Local advocacy groups celebrate new police reform laws

SPOKANE, Wash. — Police are not handcuffed by new laws designed to keep people safe—that’s the message Thursday from a group of local advocates, speaking out in support of new police reform laws that just went into effect in Washington.

There were more than a dozen laws passed this past spring, they range from banning chokeholds and military equipment to limiting the use of tears gas. Advocates say these are necessary to repair a broken relationship between law enforcement and the community.

The group and members of the Spokane community have been focusing on two pieces of legislation that went into law last month: House Bill 1054, which limits and officers ability to use certain weapons and tactics, and 1310 which establishes reasonable care for use of force.

“I think if we start to dig into this, we’ll see they’re quite reasonable constraints,” said David Carlson a a local lawyer.

Police don’t feel the same way, however, and have concerns of their own.

“There’s a lot of ambiguity with these laws that are exposing counties, municipalities, departments and sheriff’s office to tremendous amount of liability,” said Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl back in July.

RELATED: Eastern Washington law enforcement leaders concerned about new reform laws

Some law enforcement officers also question if they can respond to a mental health crisis, but today the state attorney general clarified – they are not prevented from going to those situations.

Police have also raised concerns about not being able to handcuff someone who is under reasonable suspicion, City Council President Breean Beggs disagrees, pointing to the founders of the constitution and the Fourth Amendment.

“And they understood that it would be more difficult for law enforcement to enforce the laws doing that, they understood that. But that’s always the tension between a democracy and a police state,” said Beggs.

Beggs says he know it will be a difficult transition for officers to change many of their practices

“But again, for 180 years our police were able to protect us and they’ll be able to protect us again,” he said.

The group of advocates that gathered on Thursday afternoon called upon the state attorney general to speed up the publishing of model policing policy, and to personally oversee the implementation of the new state laws.

RELATED: What WA’s new police accountability laws do and don’t do