Mercer Island chief discusses bills passed regarding policing

Holmes said he is pleased with the ‘corrections’ made this legislative session.

A year after the state Legislature passed a host of bills aimed at reforming law enforcement, the 2022 session in March saw some of those bills largely adjusted and allowed officers to return to their former ways of policing.

“I think chiefs and sheriffs across the state are pleased with the corrections that were made this session,” said Mercer Island Police Department (MIPD) Chief Ed Holmes on May 3, more than a month after the alterations were implemented.

During a Feb. 15 Mercer Island City Council meeting, Holmes said he was optimistic that some of the bills would pass, and a pair that did restored officers’ ability to use a reasonable amount of force to detain a suspected criminal in a foot pursuit and to take someone into protective custody if they are suffering from a mental health crisis.

Another passing bill that Holmes discussed allows officers to once again use larger ammunition and weapons — like sponge, beanbag and rubber baton rounds — but only for shotguns and less-lethal weapons.

The vehicle-pursuit bill didn’t pass, and Holmes is concerned that “this emboldens criminals to victimize communities knowing that the police are restricted from pursuing them,” he said.

After the bills were passed, the MIPD pushed them out to its officers and apprised them of what was back on the table while going about their daily patrols. No re-training was involved, just a heads up.

Holmes said that he appreciates the legislators’ willingness to allow officers to once again fully engage in their jobs with the passage of the bills.

“We sign up for the job to keep our community safe,” Holmes said. “So when the rules, laws change that make it a lot harder to do that, it’s frustrating to not be given the tools we need to do the very thing we signed up to do.”

At press time, Holmes said his small department hadn’t yet obtained data regarding any possible situations addressed in the bills. MIPD consists of 33 officers, including 23 patrol officers, the chief, two commanders, four detectives, marine patrol officers and others.

* In other MIPD news, the department worked in partnership with the Drug Enforcement Administration to collect approximately 102 pounds of unused prescription drugs on April 30 during the national take back day at the police department/city hall west entrance loading dock.

Sound Publishing reporter Alex Bruell contributed to this report.