By Juan Morfin Washington State Journal
People with mental health problems and juveniles can be detained or restrained by law enforcement, according to new legislation on the use of force.
The new law, House Bill 1735, passed the Washington State House with a 90-5 vote, and passed in the Senate 49-0. It was signed into March 4 by Gov. Jay Inslee.
The bill was drafted to end confusion caused by the adoption of a law last year that prevented crisis responders from receiving police assistance.
“It adjusts 2021 police reform legislation by clarifying when an officer can use reasonable force in a non-criminal incident, such as a mental health crisis,” Inslee said.
Incidents surrounding involuntary treatments are also covered under this bill.
“That’s the nature of involuntary treatment, and sometimes that may involve a minor use of force such as having to put someone in a car or transport them or get them out of a car to get them into an emergency room for treatment,” said Hoquiam Chief of Police Jeff Myers.
Furthermore, the bill clarifies the threat standard for an officer to use deadly force.
Under last year’s legislation, the use of deadly force was justified only to protect against an “imminent threat” of serious injury or death for the officer or another person. House Bill 1735 changes this standard by saying an “immediate” threat must be present.
Police also can pursue and stop vehicles if they have a “reasonable suspicion” of a crime being committed under the new legislation. The House of Representatives voted 86-12 in favor of SB 5919 on March 4 with bipartisan support. The Senate previously voted in favor of the same bill early last month.
This legislation reverses current law which cites “probable cause” as sufficient reason to engage in a vehicular pursuit. Under SB 5919, however, “reasonable suspicion” will be enough to allow an officer to engage in a vehicular pursuit.
The bill also cleans up language adopted last year describing when an officer can use force. Many in the law enforcement community said the language was confusing and contradictory. The new bill says an officer can use physical force to:
- protect against criminal conduct where there is probable cause to make an arrest.
- make an investigative detention.
- protect against an imminent threat of bodily injury to the officer, another person or the person against whom force is being used.
Under the bill, the amount of force officers can use must be reasonable and proportional to the amount of resistance they face.
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