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Wealth & Poverty Review Good Intentions Gone Wrong

If you have been following Washington State law recently, you are well aware of the police reform package that went into effect over a week ago and the recent legalization of drug possession. Giving the benefit of the doubt, these changes could be very well-intentioned on the part of legislatures and judges.

Good intentions apart from wisdom, however, wreak havoc on communities.

I grew up in Bonney Lake, an idyllic city with a stunning view of Mt. Rainier. My family remembers when WalMart didn’t exist in the city that now boasts a Costco and a Chick-fil-A.

This week, my hometown experienced the unintended and disastrous consequences of these recent police reforms.

The Bonney Lake Police Department wrote this to their Facebook page on August 3:

At 1:41 p.m. on 08-03-2021, Bonney Lake officers were dispatched to an attempted armed robbery in the 8200 block of 209th Ave Ct E.

The suspect and victim were in the same vehicle when the suspect pulled a gun on the victim. A struggled ensued over the weapon and a shot was fired. The victim was not struck, but a residence was struck by the round. No one was injured in the shooting. The truck then crashed into a residence. The suspect dropped the weapon in the collision and fled south on 209th Ave Ct E. The weapon has been recovered.

The suspect is described as a 5’6” – 5’8” East Indian male in his 20s to early 30s. He was wearing a white baseball cap, dark colored sweatshirt with writing, dark green possibly camo pants, and left one white tennis shoe with red shoe laces at the scene.

Officers have checked the area to see if they could locate anyone matching the description. A K9 officer was on scene, but because probable cause had not been developed for a particular individual, they decided not to track for the possible suspect since they could not use force to detain him.

We will continue working on locating the suspect and ask anyone with information on this incident to contact the Bonney Lake Police Department at 253-287-4455.

Let me highlight that last part: A K9 officer was on scene, but because probable cause had not been developed for a particular individual, they decided not to track for the possible suspect since they could not use force to detain him.

These reforms are a grave injustice to our citizens and to our law enforcement, but let me also highlight another community that is neglected by these reforms: the mentally ill.

Yes, the mentally ill.

Under these new reforms, police officers are now left with fewer strategies and options to provide the help that a person suffering a serious mental illness needs. The mentally distressed need medical attention, but in order to detain an uncooperative person in need of that attention, a crime must be “imminent.” Unfortunately, this means that the mentally ill will find themselves in jail when they could have been treated at a hospital.

For instance, an arson in SeaTac left over eighty people without a home on July 10. The man now in jail on a $200,000 bail had received treatment at St. Anne Hospital in Burien earlier in July after threatening family members. In fact, officers had visited the apartment on the day of the fire to try to get the man help at St. Anne Hospital again.

Because the man was uncooperative, and because there was no “imminent” threat of a crime, the officers had no choice but to leave, as per the new reforms.

Hours later, the same man set fire to an apartment building full of people.

Eighty people without a home were ill-served by this reform. Police officers with resources to help the mentally ill were ill-served. And a man in need of medical treatment, now facing criminal charges, was ill-served.

Good intentions, apart from wisdom, are wreaking havoc on Washington State. Our communities deserve better.

Caitlin Bassett

Caitlin Bassett is a Policy Analyst and Communications Liaison for the Center for Science & Culture and the Center on Wealth & Poverty. Her main areas of focus are in Big Tech and its impact on human freedom, as well as homelessness and mental illness. In her free time, she enjoys delving into Lewis and Tolkien, cosmology, and running around historical sites on the East Coast. She graduated from Liberty University in 2017 with her Bachelor’s in Politics and Policy.