'Policing' an issue to watch in 2017 Legislature

In a January 2017 article titled “Issues to Watch: 13 of the biggest policies and problems legislatures will confront in 2017”, Governing magazine author Mike Maciag brings attention to policing and issues of particular current importance in our state:

The biggest problem facing the nation’s police departments is that many of those they serve simply don’t trust them. So it’s likely that some legislatures will involve themselves further in local policing in an attempt to ease tensions.

Some will look at updating statutes around use-of-force incidents. In Washington State, where critics say it is nearly impossible to prosecute a police officer for killing someone, a legislative task force recommended changing state law to clear the way for those prosecutions. But any change in the standards for prosecuting police officers will likely encounter resistance from groups such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Fraternal Order of Police.

The Washington task force also called for better data collection, more intensive training of police officers and improvements in the state’s mental health system. Those issues are likely to come up in numerous places. The lack of good data on shootings by police officers and on the circumstances of police stops is a problem around the country. Right now, reporting is either inconsistent or not done at all. California and a few other states have passed laws that will require law enforcement agencies to collect and report data on police stops, with other legislatures likely to soon follow suit. Body cameras, another accountability measure, will continue to proliferate after a slew of law enforcement agencies received federal funding to implement them last year.

Another growing concern is over the investigation of fatal civilian encounters with police. Minority communities and the families of victims have called for independent investigations, rather than inquiries by prosecutors who frequently work with police departments. In Ohio, a task force recommendation called for lawmakers to shift the authority for investigating police involved in shootings from county prosecutors to the state attorney general’s office.

Stay tuned to WACOPS.org for more as we aim to keep our members informed of legislative activity that affects the lives of our law enforcement community.

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