Olympia, WA – Washington Governor Jay Inslee on Thursday signed legislation to roll back some of the police reform measures passed last year after police and key Democratic lawmakers agreed the original bill was causing problems and went too far.
Washington House Bill 2037 clarifies that law enforcement officers can use force to stop suspects from fleeing temporary investigative detentions, known as Terry stops, the Associated Press reported.
Police had complained that the new restrictions put into law in 2021 had made it impossible for officers to stop potential suspects and question them in connection with crimes.
Under Washington House Bill 1310, law enforcement officers could not detain possible suspects seen fleeing the area of a crime unless the officers confirmed that the crime occurred and they knew that the person fleeing was the actual suspected offender, the Associated Press reported.
The newly-signed law still requires officers to use reasonable care and appropriate de-escalation techniques, and prohibits the use of force during Terry stops if the suspect is compliant.
Inslee said the new law “upholds the principle of police accountability, de-escalation and the protection of individual liberties,” the Associated Press reported.
Police accountability activists were furious over the move.
The Washington Coalition for Police Accountability had called on the governor to veto the roll back of HB 1310 and said the law had been “deliberately written to address discriminatory policing and reduce violence.”
“Police don’t need additional authority to use force,” Leslie Cushman, a spokesperson for the coalition, told the Associated Press.
But the Democratic lawmaker who initially sponsored HB 1310 said he approved of the latest changes.
Washington State Representative Jesse Johnson said the fact that HB 1310 restricted an officer’s ability to detain a fleeing suspect was unintentional, the Associated Press reported.
The newly-signed law also defined the word “force,” something that had not been done with the original police reform legislation.
HB 2037 defines “force” as any act reasonably likely to cause physical pain, or any act exerted upon a person to compel or gain control of them, the Associated Press reported.
The definition does not include pat-downs or handcuffing a suspect who isn’t resisting arrest.
Inslee signed two other rollback measures earlier in March, the Associated Press reported
One of the bills clarified that police can use force to help detain or transport people suffering a mental health crisis and another fixed language that inadvertently prohibited departments from having certain less-lethal weapons.