Letter to the Editor: Legislators Don’t Seem to Know How to Craft Laws


Our uneducated state Senate has passed SB 5066, which is dead on arrival when it comes to effectiveness.

Subject is a peace officer’s duty to intervene, intended to prevent excessive use of force, further wrongful actions by law enforcement getting carried away by emotions, anger, racism, not knowing their own strength or even plain meanness, when stopping or apprehending a person.

It is hard to believe a legislative bill needed to be written and taxpayer funds used to train police to be able to tell fellow officers, “ Stop it! You are out of control and harming this person.” Apparently, they do not currently possess this ability to act.

Actual SB 5066 text is here: https://legiscan.com/WA/text/SB5066/2021

The only word, according to the U.S. Supreme Court, that creates an obligation and necessity to act, is “must.” After the failures of sheriffs and police to enforce public health laws, which clearly stated “must be enforced,” and followed it up with “maybe,” police discretion came immediately into play.

Legal reference books like the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure no longer use the word "shall." Even the Supreme Court ruled that when the word "shall" appears in statutes, it means "may."

After reading the PDF text of SB 5066, law enforcement has no worries. All supposed strict requirements are written as “shall intervene,” “shall report,” “shall render aid,” and best of all, “may be grounds for disciplinary action.” Really? This level of ignorance is appalling.

According to Laurel Demkovich’s Spokesman-Review article, Sen. Jeff Holy, R-Cheney, said the bill puts everybody at risk and "scares cops."

Be not dismayed, Senator Holy, it is weakly written and has no teeth. There is no legal requirement.

Yes, the U. S. Supreme Court’s directive is to use “must” for a law to require enforcement.

The same court also states a ‘long standing tradition’ of police being allowed to use discretion.

This is what the state supreme court jumped on when rejecting the recall of the Thurston County sheriff. Tradition of discretion prevails over weakly written law.

The bill also mentions duty to intervene as part of the new training, which apparently will take nearly two years to implement. Why will it take so long? Aren’t law officers supposed to be able to recognize wrongful actions already? Seriously? Now, we have to pay to teach them it is wrong to abuse or murder a person?

What puts everybody at risk, Senator Holy, is having police without the inherent ability to know a line has been crossed, excessive force and wrongful conduct is occurring, and immediately intervene.

So, the wording of this bill as it is passed into law must incorporate “must” and “will” or it is a pointless waste of time, effort and taxpayer investment in law enforcement and legislation, or once again, tradition of police officer discretion will allow them to ignore the law.


Rick Yearout 



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