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WA Police Leaders Warn About Changes After New Laws Take Effect

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Sheriffs and police chiefs from eastern Washington are warning they’ll have to change their response to crisis when new state policing laws go into effect on Sunday. 

The laws are meant to reduce the number of violent confrontations between police and the public. Many police leaders argue they take away tools that are effective at de-escalating tense situations.
At a briefing for reporters Thursday, Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl said the new laws tighten the threshold by which officers can use force. Some provisions in the laws are vague, he said, leaving officers confused about how they’re allowed to act in certain circumstances. For example, he says officers called in to de-escalate situations with agitated individuals may not be allowed to use force to bring someone under control if they’re not breaking the law.
Also speaking was Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich. He blasted legislators who he says were led astray by social justice advocates who don’t like police. He criticized lawmakers for approving reform bills while ignoring input from policing organizations.
That was a point disputed by Spokane Democratic state Senator Andy Billig.
“There was extensive discussions, both in the formal committee hearing process, as well as through additional meetings throughout and before the legislative session," said Billig in a phone interview after the police briefing.
Meidl and Knezovich were two of about 15 sheriffs and police chiefs who attended the briefing in Spokane Valley. Yakima County Sheriff Matt Murray said the fact that so many law enforcement leaders are speaking out should be a clue to the public and legislators that something is wrong.