Efforts are ramping up to help end the confusion police departments face as they adjust to the recently passed accountability laws.
At the same time, the state police academy is re-shaping training for incoming recruits to match up with the reforms.
Every police officer in Washington state goes through the Criminal Justice Training Commission and executive director Monica Alexander is retooling the courses to align with the new laws adopted by the state legislature. Alexander discussed those changes Wednesday night during a presentation to the North Precinct Advisory Council, a crime prevention group in Seattle.
“I was in a meeting one day and one of the chiefs said, 'Look this is different and this is difficult. We're going to have to work a little harder but we are going to have to figure this out,’” Alexander said.
While recruits are starting from scratch, many veteran officers are having to unlearn procedures they followed for years to meet more rigorous accountability standards that are now part of state law. It’s opened the door to a lot of uncertainty.
Officers in Kent were recently called to assist a suicidal man but held back thinking a new law about crisis calls prevented them from taking action. The man ultimately took his own life.
“A shame they put new laws in place. We could have helped him,” one officer can be heard saying in a body camera recording.
Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla later clarified to KOMO News that the new laws played no role in this response but acknowledged the confusion some officers are experiencing.
Alexander said other veteran officers are struggling to interpret how the new laws apply in different situations.
“It's harder when you've been doing it a particular way for so many years and now that's taken away,” Alexander said.
Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, who helped co-sponsor much of the reform legislation, is now meeting with police chiefs and sheriffs across the state to clear up the ambiguities and potentially amend portions of the new laws. However, the next legislative session doesn’t begin until January.
“They're going to go back to take a look at them, do some clarification and maybe even some corrections,” Alexander said, “but i think we have to work with what we have right now."
State Attorney General Bob Ferguson is also working to provide statewide guidance but his input is likely still many months away.