Sheriff calls for legislative session to ‘fix’ police reform laws

The Washington State Sheriffs’ association is asking the Governor to convene a special session this year.

They say this can’t wait until the next legislative session that begins in January, as time is of the essence.

They say they are already making difficult decisions under new laws they believe are seriously flawed

Since the new police reform laws took effect in July, law enforcement has been saying their hands are tied. Now the 39 elected sheriffs in Washington state say the legislature needs to go back into session to correct them.

“We just want clarification on some of these issues,” said Grant County Sheriff Tom Jones, president of the Washington State Sheriffs’ Association.

He, deputies, and police officers across the state say the new laws require more than a “reasonable suspicion” that a person should be arrested. Now they need “probable cause,” a higher standard. And that means some dangerous people will go free.

“What we don’t want is our folks and our staff to, I call it ‘getting cute’ on these laws and trying to find end-runs to do their job,” said Sheriff Jones. “So, that’s why as an association we said we need to get our legislators back in session to get some clarity so we can pass it along and our folks are doing things the right way.”

“The new laws were to prioritize the preservation of human life,” says DeVitta Briscoe of the activist group, Not This Time.

She insists nothing in the new laws prevents deputies and officers from protecting the public from those who mean harm.

“It’s just requiring them to do their jobs differently,” she said. “It’s requiring that they de-escalate. It is requiring that they do their jobs, that they change their tactics.”

But Sheriff Jones says the impact is already being felt on the ground.

“We’re still going to respond to the calls (in Grant County),” Sheriff Jones says. “Some agencies are picking and choosing which calls they will respond to.”

And he feels the laws make communities less safe.

“I absolutely do,” he said. “I absolutely do.”

But he says they don’t believe the Governor will call legislators back early.

So, any changes will likely happen next year.

He believes that is too long to wait.

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