Views

On Police Reform

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Washington recently enacted a myriad of new “police reform” laws. While law enforcement leadership in Whatcom County supports efforts to enhance training, professionalism, and accountability, as well as to provide treatment alternatives to arrest, the new laws will significantly affect officers’ ability to detect and prevent crime, hinder the apprehension of criminals and render our community less safe.

The legitimate use of reasonable force to detain, arrest and capture criminals has long been a necessary hallmark of community safety. New legislation now restricts officers from using any degree of force unless “probable cause” exists to arrest, prevent an escape, or protect someone from imminent harm. “Probable cause” is a fairly high legal standard that represents a radical departure from longstanding court precedent authorizing temporary investigative detentions (Terry stops) under the lesser standard of “reasonable suspicion.” Officers heavily rely on Terry stops to interrupt crime and protect citizens. Eliminating this investigative tool undoubtedly will result in increased victimization and many criminals remaining free.

Law enforcement has long applied prudent safety criteria to vehicular pursuit decisions. Pursuits were authorized for serious crimes based on the reasonable suspicion standard. Pursuits are now limited to circumstances where probable cause exists to arrest for serious violent offenses defined as murder/manslaughter/homicide, assault in 1st degree, kidnapping 1st degree, and rape. Pursuits for DUI continue to be allowed based on reasonable suspicion.

Officers very frequently encounter situations wherein they have reasonable suspicion to believe criminal activity may be afoot but lack probable cause for arrest until the vehicle is stopped and an investigation is conducted. This significant limitation on the standards for engaging in pursuits for serious violent crime, and the prohibition against pursuing vehicles even when probable cause is present for other serious crimes (including felony assaults such as domestic violence related offenses, burglaries and high-value thefts) are unique to Washington and will affect safety.

Officers traditionally have responded to incidents involving people in behavioral health crises that have the potential to escalate and create public safety risks. If grave circumstances exist, officers have the ability to take the person into protective custody. However, the new legislation limits officers from using reasonable force when necessary to do so.

The Legislature has signaled its intent to reduce police interactions and transfer responsibilities to behavioral health professionals to the point of stating officers “should leave the area.”

While law enforcement generally supports behavioral health intervention there are not sufficient behavioral health professionals available or willing to take on risks associated with people who have a propensity towards violence without law enforcement protection.

While law enforcement prefers referring drug users to treatment rather than the criminal justice system, legislation re-classified all drug possession, regardless of quantity, from felonies to simple misdemeanors, and directed that for an offender’s first two offenses, they not be referred to prosecution. Sufficient substance use disorder treatment resources are not available to effectuate this and there will be little law enforcement can effectively do about neighborhood and public drug activity.

Limitations on some longstanding police tactics and restrictions on less-lethal alternatives will increase risks to officers’ safety and personal civil and criminal liability.

Concerns have resulted in the retirements and resignations of good, experienced officers and affected recruitment efforts to replace them.

The above represents just a sample of ramifications. Restrictions on interrogations, canine deployment and others will have substantial impacts as well.

Law enforcement in Whatcom County has always strived for excellence in public safety. Achieving this and capturing criminals will now be more challenging. Please be assured that despite these changes, officers will do the best they possibly can under the new laws to protect you and your family.

Bill Elfo, Sheriff, Whatcom County
Flo Simon, Chief of Police, Bellingham
Dan MacPhee, Chief of Police,
 Everson-Nooksack
Kevin Turner, Chief Police, Ferndale
Donnell Tanksley, Chief of Police, Blaine
Daniel Debruin, Chief of Police, Sumas Steve Taylor, Chief of Police, Lynden

Past Columns
Washington Can’t Wait

March 3, 2021

Emissions-Free Future

November 11, 2020

Restoring the Grizzly

July 22, 2020

Unhealthy wages

June 30, 2020

Iowa Fiasco

February 5, 2020

Oil Slick

October 23, 2019

Rethink Our Food System

September 25, 2019

The Kampuchean Lobbyist

April 10, 2019

The Public Charge

November 28, 2018

Road to Damascus

April 18, 2018

Orcas and Oil Don’t Mix

February 21, 2018

End Cash Bail

February 7, 2018

A Sorry State

January 31, 2018

Backyard Cottages

January 17, 2018

Fight City Hall

January 10, 2018

Net Neutrality

November 29, 2017

Big Blue Wall

November 15, 2017

Friday
Whatcom Art Market featuring Karen Silvernale

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm daily at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St. Through Aug. 1, Karen Silvernale’s acrylic mixed-media work will be…

Future Artifacts at MoNA

10:00am

“Future Artifacts” shows from 10am-5pm daily through Oct. 10 in La Conner at the Museum of Northwest Art, 121 S. First St. The exhibit features work by Lummi Nation glass artist Dan Friday,…

An Artist's Universe at Hotel Bellwether

10:00am

View painter and mixed-media master David Syre’s latest installation, “An Artist’s Universe,” hanging throughout the corridors, lobby and dining room of Hotel Bellwether and the Lighthouse…

Celebrate Summer Exhibit

11:00am

Stanwood-Camano Arts Guild hosts a “Celebrate Summer” juried show from 11am-5pm Wednesdays through Saturdays through Sept. 2 at A Guilded Gallery, 8700 271st St. NW.

Lands Real and Imagined

11:00am

“Lands Real and Imagined” shows from 11am-4pm Tuesdays through Saturdays through July 31 at Allied Arts, 1418 Cornwall Ave. This installment will include landscape-inspired pieces from…

Larry Richmond at Good Earth Pottery

11:00am

Ceramic baskets by Larry Richmond will be highlighted from 11am-5pm daily through Saturdays, and 11am-4pm Sundays through July at Good Earth Pottery, 1000 Harris Ave.

Cabin Rain Revisited

11:00am

“Cabin Rain Revisited,” featuring paintings by the late Northwest master William Slater from 1939-2007, shows from 11am-6pm daily (except Tuesdays) through July in Mount Vernon at Perry and…

Quilt Exhibits in La Conner

11:00am

From 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday, visit La Conner’s Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, 703 S. Second St. Currently on display are “Small Expressions: Handweavers Guild of…

Signature Member Show

11:00am

Peruse works by NW Pastel Society artists at a “Signature Member Show” from 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday through Aug. 1 in Anacortes at the Scott Milo Gallery, 420 Commercial Ave. More…

Diablo Lake Boat Tours

11:30am

Seattle City Light and the North Cascades Institute will team up to offer Diablo Lake Boat Tours starting this week with outings aboard the Alice Ross IV at 11:30am and 2:30pm Thursdays…

Fluid Formations and More at Whatcom Museum

12:00pm

View “Fluid Formations: The Legacy of Glass in the Pacific Northwest,” “El Zodíaco Familiar,” “All Dressed Up,” “Silk for Suffragettes and Schoolchildren: The Impact of Kimono on European…

Summer Juried Exhibit and More

12:00pm

A “Summer Juried Exhibit,” Seiko Purdue’s “Kumihimo Wishes: Current Times,” Gregory Kammer’s “New Terrain,” and “Quilting Forward: New Works by the Bellingham Modern Quilt Guild” can be seen…

Community Boating Center Summer Hours

2:00pm

Sign up for summer classes and experiences and book rentals for a dinghy, kayak, keelboat, paddle board or rowboat at the Community Boating Center, 555 Harris Ave. Summer rental hours are…

Garden Parties at Boundary Bay Brewery

4:00pm

Steve Webb and the Great Mad Swirl perform at a Happy Hour Concert Series taking place every Thursday from 4pm-8pm at the beer garden at Boundary Bay Brewery, 1107 Railroad Ave. The weekly…

Quilt Museum Porch Sale

9:00am

Shop a gigantic selection of “fabrics, fibers and fancies” at a Porch Sale taking place from 9am-4pm Friday and Saturday, and 9am-2pm Sunday in La Conner at the Pacific Northwest Quilt &…

Wild Things

9:30am

Kids, adults and adventurers can join Wild Whatcom for a “Wild Things” community program exploring local trails and parks from 9:30am-11am every Friday. Please bring a simple, healthy snack,…

Jacobson and O'Neill

10:00am

View works by ceramicist and mixed-media artist Sara Jacobson and sculptor Brian O’Neill from 10am-5pm Friday through Sunday through Aug. 1 in Edison at Smith & Vallee Gallery, 5742 Gilkey…

Pilchuck Glass School Show

11:00am

“The Pilchuck Glass School Show” can be seen from 11am-5pm Friday through Sunday (and by appointment) through Aug. 22 on Camano Island at Matzke Fine Art Gallery and Sculpture Park, 2345…

Flags and Monuments

11:00am

Check out award-winning Pacific Northwest artist Sheila Klein’s new exhibit, “Flags and Monuments,” from 11am-5pm Fridays through Sundays through Aug. 1 in Edison at i.e. gallery, 5800 Cains…

Ferndale Public Market

2:00pm

The Ferndale Public Market takes place from 2pm-6pm in the parking lot of the Ferndale Grocery Outlet, 1750 LaBounty Dr. They’ll be on hand to punctuate the end of your work week with fresh…

Port of Anacortes Summer Concert Series

6:00pm

The Port of Anacortes brings back its free summer concert series starting tonight with a show from the Chris Eger Band and the Powerhouse Horns from 6pm-8pm at Seafarers’ Memorial Park, 601…

Farmtunes with the High Mountain String Band

6:00pm

The High Mountain String Band perform at a revived “Farmtunes” series taking place from 6pm-9pm at Bellewood Farms, 6140 Guide Meridian. The free, family-friendly music series continues with…

LaFever Dream

6:30pm

The up-and-coming acoustic folk/bluegrass trio, the LaFever Dream, will make music from 6:45pm-8:45pm at All That Jazz Boutique Gallery, 1015 Railroad Ave., STE 105.

The Comeback

7:00pm

Watch Hockey Teeth, Northwest Hip Hop Collective, and India Glover with Lilyplayscello perform at a livestream taking place from 7pm-10pm at Make.Shift Art Space, 306 Flora St. The streamed…

Cory Vincent

8:00pm

“Grunge blues” can be heard when Cory Vincent performs from 8pm-10pm at Thousand Acre Cider House, 109 Grand Ave. Entry is $5-$40 (depending on how many people will be at your table). All…

Afterglow Comedy Hour

9:00pm

Attend a monthly Afterglow Comedy Hour from 9pm-10pm at Stemma Brewing Company, 2039 Moore St. The recipe is simple—add seven comedians, give them one hour to fit in their funny business, and…

Dive-In Movies at the Waterslides

9:30pm

The film Who Framed Roger Rabbit? continues a “Dive-in” Movies at the Waterslides series at 9:30pm in the parking lot of the Birch Bay Waterslides, 4874 Birch Bay Lynden Rd. The series…

Saturday
Whatcom Art Market featuring Karen Silvernale

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm daily at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St. Through Aug. 1, Karen Silvernale’s acrylic mixed-media work will be…

Future Artifacts at MoNA

10:00am

“Future Artifacts” shows from 10am-5pm daily through Oct. 10 in La Conner at the Museum of Northwest Art, 121 S. First St. The exhibit features work by Lummi Nation glass artist Dan Friday,…

An Artist's Universe at Hotel Bellwether

10:00am

View painter and mixed-media master David Syre’s latest installation, “An Artist’s Universe,” hanging throughout the corridors, lobby and dining room of Hotel Bellwether and the Lighthouse…

Celebrate Summer Exhibit

11:00am

Stanwood-Camano Arts Guild hosts a “Celebrate Summer” juried show from 11am-5pm Wednesdays through Saturdays through Sept. 2 at A Guilded Gallery, 8700 271st St. NW.

Lands Real and Imagined

11:00am

“Lands Real and Imagined” shows from 11am-4pm Tuesdays through Saturdays through July 31 at Allied Arts, 1418 Cornwall Ave. This installment will include landscape-inspired pieces from…

Larry Richmond at Good Earth Pottery

11:00am

Ceramic baskets by Larry Richmond will be highlighted from 11am-5pm daily through Saturdays, and 11am-4pm Sundays through July at Good Earth Pottery, 1000 Harris Ave.

Cabin Rain Revisited

11:00am

“Cabin Rain Revisited,” featuring paintings by the late Northwest master William Slater from 1939-2007, shows from 11am-6pm daily (except Tuesdays) through July in Mount Vernon at Perry and…

Quilt Exhibits in La Conner

11:00am

From 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday, visit La Conner’s Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, 703 S. Second St. Currently on display are “Small Expressions: Handweavers Guild of…

Signature Member Show

11:00am

Peruse works by NW Pastel Society artists at a “Signature Member Show” from 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday through Aug. 1 in Anacortes at the Scott Milo Gallery, 420 Commercial Ave. More…

Diablo Lake Boat Tours

11:30am

Seattle City Light and the North Cascades Institute will team up to offer Diablo Lake Boat Tours starting this week with outings aboard the Alice Ross IV at 11:30am and 2:30pm Thursdays…

Fluid Formations and More at Whatcom Museum

12:00pm

View “Fluid Formations: The Legacy of Glass in the Pacific Northwest,” “El Zodíaco Familiar,” “All Dressed Up,” “Silk for Suffragettes and Schoolchildren: The Impact of Kimono on European…

Summer Juried Exhibit and More

12:00pm

A “Summer Juried Exhibit,” Seiko Purdue’s “Kumihimo Wishes: Current Times,” Gregory Kammer’s “New Terrain,” and “Quilting Forward: New Works by the Bellingham Modern Quilt Guild” can be seen…

Community Boating Center Summer Hours

2:00pm

Sign up for summer classes and experiences and book rentals for a dinghy, kayak, keelboat, paddle board or rowboat at the Community Boating Center, 555 Harris Ave. Summer rental hours are…

Garden Parties at Boundary Bay Brewery

4:00pm

Steve Webb and the Great Mad Swirl perform at a Happy Hour Concert Series taking place every Thursday from 4pm-8pm at the beer garden at Boundary Bay Brewery, 1107 Railroad Ave. The weekly…

Quilt Museum Porch Sale

9:00am

Shop a gigantic selection of “fabrics, fibers and fancies” at a Porch Sale taking place from 9am-4pm Friday and Saturday, and 9am-2pm Sunday in La Conner at the Pacific Northwest Quilt &…

Wild Things

9:30am

Kids, adults and adventurers can join Wild Whatcom for a “Wild Things” community program exploring local trails and parks from 9:30am-11am every Friday. Please bring a simple, healthy snack,…

Jacobson and O'Neill

10:00am

View works by ceramicist and mixed-media artist Sara Jacobson and sculptor Brian O’Neill from 10am-5pm Friday through Sunday through Aug. 1 in Edison at Smith & Vallee Gallery, 5742 Gilkey…

Pilchuck Glass School Show

11:00am

“The Pilchuck Glass School Show” can be seen from 11am-5pm Friday through Sunday (and by appointment) through Aug. 22 on Camano Island at Matzke Fine Art Gallery and Sculpture Park, 2345…

Flags and Monuments

11:00am

Check out award-winning Pacific Northwest artist Sheila Klein’s new exhibit, “Flags and Monuments,” from 11am-5pm Fridays through Sundays through Aug. 1 in Edison at i.e. gallery, 5800 Cains…

Ferndale Public Market

2:00pm

The Ferndale Public Market takes place from 2pm-6pm in the parking lot of the Ferndale Grocery Outlet, 1750 LaBounty Dr. They’ll be on hand to punctuate the end of your work week with fresh…

Port of Anacortes Summer Concert Series

6:00pm

The Port of Anacortes brings back its free summer concert series starting tonight with a show from the Chris Eger Band and the Powerhouse Horns from 6pm-8pm at Seafarers’ Memorial Park, 601…

Farmtunes with the High Mountain String Band

6:00pm

The High Mountain String Band perform at a revived “Farmtunes” series taking place from 6pm-9pm at Bellewood Farms, 6140 Guide Meridian. The free, family-friendly music series continues with…

LaFever Dream

6:30pm

The up-and-coming acoustic folk/bluegrass trio, the LaFever Dream, will make music from 6:45pm-8:45pm at All That Jazz Boutique Gallery, 1015 Railroad Ave., STE 105.

The Comeback

7:00pm

Watch Hockey Teeth, Northwest Hip Hop Collective, and India Glover with Lilyplayscello perform at a livestream taking place from 7pm-10pm at Make.Shift Art Space, 306 Flora St. The streamed…

Cory Vincent

8:00pm

“Grunge blues” can be heard when Cory Vincent performs from 8pm-10pm at Thousand Acre Cider House, 109 Grand Ave. Entry is $5-$40 (depending on how many people will be at your table). All…

Afterglow Comedy Hour

9:00pm

Attend a monthly Afterglow Comedy Hour from 9pm-10pm at Stemma Brewing Company, 2039 Moore St. The recipe is simple—add seven comedians, give them one hour to fit in their funny business, and…

Dive-In Movies at the Waterslides

9:30pm

The film Who Framed Roger Rabbit? continues a “Dive-in” Movies at the Waterslides series at 9:30pm in the parking lot of the Birch Bay Waterslides, 4874 Birch Bay Lynden Rd. The series…