‘Never should have happened’: Activists rally in Spokane to voice concerns over changing state’s police reform laws

SPOKANE, Wa. — Police reform activists rallied on Monday at the steps of the Spokane Courthouse against the rollbacks of the new laws that went into effect last July.

Some law enforcement officers have said they’re working without clear guidelines since the police reform bills were passed last year, and this has made their jobs even more challenging.

Senate Bill 5919 would create more clarification on the use of force.

Those who gathered Monday are family members who were impacted by what they believe to have been excessive police force. Many lost their loved ones.

One of the many concerns on both sides is probable cause vs. reasonable suspicion for police officers.

“They really serve to lower the bar for when lethal force or physical force can be used, which means they want to drop it from probable cause down to reasonable suspicion. We don’t want the bar lowered. We want to continue to save lives,” Debbie Novak explained to us. Novak lost her son in 2019 after he was shot by a Spokane Police Officer.

There was a rally last Thursday in Olympia and folks in Spokane were showing their support Monday.

“There is a movement going to roll back or push back some of the new laws that were cast in 2020 in regards to police safety and police reform and we don’t want that to happen,” Novak said.

Victim advocates believe these laws slow officers down, deescalate situations and push them to use lethal force as a last resort.

The activists are concerned about House Bill 1310, House Bill 2037, House Bill 1788, and Senate Bill 5919.

“My son David Novak was shot and killed, here in Spokane, by a Spokane City Police Officer, January 7, 2019. He was shot in the back as he attempted to walk through the front door to his home and he was unarmed when he was shot. Never should have happened,” Novak told us.

Novak feels that getting officers to slow down will save lives.

CoFounder of Next Steps Washington Fred Thomas has experienced the same heartbreak as Novak.

“In 2013, our 30-year-old son had just lost a lifelong friend. He was upset, had a couple of drinks, the police showed up at his house to do a child welfare check and shot him. While he was holding his 4-year-old son in his arms,” Thomas told us.

Meanwhile, activists in Minneapolis continue to experience situations they too feel could have been de-escalated before the use of force resulted in another high-profile death in that city.

“The status quo is what got our family members killed,” Thomas said.

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