WALLA WALLA, Washington –Walla Walla Police Chief Scott Bieber is taking stock of what two new laws involving law enforcement agencies will mean. Both are initiatives that were passed by voters in November 2018.
The Washington Legislature activated Initiative 940 during the recently ended session. It updates the use of the deadly-force statute to remove the standard of “malice” and require law enforcement officers to receive de-escalation, first aid, and expanded mental health crisis training.
“They (the legislators) did a nice job of trying to correct Initiative 940,” Bieber said. “There’s a great deal of training coming out of that. I’m not sure exactly who’s going to pay for all that training and how that’s going to be accomplished.”
Bieber believes the legislature is going to have to take a look at how that happens.
He’s also not sure how Initiative 1639, which goes into effect in July and was also approved in the November 2018 election, will impact his department, and says he will be pushing for some clarity. It implements firearm safety measures, including requiring enhanced background checks, waiting periods, and increased age requirements for semiautomatic assault rifles and secure gun storage for all firearms. Voters passed it in November. The initiative also raises the legal age to buy semi-automatic rifles to 21, just like handguns. Buyers will also need to pass enhanced background checks, take gun training courses and wait 10 days instead of the current seven to make a purchase.
“I don’t get into the Second Amendment issues of that,” Bieber said. “(Initiative) 1639 had just created a nightmare, starting in July, for local agencies in terms of the levels of background investigations and staff time that we’re going to have to use to meet the requirements.”
Bieber doesn’t believe legislators thought of the affect Initiative 1639 would have on local law enforcement agencies when they passed it.
“The staff level for local agencies is going to be impacted greatly,” he added. “Our records department is going to be impacted immensely with the requirements of Imitative 1639.”
Next week, Bieber will be the Association of Washington Sheriffs and Police Chiefs meeting.
“One of the items for discussion is (Initiative) 1639,” he said. “There’s going to be a panel discussion on that. I think we’re all going to have to get involved with our local legislators to talk about how we do this and who is going to pay for it. Right now, you have a whole bunch of mandates – underfunded mandates – that are coming down to the local level.”
He worries the department will be spending a lot of local time and money on mandates coming out from Olympia and that takes away from the service the department can provide to the local community.