Recent rash of serious incidents has sheriff concerned about reform laws

A standoff, a felony assault and a shooting over the course of a few hours last week has local law enforcement concerned about the upcoming changes in state law that impact how they can respond to certain situations, even serious crimes.

Grays Harbor County Sheriff Rick Scott said they are seeing an increase in the number of their responses to serious crimes.

“That is sadly becoming the case, that we are seeing more and more incidents local, as well as nationally,” said Scott.

Scott, the incoming president of Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC), said he is concerned about the ripple effect of some of the new laws taking effect later this month, including new mandates for training officers and the increase in liabilities while serving their communities.

Scott said he sees the concern from residents that some of the new laws will hamstring agencies in their ability to enforce the law.

“We are blessed in our community to work for, and serve, a community that values and respects the officers that serve them,” said Scott. “Larger agencies like Seattle and King County are seeing far greater numbers of officers seeking retirement and unfilled openings within their ranks, and a much smaller number of interested applicants eligible to fill those open positions.”

With five openings in his patrol division right now, Scott said the last test process left less than 10 people eligible for those positions.

“The quality of the people we are hiring is excellent, but we’re just not getting the numbers,” said Scott.

He has seen multiple officers retiring and young officers seeking other employment outside of law enforcement both locally and statewide. Statewide, applicant pool numbers are down, and not nearly enough to fill the vacancies.

Scott said he’s in the process of interviewing lateral officers from out-of-state in order to satisfy the local needs. Some state agencies are advertising nationally to fill their open positions.

Crime up statewide

A WASPC report released last week shows overall crime is up across the state.

The annual report tracks crime and arrest data from contributing law enforcement agencies throughout Washington. It is designed to give residents, elected officials, and law enforcement data driven information about crime in their communities.

The report shows that in 2020 murders were up almost 47% and have increased overall 67% since 2016. Manslaughter went up 100%, fraud increased 131%, while drug and narcotic offenses, and reported hate crimes were down slightly.

The total number of commissioned officers statewide was down from 1.24 per thousand to 1.19 per thousand people. Washington is ranked 51st out of the 50 states and District of Columbia for the number of officers per thousand people.

Reported cases of officers assaulted was up 6% in 2020.

Statewide facts at a glance

■ The total population for Washington is 7,656,066.

■ There were 302 murders in 2020; an increase of 46.6% compared with 206 murders in 2019.

■ There were 59,134 fraud offenses in 2020; an increase of 131.3% compared with 25,562 fraud offenses in 2019.

■ A total of 468 hate crime incidents were reported, down 13.1% from 2019.

■ A total of 22,070 persons were arrested for DUI, including 172 juveniles.

■ Drug and narcotic abuse incidents fell 22.7%.

■ Full-time commissioned officers totaled 11,231.

■ There was a total of 2,047 assaults on law enforcement officers, up 6.2% compared from 1,927 in 2019.

■ Two officers were killed in the line of duty, Washington State Trooper Justin Schaffer and Bothell Officer Jonathan Shoop.

■ There was a total of 59,289 domestic violence offenses reported.

■ Domestic Violence offenses made up 49.7% of all Crimes Against Persons and 2.7% of all Crimes Against Property.

■ There were 5,432 sexual offenses (forcible and non-forcible) reported in 2020. There was a total of 5,432 victims in these incidents: with a total of 5,026 offenders.

Local Facts for rural Grays Harbor County (cities not included)

■ There were two murders reported in 2020; an increase of 100% compared with one murder in 2019.

■ There were 185 simple assault offenses in 2020; this is an increase of 34% compared with 138 offenses in 2019.

■ A total of five arson incidents were reported in 2020; this is an increase of 400% compared with two offenses in 2019.

■ A total of 52 persons were arrested for DUI, no juveniles.

■ Drug and narcotic abuse incidents were lower in 2020, a decrease of 5%.