Proposed bill would bring clarification around law enforcement’s ‘use of force’

As the bill is proposed currently it would stop people from fleeing lawful detention.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Law enforcement officers say they’ve been working in a grey area due to the police reform bills that passed last year. However, a new bill on the table hopes to bring more clarification around “use of force.”

The reform that went into law last year says police need probable cause to make an arrest at a scene, they can’t use force if they believe someone has committed a crime, and that person usually decides to just walk away.

“Uncertainty in law enforcement is always going to cause major problems in the deputies ability to make accurate, and correct decisions,” said Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich. “It could cost them their lives and it could cost the citizen their lives.”

As the bill is proposed, currently it would stop people from fleeing lawful detention. Officers say this will allow them to make decisions more quickly.

“As long as law enforcement exists and people break the law, law enforcement will always have the requirement and the necessity to be able to use reasonable force that will always happen but what we also tell them is that we use force because we have to not because we can,” said Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl.

However, activists say the bill is problematic and that it will cause more harm and reduce accountability. Enoka Herat is a member of the Police Practices and Immigration Counsel for ACLU Washington, and says the reform would create more violence.

“It puts a lot of people at harm,” said Herat. “It makes traffic stops much more dangerous for the driver as well as the officers, and it reduces police accountability and increases police violence.”

She says it would allow use of force on low level infractions without justification. The ACLU also believes it will harm communities of color.

“This is a place where racial bias flourishes and I mean the data shows across the state and across the country that people of color are disproportionally stopped are subject to physical force already,” said Herat.

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