As a Spokane resident who cares about this community and those who live here, I’m grateful for new state laws that limit how and when law enforcement can use violence. When I see a police car in my neighborhood, I’d feel a little better knowing that police are mandated to de-escalate potentially dangerous situations before resorting to force. I might not worry so much about the safety of my neighbors — especially those who are disproportionately targeted by police. I would feel even better if I knew that local law enforcement agencies were embracing these changes. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
I’ve heard stories of officers complaining about the new laws. The Sheriff’s Office and Police Department are saying that the reforms will prevent them from catching criminals or even responding to certain calls, neither of which is true. I’d love to know how many officers are on board with the changes, rather than decrying them. How many are excited to learn new skills, to embrace the opportunity to respond peacefully rather than violently? How many are heartened to know that the state has their back in wanting to prevent officer-involved shootings and incidents of deadly force?
Washington’s new police reform laws give public safety officers the opportunity to redefine how they do their jobs (and maybe even remake their public image) and to better protect those they serve. How can this be a bad thing?