New public safety laws


22 November 2021

Linda gallagher


During the 2021 session, the Washington State Legislature passed a number of laws relating to public safety and impacting local government law enforcement agencies. This blog summarizes three of these new laws and provides links to four more.

Fight against the use of force

ESSHB 1310 discussed the use of force by law enforcement officials, which includes physical force, lethal force, and the use of less lethal alternatives (eg, de-escalation tactics). See chapter 10.120 RCW.

The use of lethal force is limited to situations where there is a imminent threat of serious injury or death to the police officer or another person. An officer may use physical force when necessary to protect against criminal conduct where there is probable cause for an arrest; make an arrest; prevent an escape; or protect the peace officer, another person or the person against whom force is used from an imminent threat of bodily harm.

ESSHB 1310 made changes to an existing law dealing with the training of law enforcement officers; and added laws on de-escalation tactics and model policies.

De-escalation tactics

The “less lethal alternatives” are defined in RCW 10.120.010(2) to include “verbal warnings, de-escalation tactics, conducted energy weapons, devices that deploy capsicum oleoresin, batons and beanbag cartridges”.

De-escalation tactics may include deploying other resources such as a “crisis response team” or exiting the area if there is no threat of imminent harm, or if no crime. has not been committed, is in the process of being committed or is about to be committed.


RCW 43.101.450 is amended to require training on violence de-escalation provided by the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission (WSCJTC) to be consistent with the new standards.

Model policies

Under RCW 10.120.030, the Attorney General (AG) is responsible for issuing model policies on the use of force and de-escalation tactics by July 1, 2022. By December 1, 2022, all enforcement agencies The law must adopt the GA model policy or may adopt policies or standards with additional requirements for de-escalation and greater restrictions on the use of physical and lethal force than those provided for in the law. Law enforcement agencies should provide copies of their policies to the GA (see RCW 10.120.030).

Discuss tactics and equipment

ESHB 1054 covered several public safety topics and created chapter 10.116 RCW to combat tactics and equipment used by law enforcement.

Military equipment and inventory

RCW 10.116.040 prohibits law enforcement agencies from acquiring or using military equipment, in particular:

(F) .50 firearms and ammunition[mm] caliber or higher, machine guns, armed helicopters, armed or armored drones, armed ships, armed vehicles, armed aircraft, tanks, long range acoustic call devices, rockets, rocket launchers, bayonets, grenades, missiles, directed energy systems and electromagnetic spectrum weapons.

In addition, each law enforcement agency was required to draw up an inventory of its military equipment and provide this inventory to the Washington Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police Association (WASCP) by November 1, 2021. WASPC is required to summarize inventory information in a report to the Governor and Legislature by December 31, 2021. Any law enforcement agency in possession of military equipment must return the equipment to the federal agency from which it was acquired, if applicable, or destroy the equipment by December 31, 2022.

No strangulation or neck restraint

RCW 10.116.020 prohibits officers from using neck straps or braces.

Use of tear gas

RCW 10.116.030 imposes additional requirements for the authorization and use of “tear gas”.

Prosecution policy

This law provides a statewide policy for vehicular pursuits. RCW 10.116.6060 prohibits police pursuits unless certain requirements are met including, but not limited to, “probable cause” for specified violent offenses, “reasonable suspicion” of impaired driving and the need to prosecute.

This status also requires a balancing of the security risks and a surveillance authorization for the prosecution. The conditions for authorization depend on the size of the jurisdiction. It is well beyond the scope of this blog to summarize all of the new lawsuit requirements in this RCW, so definitely revise the current statutory language and consult with your agency legal counsel, if necessary.

Execution of warrants

An officer cannot apply and a court cannot issue a so-called “no knocking” warrant. RCW 10.31.040(2) now provides, in part: “a search or arrest warrant granting an express exception to the duty of the officer to give notice of his function and purpose in executing the warrant”.

Moving vehicles

An officer may not shoot a weapon at a moving vehicle unless it is necessary to protect against an imminent threat of serious injury resulting from the use by the driver or a passenger of a lethal weapon.

Officer identification

Law enforcement agencies should adopt policies and procedures so that officers on duty are reasonably identifiable by name or other visible information on their uniforms.

Canine teams

The WSCJTC is responsible for convening a working group to develop a model policy for the training and use of canine teams. The deadline for posting this template policy on the WSCJTC website is January 1, 2022.

Creation of the Bureau of Independent Investigations

ESHB 1267 established the state’s Office of Independent Investigations (OII) as a limited authority law enforcement agency within the governor’s office. The OII has the competence to investigate incidents involving the use of lethal force by law enforcement agencies occurring after July 1, 2022. The OII may also investigate previous incidents if new evidence is provided. which were not included in the original investigation. The OII is the lead investigative body for all incidents it selects for investigation. If the OII accepts a case, the investigation must be concluded within 120 days.

Additional laws

Here are other public safety laws passed in 2021:

  • BLU 5066: This law imposes a duty to intervene if an officer notices that another officer is using excessive force. Officers must rescue people injured as a result of the use of force as quickly as possible. In addition, there is an obligation to report the wrongdoing of another officer. See RCW 10.93.190.
  • SHB 1088: This law requires the development of a protocol for potential impeachment disclosures involving law enforcement officers. See RCW 10.93.180.
  • E2SHB 1089: This law provides for compliance audits by the Office of the External Auditor (OAS) in cooperation with the WSCJTC. See RCW 43.101.460.
  • E2SSB 5259: This law concerns the declaration, collection and publication of data relating to the application of the law. See chapter 10.118 RCW.

Conclusion and resources

Laws affecting local government law enforcement and public safety appear to evolve rapidly and may continue to change in the future. For this reason, it is extremely important to work closely with your agency’s law enforcement branch, legal counsel, and the WSCJTC to keep policies and training up to date.

Here are additional resources from the MRSC:

And here are the resources offered by WCJTC:

MRSC is a private, non-profit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible Washington State government agencies can use our free, one-to-one MRSC inquiry service to get answers to legal, political, or financial questions.

About Linda Gallagher

Linda Gallagher joined the MRSC in 2017. Previously, she was Senior Assistant Attorney for King County and Deputy Attorney General.

Linda’s experience in municipal law includes risk management, torts, civil rights, public transportation, employment, workers’ compensation, eminent domain, vehicle registration, law enforcement, corrections and public health.

She graduated from the University of Washington Law School.

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