not everyone is convinced.
“This bill is not a clarification. It is a rollback,” said Jac Archer, the organizer and program coordinator for SCAR which stands for Spokane Community Against Racism.
Archer is disappointed with the changes.
“At the time when I saw that bill make it through both chambers, I was heartbroken. Heartbroken because it was completely unnecesary,” Archer said.
Archer says the changes are unnecessary because the new laws were working. The ACLU of Washington says the state had a 62% decrease in police killings following the enactment of House Bill 1310. That bill prohibited police from using force to stop someone fleeing a scene if they didn’t have probable cause.
“The law no longer allows us to do certain things that are crucial to keep the community safe,” said Craig Meidl, the chief for the Spokane Police Department. “Officers are not able to be proactive to the same measure that they were.”
Police across the state have been advocating for changes and updates to the laws passed last year.
“The bill clarifies that use of force is limited and defined to prevent a suspect from fleeing a scene,” Inslee added.
The new legislation allows police to use reasonable force if they have suspicion someone fleeing could be involved in the crime.
“In that moment, when force was being used on them, it was a situation where what was needed was more communication — not bodily injury,” Archer said. “That is what multiple of my friends have suffered is bodily injury.”
Archer is worried about the force police are allowed to use again and is left with questions if progress surrounding police reform will persist.
“I have to wonder — are we here to continue the work that we started in 2021 or aren’t we?”
In this legislative session, Inslee also clarified police are able to help detain or transport people in a behavioral health crisis. SCAR is currently working on a public safety outline for the community. 4 News Now will release those results and ideas when the information is released. SCAR is also asking for more community feedback on what’s needed to make sure public safety works for everyone.
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