Submitted by Greg Premo, Chief of Police, City of University Place.
Beginning this Sunday, July 25, several of the new laws around police “reform” that were passed by your state legislature and signed into law by your governor will go into effect. While I think the lawmakers meant well, I am not of the opinion that the final outcome will improve public safety for the citizens of Washington.
Throughout this last legislative session, state law enforcement organizations, including the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC), continually shared concerns on the negative impacts of many of the proposed bills. Some of those concerns were heard and adjustments were made to the final bills, but the overall language still significantly changes law enforcement practices in the State of Washington.
Some of these laws place significant limitations on police actions/authority. This will require agencies to make operational changes to police response to certain types of calls. Some calls we will no longer respond to at all and the response to some other calls will look much different. These laws will also impact the crime prevention component of policing. Between the negative social narrative around policing in America and the implementation of these restrictions, many police officers have disengaged from proactive policing. I believe this is a major component of why the nation, including Washington, is experiencing a rapid increase in the homicide rate (Washington’s homicides increased from 206 in 2019 to 302 in 2020).
The language in several of these bills is still being debated by many legal advisors to counties and cities across Washington. In the next couple of weeks, UPPD will be putting more information out on how these laws will affect police operations in our city.
In University Place, our crime rate has fared well during the pandemic. We have not experienced the increase in violent crimes that major urban areas have experienced. We do, however, have a need for additional public safety resources. I look forward to discussing these needs and ideas with the community in the near future.