Controversial police reform bill passes Washington House of Representatives

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A controversial police reform bill is heading to the Washington Senate. It’s attempting to ban specific police tactics and place restrictions on how law enforcement agencies police the community.

On Saturday night, it passed in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives 54 to 43. House Bill 1054, sponsored by Rep. Jesse Johnson of Federal Way, has a lot of pieces to it — covering everything from tear gas to chokeholds and military equipment.

Law enforcement agencies get the excess military equipment from a federal surplus program. It provides guns, magazines, medical kits, exercise equipment and more. At the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, the agency has more than 1,000 items from the program, including a mine resistant ambush protected vehicle (MRAP).

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If the bill passes, the MRAP would need to be given back to the program. Silencers and grenade launchers were supposed to be apart of the banned military equipment. However, they were amended and removed from the bill.

Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich previously told 4 News Now that equipment, such as the MRAP, is used to protect you and de-escalate situations.

“You take it away, the more less-lethal stuff you take away, the more lethal actions happen,” Knezovich said.

Activists believe it does the opposite, and says violence begets violence.

“The fact of the matter is de-escalate, de-escalate instead of escalating,” said Pastor Walter Kendricks, a Spokane activist apart of a statewide task force to address issues of policing and racial justice.  “Of course when a tank shows up, of course that’s intimidating.”

Military equipment is one small piece of this bill.

Some of the changes in the updated bill includes the use of tear gas. The bill states officers can only use it to “alleviate a present risk of serious harm posed by a riot, barricaded subject, or hostage situation.”

However, agencies have to try other alternatives before resorting to tear gas. Police officers would need permission from the Chief of Police or Sheriff to use it.

If officers use tear gas, they would be required to announce the intent to use it and it would need to be said twice before deploying the tear gas.

Chokeholds or neck restraints would be banned. Police chases would have new restrictions.

Also, a criminal justice training commission will come up with a work group to create a policy for training and using K-9s. In the previous version of the bill, lawmakers wouldn’t allow police dogs to be used for arresting or apprehending someone. However, that has since changed with the new bill.

Rep. Jacquelin Maycumber, who represents Republic, has released a statement regarding the passing of the bill.

“The ‘Defund the Police’ movement is not popular in my legislative district. The majority of my constituents recognize the value of giving law enforcement more options, more training, more equipment – all in an effort to keep our communities and families safe. There is an understanding that, while we need to weed out the bad actors, the vast majority of law enforcement personnel choose to do their job out of a sense of community, honor and service.

“This legislation erases decades of police reform and takes us backwards to a time where cops had fewer options. The fact is, less training, less equipment, less options for our police will make our communities and families less safe.”