WA lawmakers eye 'tweaking' police reform laws as 2022 legislative session opens

The 2022 Washington State legislative session opened its 60-day session on Monday with ‘fixes’ on the minds of many lawmakers.

Typically, the regularly-scheduled shorter session is intended to make budgetary changes and re-evaluate past bills that may need some changes.

Changes to police reform bills that passed last year and caused confusion at many police agencies will be ‘tweaked,’ say lawmakers. But, depending on which political party you talk to, the scale of the fix will be either big or small.

"I believe we will be successful in refining some of the police accountability laws," said Governor Jay Inslee when he met with the press to go over his 2022 agenda.

Last year, Democrats passed a series of police accountability measures that affect officers' ability to pursue suspects, and how much force can be used to make an arrest, especially when it comes to people who are suffering a mental health crisis.

"It actually, at least for us, escalated situations," said Port Angeles Police Chief Brian Smith. "You take an action that you are later were found to be wrong, legally or otherwise, you could be decertified or prosecuted."

Smith will be testifying in front of the House Public Safety Committee on Tuesday as lawmakers begin work on altering the laws.

"What I’ve seen so far is helpful," Smith said.

Democrats, again, are the majority party and successfully pushed through reforms along party line votes last year.

The Democrat Speaker of the House Laurie Jinkins said, overall, the reforms are working, but agreed there could be some adjustments.

"Even the Attorney General issued a letter saying ‘Yes, you can use force if necessary in behavioral health, welfare checks and child welfare checks,'" said Jinkins. "But law enforcement remained, I don't know if I would say willing or unsure about that—so we'll clarify".

Republicans are looking to loosen some of the restrictions and vehicle pursuits and the use of force, saying police officers don’t like gray areas.

"The question is, are we going to really listen this time to fix the problems?" said Republic Senate Minority Leader John Braun. "So far, I haven't seen bills out there from the majorities, to get after all the problems—the pursuit issue, the probable cause versus reasonable suspicion."

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