New police reform laws affecting domestic violence cases

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SPOKANE, Wash. — Starting next week, police in Washington will change the way they respond to domestic violence and mental health calls.

The change comes from one of 13 bills passed by the legislature — with most reforms going into effect next week.

Police arrests and police pursuits are also under stricter guidelines, a lot of these falling under a law which won’t allow police to make arrests or detain someone unless there is enough evidence to prove it. Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl, understanding where these laws come from, is nonetheless frustrated by the limitations of police.

“I do feel like, based on the language of the bills that were passed and will become law on July 25th, I think this has gone too far, and I think this is going to create dangerous communities,” Meidl said.

However, the second law enforcement is called, a domestic violence victim is more in danger than they were previously. Right now, police can use that 911 call alone to arrest someone. After Sunday, however, they’ll need more evidence to make that same arrest. Police say that means the person accused of causing the assault has plenty of time to leave, or even leave and come back.

Many advocacy organizations work directly with law enforcement, since here in Spokane, the largest number of calls Spokane PD receives are those of domestic violence. CEO for the YWCA, Jeanette Hauck understands that while law enforcement’s relationship with the community is an important one, it comes with power. She says she understands where the frustrations may lie.

“For them to not be able to enforce the laws they know that are in place because of these changes, that can be incredibly frustrating for them, and again, it could leave our clients vulnerable, and that’s not what we want,” Hauck said.

Her hope is that these laws increase public trust instead.

“The intent of this law is really to make sure law enforcement has that lens of discernment, so they use the least amount of force necessary in any interaction with the public,” Hauck explained.

Annie Murphey of the Spokane Regional Domestic Coalition explained a domestic violence case is oftentimes more complicated than the initial 911 call.

“Domestic violence is extremely nuanced,” Murphey said. “There’s lots of different parties involved often and they have to piece through those stories, sometimes they have to go find people, people aren’t always there on scene and so that’s where I think we could see some changes.”

Both Murphey and Hauck however are concerned about safety of the victims. Murphey, in her experience says domestic violence victims already have to make more than one call to have any action taken.

“Is it possible, now that system will be delayed even longer? Yes it’s possible,” Murphey said. “I’m hesitant to make any huge assumptions.”

Murphey and Hauck explained, it’s just too early to tell what the implementations of these laws will look like in the future. Spokane Police have already started integrating the new laws into their daily practices.

Domestic Violence

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