Kitsap leaders want changes to police reform laws

Kitsap County commissioners and Sheriff John Gese sent a letter last week to state legislators in support of Senate Bill 5919 to enact changes and modifications to police reform laws.

One of the changes in legislation passed last July, regarding law enforcement’s ability to pursue vehicles, appears to have become a nexus to a marked rise in auto thefts in Kitsap County and around the state, Gese said.

“Legislators, as well as local government and law enforcement officials, recognize the need for modifications to these recent laws,” Gese said in a statetment. “We want to keep our communities safe and protect citizens from crime…In order to hold police to the highest standards and accountable for their actions, laws must provide clear definitions, well-defined and reasonable expectations, as well as provide the proper tools for law enforcement to do their job.”

Some of the changes SB 5919 would provide includes:A clear definition of use of force that matches what is already being trained by the Criminal Justice Training Commission;

Makes clear the ability to stop a person who chooses to flee from a lawful detention, aligning with the standard that the U.S. Supreme Court has used for five decades;

Provides a strong requirement to balance any vehicle pursuit with the risks it creates for the public, while not requiring a wholesale prohibition that has led to daily occurrences of suspects not stopping because of the impression that police can do nothing; and,

Provides support so officers know what is expected of them while maintaining standards for accountability that is consistent with the goals of the 2021 reform measures.