Everett Police Chief Says New Bills Mean Public May Need To Reset Expectations After Sunday

July 23, 2021

Police Blotter

Today Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman posted the following message on the Everett Police Department Facebook page. For those of you who don’t follow Everett Police on social media we are posting it here.

Templeman Swearing in

Dan Templeman took the oath of office as Everett Police Chief in June of 2014.

A message from Chief Dan Templeman regarding recent legislation: “Many of our residents have heard about the potential impacts on community safety as the result of several new bills passed by our elected leaders in Olympia this past session. We have been working around the clock to analyze these bills, determine the actual impact on our police response and update policies and procedures. While this work is ongoing, I wanted to share some of the ways these bills might change what our public sees in terms of response by Everett police officers to your 911 calls.

Let me first start by saying that I am in no way “anti-change” or unwilling to acknowledge that our profession has been tainted by the reckless and, in some cases, criminal acts of police officers. While I recognize this occurs, it is the exception. The vast majority of police officers nationwide, and here locally, serve our communities with honor, professionalism and integrity.

But these new laws will indeed have an impact on police response to certain calls. As a result, some in our community will need to reset their expectations of local law enforcement.

The state’s new use of force law, HB 1310, for example, limits the tactics police can use when responding to certain situations. Starting next week, when you call 911 with concerns over an individual experiencing a behavioral health episode, a suspicious person in your neighborhood or even a homeless person that may be camping along public right-of-way, the responding officer might first contact you and ask a series of questions that may seem redundant and even irrelevant. But these questions are being asked so the officer can determine if the circumstances you are reporting meet the narrow criteria outlined in the new law, should the use of force become necessary.

Also affected by this new law will be our officers’ ability to assist partner agencies with challenging situations. This could include helping the fire department with medical calls that involve a potentially combative patient, or supporting our county’s designated crisis responders, who are tasked with assisting and, in some cases, taking into custody people experiencing a behavioral health crisis. While responding to these types of calls may not be the primary role of local law enforcement, our public sector partners have come to rely upon police officers to ensure the scene is safe for them to be able to effectively do their jobs. The new law requires that officers consider leaving the area if no crime has been committed and there is no threat of imminent harm.

The vast majority of police contacts are resolved without the need for an officer to use force of any kind, but as any police officer will tell you, these situations can change rapidly and are highly unpredictable. If an officer ends up using force that is outside the narrow constraints outlined in HB 1310, then that officer faces the potential for criminal and civil liability. Additionally, under yet another new bill (SB 5051), that same police officer may also face decertification, and essentially lose their ability to be a police officer in Washington state. As you can imagine, these stakes are very high, and will require police officers to exercise extreme caution when deciding whether to even make contact with an individual in the first place.

Another new law, HB 1054, contains provisions prohibiting the use of “military equipment.” Although likely unintended, state legislators included in the definition of military equipment several of our less lethal force devices, such as our 40mm launcher, which fires sponge rounds designed to incapacitate a person, rather than bullets. These devices will be removed from patrol this Sunday. While I recognize it was likely not the intent of the legislature to limit our less lethal force options, it is the unfortunate result of the language contained in the bill itself. I hope this is an oversight that can be fixed quickly, allowing us to return these valuable, less lethal tools to our officers.

HB 1054 also severely limits police traffic pursuits. Recognizing the inherent public safety risks associated with traffic pursuits, Everett Police adopted the most restrictive pursuit policy in the county over a decade ago. Although restrictive, EPD still authorized pursuits of those suspected of a serious crime if the danger posed by not apprehending the person outweighed the risks associated with the pursuit itself. Under the new law, officers must have probable cause that the subject we are pursuing committed a violent or specific sex offense. Probable cause is the existence of particularized, articulable facts and circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to believe a person did commit, or is committing, a particularized crime wherein all the elements of the crime are satisfied. This is an extremely high bar to meet, especially during the initial stages of any criminal investigation. Police officers will no longer pursue these suspects unless we can establish probable cause for the narrow list of crimes outlined in the bill.

While these bills and others will change how –and in some cases, if– police respond to your 911 call, I want to assure the Everett community that our police officers remain committed to public safety and to doing everything we can within the constraints of the law to make Everett a safe place to live, work and visit. As an agency, we accept the actions taken by our elected leaders in Olympia and will implement policies and procedures to comply with the new mandates. I urge you not to become frustrated with the Everett police officer who may not be able to resolve your issue when you call 911. Our officers do not make the laws, but it is our job to enforce them. “

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