Loading...

Police Reform Law Creates Issues for Officers Responding to Mental Health Calls

September 13, 2021 by Alexa Hornbeck
Metropolitan Police Chief Robert J. Contee III

A new law is dissuading some law enforcement officials in Washington from taking mental health calls, according to a memo from the attorney general’s office. 

“Recently, certain law enforcement agencies may have expressed concerns that House Bill 1310 limits when peace officers may respond to certain calls, including mental health calls,” said Assistant Attorney General Shelley Williams and Deputy Solicitor General Alicia Young in the memo

Several police reform laws passed the legislature earlier this year, but HB 1310 contains language that outlines when an officer may use physical force against a person.

According to the memo, “The legislature intends to address public safety concerns by limiting the use of deadly force to very narrow circumstances where there is an imminent threat of serious physical injury or death.

“Relevant here, Bill 1310 addresses when an officer may use physical force. 

‘Except as otherwise provided under this section, a peace officer may use physical force against a person when necessary to: 

  • Protect against criminal conduct where there is probable cause to make an arrest; 
  • [E]ffect an arrest; 
  • [P]revent an escape as defined under chapter 9A.76 RCW; 
  • or [P]rotect against an imminent threat of bodily injury to the peace officer, another person, or the person against whom force is being used.”

When a peace officer uses physical force, the bill requires the officer to use reasonable care and further provides reasonable care standards.

When possible, the police officer should exhaust available and appropriate de-escalation tactics prior to using any physical force.

According to the bill text, de-escalation tactics that law enforcement can use could include things like, “creating physical distance by employing tactical repositioning, and repositioning as often as necessary to maintain the benefit of time, distance, and cover, or calling for additional resources like a crisis intervention team or mental health professionals.”

Law enforcement officials in Washington are now voicing concerns about the ambiguous language in the bill that is creating confusion for many policing departments in the state about whether or not officers should respond to mental health calls.

Shortly before the law went into effect on July 25, a statement was issued by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs that the use of force “may significantly reduce the types of calls to which law enforcement will respond, especially if they do not involve a crime or may be better directed to other resources.” 

The Chief of the Spokane Police Department also said that the law will change the response to mental health calls.

“There will be a change in the types of calls we go to, and the types of calls we can no longer go to,”  Chief Craig Meidl of the Spokane Law Enforcement Agency during a press conference.

In response to the growing concerns from the community about HB 1310, the Olympia Police Department issued a statement to reassure the community that they are not just “an organization with uniformed officers with guns,” but have crisis response units and designated crisis responders who are licensed mental health professionals. 

Despite concerns from law enforcement, the memo from the attorney general’s office makes clear that HB 1310, “does not address when law enforcement officers may respond to calls, including community caretaking calls, which do not involve criminal conduct,” and that these calls should remain part of a law enforcement officer’s duties.

The Washington Fraternal Order of Police sent a request for a formal opinion from the attorney general on police tactics and use of force.

“It’s unfortunate that some in law enforcement are misinterpreting these laws, disregarding what we believe is clear legislative intent and are using these changes to politicize their implementation. This is a time for leadership and for those of us in law enforcement to get this right. Proper implementation of these bills is too important to do otherwise,” said Marco Monteblanco, president of the Washington Fraternal Order of Police in the statement. 

Mental Health

November 17, 2021
by Tom Ramstack
House Panel Seeks Better Interventions To Prevent Veteran Suicides

WASHINGTON — The heartrending subject of veteran suicide was again front and center on Capitol Hill Wednesday as a House... Read More

WASHINGTON — The heartrending subject of veteran suicide was again front and center on Capitol Hill Wednesday as a House panel heard one heartbreaking story after another about young people who placed themselves in harm’s way for their country only to return home and take their... Read More

November 17, 2021
by Alexa Hornbeck
Health Officials Address What To Do If You Lose Your Vaccination Card

WASHINGTON —Many public health departments across the country are experiencing increasing calls from individuals who have lost their vaccination cards... Read More

WASHINGTON —Many public health departments across the country are experiencing increasing calls from individuals who have lost their vaccination cards and are seeking a replacement. "Our department receives, on average, 60 requests for replacement vaccination cards each week. This number has remained steady for the last... Read More

November 10, 2021
by Alexa Hornbeck
White House Issues New Guidance for Combating Veteran Suicides

WASHINGTON — The White House recently issued evidence-informed guidance for reducing the tragedy of veteran suicides, as 65,000 veterans have... Read More

WASHINGTON — The White House recently issued evidence-informed guidance for reducing the tragedy of veteran suicides, as 65,000 veterans have died by suicide since 2010.  "Suicide among service members, veterans, and their families is a public health and national security crisis. Far too many of our... Read More

November 10, 2021
by Alexa Hornbeck
How the Mission Act is Negatively Impacting Veteran Access to Health Care

WASHINGTON — The Mission Act was launched in 2019 to protect veterans' access to health care, but now health policy... Read More

WASHINGTON — The Mission Act was launched in 2019 to protect veterans' access to health care, but now health policy experts are finding that the legislation may actually be preventing access. “Veterans who need to go to [into] the community are not getting care, or getting... Read More

November 8, 2021
by Alexa Hornbeck
Murray Moves to Make Daylight Savings Time Permanent

WASHINGTON — During a floor speech last week, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., urged the Senate to pass legislation which would... Read More

WASHINGTON — During a floor speech last week, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., urged the Senate to pass legislation which would eliminate the “fall back” of daylight savings time which happens each November.  “Beyond convenience, this really is a matter of health and safety. Studies have shown... Read More

November 3, 2021
by Alexa Hornbeck
Legislators Address Increase in Domestic Violence from COVID-19

WASHINGTON — The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in domestic violence, and now legislators like Rep. Debbie Dingell,... Read More

WASHINGTON — The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in domestic violence, and now legislators like Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., who is a survivor of domestic violence, are pushing to advance policies to end the abuse.  “We have seen very, very, very significant increases in... Read More

News From The Well
Exit mobile version