This commentary contains information and thoughts from an officer with the Washington State Patrol who wishes to remain anonymous due to fear of retribution from the Executive Branch of the Washington State government. FPIW has removed identifying details to assist in protecting this brave individual’s identity.
New police “reform” laws in Washington state will be taking effect in a matter of days. Please read this so you can know and understand why law enforcement will not be responding as we have in the past. Please, please, please, start having conversations with people in your circle, be it coworkers, neighbors, etc. Call your legislators; they are supposed to work for you. I believe that the vast majority of people living in Washington do not want public safety to continue to go downhill. But to prevent that from happening, people will need to get vocal and loud about it.
In the days ahead, incident response may be nonexistent or look very different. If you have ever wondered, “where is a cop when I need one?” it’s unfortunately going to get a lot worse.
Mental health crisis or medical issue? The police will not be responding. Child runaways who don’t give permission to an officer to take them back to their parents? Gotta let them go.
Suicidal person on an overpass? Not a crime – this will be classified as a mental health issue and police will not respond (until after they jump and are killed or hit by a car). Then we will come do a death or collision investigation. If I use any force to stop that person from committing suicide, then my force will be illegal and I will be prosecuted for assault and lose my job. I might even be sent to prison. These facts make sick because I’m used to being able to save lives and I want to continue saving lives – but these “reforms” will prevent that.
Did someone else’s car collide with yours, and did the driver flee the scene? Well, that’s not a BARRK (Burglary, Arson, Rape, Robbery, and Kidnapping) felony so we can’t pursue. We will have to let them go on their merry way.
If a pedestrian is yelling at cars or going in and out of traffic, this will not viewed as a crime, and the pedestrian is only possibly considered a danger to himself. We will let him go and keep doing what he’s doing.
Protest or riot in your city or neighborhood? Crowd dispersal tools are outlawed. We will not have CS (tear) gas or flash bang grenades. Our less lethal shotgun – a great option – that shoots beanbag rounds is now considered a military-grade weapon, so we won’t have that tool in our tool bag anymore. Any riot response from the police at all is questionable. Think Portland without any police.
So, what happens if any officer dispenses with these new restrictions and intervenes anyways in order to prevent loss of life? Criminal charges, lawsuits, liability, and prison or jail time. Of course, this is in addition to job termination and revocation of police certification.
The good faith intent that previously allowed officers to resolve crimes to protect victims has been removed. We are left with letting medics, EMTs, mental health professionals, and firefighters respond to unsecured scenes and incidents that are dangerous, often violent and possibly deadly.
For those who entered law enforcement to serve people, this is an extremely depressing time. We are being told to wait until all hell breaks loose before we can act.
Reactive policing does not work. Period. Proactive policing is what makes communities safe.
Please talk to your friends and speak up. We don’t want all of Washington to end up like Portland.