How Much Force is Too Much Force?

People who believe that police used excessive force in the summer of 2020 have crafted bills to limit how police can respond to crowds of protesters. I’m guessing that at least one of those bills, HB 1054 now moving through the Washington state legislature, was drafted prior to January 6. I’m hoping that its sponsors will pull the bill as they contemplate the possibility that the “wrong kind” of protesters may move against our state capitol. 

HB 1054 intends to prohibit use of chokeholds or neck restraints, tear gas, and military equipment; prohibits covering up ID; prohibits no-knock warrants; and discourages vehicle pursuits unless…

We all know the claims of protesters last summer that they were peaceful and police over-reacted to every little irritant. Many of you were shocked when a police officer grabbed the pink umbrella one protester poked over a barrier and reacted with flash bangs and other deterrents. I actually agree that some of the police responses were a bit over the top. But I don’t agree that the protesters were innocent lambs. 

Seattle police have a good track record as far as use of force is concerned. But the summer’s protests, which were directed against the very police officers who had been praised for making so much progress, were unending (they’re still going on!) and not so peaceful. What concerns me is that legislation has been drafted based on events in which the “good guys” (in the opinion of the sponsors) were protesting. Now we face the possibility of limiting how police can react to the “bad guys,” i.e. people who actually want to interfere with democratically elected officials doing their job. 

I’m totally in favor of careful screening of applicants for police job openings. I’m in favor of longer training periods for recruits; I’m in favor of ongoing training, especially in de-escalation which is not mastered in one class. But crowd control is complicated. The response to crowds has to flex with whatever is happening on the ground. 

I have registered my opposition to HB 1054. I encourage you to read it voice your opinion. 

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