Law enforcement officers have incredibly difficult jobs. With states passing anti-law enforcement bills, that job has become a whole lot harder.
Washington recently passed a use-of-force law that prohibits officers from pursuing suspects unless there is enough probable cause. Law enforcement saw the writing on the wall when it was passed, and it did not take long before it directly affected a case.
To Pursue or Not To Pursue?
The new law went into effect on Sunday, and by Wednesday, officers had a case where it tied their hands behind their backs. At 10:20 p.m., there were reports of shots fired at a Kohl's, according to KOMO.
When Pierce County Sheriff's detectives arrived at the scene, one man was dead in the parking lot, and the suspect had already run off. According to witnesses at the scene, a "man in a black shirt and black pants" was running away from the area.
While deputies checked the area, the man was nowhere to be found. The officer brought in one of their best tracking resources, a K-9 police dog. However, officials decided not to track the individual because there was not enough probable cause to justify it.
With the new police reform law, they were not allowed to use any kind of force to detain the suspect if and when they found him. Detectives are still investigating the crime and looking for the suspect.
Self-Fulfilling Prophecy or Bad Policy?
The Pierce County Sheriff's had already warned the community in a Facebook post of what could happen under this new law. The sheriff said there would be a "significant change" to how the public and law enforcement officers would interact because probable cause and reasonable suspicion are two very different standards.
"In some situations this means that we must let potential suspects walk away from a crime scene until we have developed a high standard of having enough facts, information, and/or evidence for a reasonable officer to believe that a person is more likely than not to have committed a crime.”Pierce County Sheriff's Department.
Even more concerning is the new law does not define what "physical force" means, which leaves it open to some interpretation on both sides. All in all, the new law makes for terrible policy no matter how you look at it.
It hinders officers' ability to do their jobs, and in the end, the public will suffer.