Police reform bills in effect

Over the weekend several bills having to do with police reform went into effect and may change the way local police departments operate.

The five bills that went into effect on July 25 are House Bills 1054, 1089 and 1267, and Senate Bills 5051 and 5259.

HB 1054 establishes new requirements with regard to arrest tactics and equipment for law enforcement. Specifically it bans the use of chokeholds, “no-knock” warrants and prevents using military equipment from the federal government

HB 1089 allows for the state auditor to make sure that investigations into the use of force are in compliance with the law.

HB 1267 concerns investigations into potential criminal conduct arising from law enforcement use of force, including officer-involved and in-custody incidents. This bill creates the Office of Independent Investigations that will include civilians in investigations into police conduct.

SB 5051 provides additional oversight to the state Criminal Justice Training Commission, which trains and certifies officers and has the power to decertify and suspend them. This improves on requirements for officer certification, ensuring public transparency and that officers with a history of misconduct cannot avoid being held accountable by moving to another law enforcement job.

Finally, SB 5259 requires more data collection and analysis with regard to the use of force in the state.

Poulsbo Police Chief Ron Harding many of the laws are already standard practice.

“The one that has, in practical terms, the least effect on our department is HB 1267 in that we have established in Kitsap County a really robust response to officer-involved shootings or deadly force usage,” Harding said. “The protocols that we follow for KCIRT (Kitsap Critical Incident Response Team) have already proven to be top-notch.”

The state recently reviewed several law enforcement departments to make sure that they were in compliance with legislation passed in July of 2019 that required the establishment of independent investigation teams to review officer-involved/deadly force events. Only Kitsap and one other county met those standards.

“As I understand the bill (HB1267) it gives the state the ability…through the Office of Independent Investigation, they will have the authority to step into any investigation that they want to. That’s out of my control, that’s out of the county’s control, but in the meantime, we will continue to use KCIRT and follow our protocols,” Harding said.

KCIRT was established just two days before the shooting death of Stonechild Chiefstick by Poulsbo police officer Craig Keller, making Poulsbo one of the first to put the legislation to the test. KCIRT has come under fire since the investigation concluded in 2020, with many claiming that there was no civilian oversight, which HB 1267 now require.

“The protocols (for I-940) were not in place. People were still trying to understand what the requirements were…But some of the good that came from that bad situation is that now we have revamped KCIRT, and we do have citizen oversight in it,” Harding said.

Chiefstick’s family is suing Poulsbo and has called on Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson to reopen the investigation.