WA lawmaker proposes bill that would prohibit police tactics like chokeholds and tear gas, prohibit use of ‘military equipment’

Seattle Police Clear Homeless Camp, Make Arrests
A Seattle Police officer stands guard near a police line as a person talks with other officers near where Seattle Parks and Recreation personnel were working to clear debris from an encampment that was occupied by people lacking housing and their supporters, Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, at Cal Anderson Park in Seattle. Police supervised the clearing of the camp after a judge declined to block authorities from removing people and tents, and authorities said several people were arrested for various offenses after protesters confronted officers (Ted S. Warren).

OLYMPIA, Wash – After a year that included calls for changes in police tactics nationwide, the Washington legislature could consider a bill that would limit law enforcement officers from using controversial police tactics like chokeholds and tear gas.

The bill was pre-filed by Democrat Rep. Jesse Johnson from Federal Way.

House Bill 1054 states that peace officers could not use: chokeholds or neck restraints; unleashed police dogs for the purpose of arresting or apprehending someone; or “tear gas”.

Spokane Police admitted to using tear gas on protesters in downtown Spokane in the wake of George Floyd’s death last summer.

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The bill also states law enforcement agencies cannot acquire or use military equipment, defined as “firearms and ammunition of .50 caliber or greater, machine guns, silencers, armored vehicles, armed vehicles, armed aircraft, tanks, mine resistant ambush protected vehicles, long range acoustic hailing devices, rockets, rocket launchers, bayonets, grenades, grenade launchers, missiles, directed energy systems and electromagnetic spectrum weapons.”

If agencies have that equipment, the bill requires them to return it to the federal agency from which it was obtained.

It also states that uniformed officers can not intentionally cover, conceal or obscure their badge or badge number while on duty.

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In addition, HB 1054 requires agencies to provide updated training on vehicular pursuits. It also would change what is allowed in those pursuits, specifically saying officers have to be able to prove “the safety risks of failing to apprehend or identify the person are considered to be greater than the safety risks associated with the vehicular pursuit.” It also says officers are prohibited from firing into a moving vehicle “unless necessary to protect against an imminent threat of serious physical harm from the operator’s or a passenger’s use of a deadly weapon, not including the vehicle itself.”

You can read the full text of the bill at this link.

This is just one of a handful of reforms expected to be filed this upcoming legislative session.

The Washington Legislature convenes on January 11th.

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