After last year’s riots and calls for police reform, the Washington State Legislative members have passed several new laws that will significantly change how policing will work across the state.
The bills passed are labeled House Bill 1054, and House Bill 1310. HB 1054 concerns, “Establishing requirements for tactics and equipment used by peace officers.” While HB 1310 is “Concerning permissible uses of force by law enforcement and correctional officers.”
“I support that some reform has to take place,” Sunnyside Police Chief Al Escalera said.
Some examples that HB 1310 reforms will bring involve changing reasonable suspicion, (a hunch), to probable cause, (having evidence to support).
Police officers now have to judge and make a rationalized decision based on whether they have the “legal authority” to be present at a scene, according to a media release by the Sunnyside Police Department.
“Their judgment is excellent. Police officers statewide, and nationwide. The more experience you gain, obviously the more you learn from these experiences, and you will know suspicious activity when you see it, and you know when it’s reasonable, or not, to contact somebody,” Escalera said.
Alongside judgment calling, HB 1310 revamped how physical force will be executed by police officers. De-escalation tactics, and less lethal alternatives will be set in place of older methods.
HB 1054 focuses more on the type of equipment police officers are eligible to access, like the use of police dogs or certain types of military equipment.
“We currently don’t have a K-9 at Sunnyside Police Department,” Escalera said. The Sunnyside Police Department also doesn’t carry military type vehicles.
According to the new bill, “Any law enforcement agency in possession of military equipment must return the equipment to the federal agency from which it was acquired, if applicable, or destroy the equipment by December 31, 2022.”
“We have some fully automatic weapons that were given to us by the military that would have to be returned,” Escalera added.
If any of the house bill laws are broken, officers face decertification, which could come with major consequences.
To help prepare for the changes, the Police Department has been training officers to help differ from their past habits of reasonable suspicion to probable cause.
“There are some things that are just not going to be a problem. There are some things that are going to be difficult in making the adjustment from,” Escalera said.
Since the bill has passed, one officer has resigned, leaving 29 total police officers on the force.