A MESSAGE TO OUR COMMUNITY FROM CHIEF CHEESMAN.
The Fircrest Police Department is committed to building relationships and trust with the community while providing the highest level of service to keep our citizens safe. Transparency and honesty are critical pieces to building and maintaining public trust. In keeping with that transparency, we want to let people know that some major changes are coming that will affect how law enforcement agencies in Washington State will provide law enforcement services.
In the 2021 Legislative Session, the State of Washington passed many bills that change policing in the State of Washington and in cities like Fircrest. I have been in touch with our attorney, other legal advisors, and have met with our entire staff, and together we have gone over these changes and how they will affect our policing efforts in the City of Fircrest.
Below is a brief overview of the legislation:
House Bill 1054 Tactics and Equipment: Effective July 25, 2021
The bill prohibits the use of chokeholds and neck restraints, and it also restricts when you can shoot at a moving vehicle. We went over our use of force policies with our City Council last year and we currently have these policies in place. The bill also limits the use of tear gas, and bans “no-knock warrants”. We have not served a “no-knock warrant” in years. The bill also extremely limits vehicle pursuits. Our agency had one of the most restrictive pursuit policies in Pierce County, but this bill requires us to be even more restrictive. Under this bill, we will no longer pursue vehicles under the following conditions:
Misdemeanor DV assault
Theft of a firearm
Assault 3rd degree
Assault of a child
I want our community to be aware of these changes as they may directly affect you and your expectations of your officers. For example: if you call 911 and we respond to a burglary at your home, when we arrive on the scene if we observe the bad guy driving away with your property, we will attempt to stop the vehicle, but if they fail to yield, we will not get into a pursuit with that vehicle. We will follow up vehemently on the case, but it will be in a reactive way. This will hold true in other situations involving any of the crimes listed above.
House Bill 1310 Use of Force: Effective July 25, 2021
This bill addresses when officers are allowed to use reasonable force. This law requires us to have probable cause to make an arrest or prevent escape before using physical force. In the past, if an officer had reasonable suspicion that a crime appears to be happening, has happened, or will happen, the officer could detain that person until the incident was cleared up. If the individual refused to remain where contacted, the officer could detain the person using reasonable force. Now if the person refuses to stay until the situation is cleared up, we will be letting them leave. If it is determined they were involved in the crime we will follow up on the information. We are implementing the changes and anxiously await to digest the Attorney General’s Policy. The Attorney General will be coming out with a model policy by July of 2022.
Senate Bill 5259 Law Enforcement Use of Force Data Collection: Effective July 25, 2021
Requires the Attorney General to contract with a state college to administer a state-wide law enforcement use of force reporting and data system. They will establish the criteria on the types of force incidents to be reported and requires all law enforcement agencies to report all required interactions. This will prove beneficial to everyone as it will provide transparency of all agencies and ensure everyone is reporting the required information.
Senate Bill 5066 Duty to Intervene: Effective July 25, 2021
This bill requires general authority officers who witness another general authority officer using or attempting to use excessive force to intervene, to end or prevent the use of excessive force. We currently have such a policy in place. Violation of this policy will now be a basis for an officer to lose their state certification to be an officer. This bill also incorporates the duty to render first aid at the earliest opportunity when safe to do so.
House Bill 1267 Office of Independent Investigations: Effective July 25, 2021
This bill creates an Office of Independent Investigations (OII) within the Governor’s Office. The OII will be authorized to investigate (not required) the use of deadly force by any law enforcement officer after July 1, 2022. We will notify the OII immediately of any use of deadly force incident. Under current law, we have our own independent force investigation team in place. (As required under (I-940))
Senate Bill 5051 Decertification. Effective July 25, 2021
The bill delineates all the reasons an officer may be decertified and provides that the Criminal Justice Training Commission may conduct their own investigation into officer conduct. The bill also changes the composition of the commission from 16 to 21 members, eliminates some law enforcement positions, and adds seven civilians (non-law enforcement) positions.
House Bill 1223 – Electronic Recordation Custodial Interrogations: Effective January 1, 2022.
This bill requires that any custodial interrogation of an adult for a felony offense or a juvenile for any offense that takes place in a jail, detention, or any police facility must be audio and video recorded to be admissible into court. Custodial interrogations that occur in a police vehicle or school must be audio recorded at a minimum. There are some exceptions but those must be documented in a report. We are working with our City Council on acquiring body cams for all our officers, which would meet this requirement and provide additional accountability and transparency for everyone.
Senate Bill 5476 – Blake Decision “Fix” Now in Effect
In February of 2021, the Washington State Supreme Court declared Washington’s drug possession statute unconstitutional, because it did not require a showing that a defendant “knowingly” possessed drugs. In response, the Washington legislature amended the statute to insert a requirement for “knowing” possession. The new law downgrades drug possession to a misdemeanor and requires law enforcement agencies to make at least two referrals to substance abuse services before misdemeanor charges can be brought. There is currently no statewide system for tracking referrals. When we respond to the scene of someone doing drugs and find them smoking, injecting, or ingesting illegal drugs we will confiscate the drugs and provide the suspect with a referral. We can track these referrals in Pierce County. We will be handing out referral cards to offenders and we will track these referrals accordingly.
This is a brief overview of just some of the legislation that will be going into effect during the coming months. There are still many questions to be answered and you can be assured that we will stay engaged and follow the developments of these and other bills.
We will continue to work closely with our community, and we understand and realize that we cannot effectively do our jobs without the support and assistance of those we serve.
The Fircrest Police Department is proud to serve you., One thing that will not change is our commitment and resolve to keeping our community safe.
Police Chief John Cheesman