A message from the chief regarding new laws and policing

Dear Bellevue Community, 

Recent mandated police reforms passed by the Legislature in Washington state reflect changing societal expectations on the role of law enforcement and focus on reducing police interactions that may result in potential uses of force by law enforcement. 

Several new laws that govern policing will go into effect Sunday, July 25, 2021. The bills create a civil standard that limits the circumstances in which physical force and deadly force may be used. In addition, they prohibit the procurement or use of certain military equipment and impose new restrictions on some police tactics, including neck restraints, no-knock warrants and vehicle pursuits. The legislation also requires officers to intervene in and report any out-of-policy force they witness. While some of the laws do impact how officers will respond to certain calls, they will not affect the dedication of the men and women of the Bellevue Police Department to deliver first-class service. 

We will continue to respond to all calls for service. We will investigate and document all crimes in accordance with state law.

The Bellevue Police Department continually evaluates and reforms all policies to ensure they align with best practices and reflect community input. For this reason, many aspects of the new laws will not impact Bellevue police, as our policies are already in compliance. However, several new requirements will affect policing.

House Bill 1310 limits when an officer can use “physical force” when investigating criminal conduct and requires officers to use a reasonable duty of care prior to using physical force. Under this new law, officers may not use physical force to forcibly detain a person for mere suspicion of a crime.  Reasonable physical force may be used when necessary to make an arrest for a crime when probable cause has been established, a higher standard than reasonable suspicion, or if there is an imminent threat of bodily injury to the officer or another.  This means our officers may take additional investigative steps prior to making a physical arrest for a crime, which may take additional time.   

Similarly, officers respond to many non-criminal calls. Under the new law, officers may not use physical force to transport an individual in crisis for evaluation or treatment or forcibly detain a juvenile runaway unless the person is in imminent danger of bodily harm to themselves or others or there is probable cause that a crime has been committed. Officers may rely on de-escalation skills or attempt to assist crisis responders but may have to leave a scene if there is no imminent threat to the person or others, or no crime has been committed.  

The Bellevue Police Department strongly supports decreasing the potential use of force by law enforcement. However, the new laws may alter the way in which we investigate calls for service and assist in aiding those in a mental/behavioral health crisis. As a result, there will be circumstances where officers may let a suspect go and walk away from the situation until probable cause is established for a crime to avoid having to use physical force. 

It’s important for the Bellevue community to understand these new state laws and their impact. Our officers will continue to provide professional services while working within the law.  
For more information, you can read the new bills taking effect July 25, 2021, below.

Please reach out to us and the department if you have any questions and/or concerns. We appreciate the community’s support as we continue in our mission to better serve you.  [email protected].

Chief Mylett & Assistant Chief Shirley

Source: City News