Will A Higher Standard For Police Lower The Bar On Public Safety?
The headline says it all. Will a higher standard for police, lower the bar on public safety? That's part of the concern expressed by Union Gap Police Chief Greg Cobb and Yakima County Sheriff Bob Udell as they consider how to proceed on the job in a legal environment that, come next week, will include some significant restraints on their officers and deputies. Other concerns include the safety and even the careers of their law enforcers.
HB1310 & HB 1054
In an open letter to the public, nine Yakima Valley Police Chiefs and the Sheriff wrote that House Bill 1310 "changes the circumstance in which officers can use force and will likely have the most effect on the public." The letter is a "heads up" to their communities that, "the public may see instances when officers no longer respond to calls we have traditionally gone to."
The changes prescribed in HB 1054 will, "restrict vehicle pursuits in almost all circumstances."
One way to describe the overall effect of the new laws is that they tie the hands of police, they take away an officer's ability to act on experience and instinct.
So how did we get here? Is this part of the same sentiment that has lead to cries of "Defund The Police" in other communities including Portland and Seattle?
KING 5 News in Seattle describes the bills as "part of a package that was approved in the wake of a social reckoning, the murder of George Floyd, and the death of Manuel Ellis at the hands of Tacoma police."
One of the bill's prime sponsors, Rep. Jesse Johnson of Federal Way is on record saying, "Let’s be very clear: HB 1310 is about requiring police to de-escalate, rather than escalate, and minimize use of force, particularly deadly force...if the police feel that force is necessary, that harming someone is necessary, there better be no possible alternative and they should be prepared to defend that force when investigated by an independent commission.."
That sounds simple enough but it's not. Far from it, according to Union Gap Police Chief Greg Cobb and Yakima County Sheriff Bob Udell. There's much to be said as to how it all will play out on the ground, in the moment, and on the fly and the two lawmen appeared on KIT's Morning News to talk about it.