2021 Law Enforcement Legislation

The Washington State Legislature enacted a series of new policing laws during the 2021 legislative session, some that change the way law enforcement services are delivered. Local governments and law enforcement agencies across the state, including the City of Bellingham, are working to adjust to the impacts of these change, some of which became effective on July 25, 2021.


Additional information will be added to this page as the new laws take effect and as we learn more and make plans to address impacts.

Bellingham Police in compliance with some new laws

It also is important to know that Bellingham Police was already in compliance with many of the new laws prior to their enactment, including:

  • Use of Force Data Collection (SB5259): This requires agencies to report on use of force during a specific list of instances and requires gathering information related to the incident and report that to the state. Bellingham Police already gathers this information and needed only to add minimal data points to comply with new legislation. Monthly use of force reports can be found on the Use of Force Statistics page.
  • Duty to Intervene (SB5066): This establishes requirements for reporting excessive force/wrongdoing and rendering aid. Bellingham Police already has a policy covering this, which only will only require minimal changes to comply with the new law.

More information

Overview of 2021 law enforcement legislation

Read the full session law for HB1223 (PDF)

Law in effect: January 1, 2022

Law enforcement must electronically record custodial interrogations of juveniles, or any interrogation related to a felony (unless an exception applies) to protect the constitutional rights of those who are being interrogated.  Interrogations at a jail, police department, holding cell or a correctional or detention facility must include both audio and video.  Interrogations identified in this law done at other locations must include at least audio recording.

Bellingham Police already utilize body-worn cameras, which provides audio and video recording of interrogations in the field.

Read the full session law for HB1267 (PDF)

Law in effect:  July 25, 2021

The Governor’s Office will house a new Office of Independent Investigations (OII) in order to investigate incidents involving police officers.  This bill establishes duties, process, selection, and composition of the OII, which will investigate potential criminal conduct arising from police use of force, injuries to those in custody, or other officer-involved incidents.  Though the law takes effect in July 2021, this office has not been established.

Read the full session law for HB1310 (PDF)

Law in effect:  July 25, 2021

This bill sets restrictions on when law enforcement may use physical force and deadly force.  The new law requires that police officers use reasonable care in determining whether to engage physically, after first attempting tactics of de-escalation. This means an officer may leave the scene if there is no threat of imminent harm and no crime is occurring.

Bellingham Police has emphasized de-escalation techniques for several years and have woven de-escalation into various aspects of our training, so it becomes a routine part of our response. We provide less-lethal systems to our officers. Bellingham Police have a Crisis Negotiator Team (CNT), many of whom are assigned to the patrol division and can immediately respond to calls to utilize their specialized training.

Read the full session law for HB1320 (PDF)

Law in effect: July 25, 2021 (five sections), remainder of bill in effect July 1, 2022

This new law aims to modernize civil protection orders (CPO) to improve their efficacy and accessibility.  All CPO laws will now be in one chapter of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW.)

Read the full session law for HB1054 (PDF)

Law in effect:  July 25, 2021

This law establishes requirement for tactics and equipment used by police – and prohibits neck restraints and chokeholds. CS (“tear gas”) may only be used in situations meeting prescribed requirements. Military equipment is prohibited; uniformed officers must be identifiable; “no knock” warrants prohibited; and there are restrictions on vehicle pursuits and shooting at moving vehicles. 

Bellingham Police does not have any military equipment and we neither apply for nor use “no knock” warrants, even before the law was written and signed.  

Read full session law for HB1088 (PDF)

Law in effect:  July 25, 2021

County prosecutors must develop and adopt written protocol to help ensure that evidence that could be exculpatory (i.e. evidence that could show innocence,) and misconduct which affects an officer’s credibility, is disclosed. The protocol will include guidance on how to recognize exculpatory evidence and how it should be shared. 

Whatcom County prosecutors have such protocol and are refining it to meet the standards established by this law.

Read full session law for HB1089 (PDF)

Law in effect:  July 25, 2021

To ensure compliance with laws, rules, and procedures regarding deadly force investigations and officer training and certification, the State Auditor’s Office can conduct a process audit of any (completed) deadly force investigation to determine whether the involved law enforcement agency, investigative body, and prosecutor’s office acted in compliance with the specific statutory and administrative rules for conducting deadly force investigations.  The bill also allows for audits of any law enforcement agency to ensure compliance with rules and procedures governing training and certification of officers.

Read full session law for HB1140 (PDF)

Law in effect: January 1, 2022 

In order to protect the constitutional rights of juveniles while interacting with police, this law requires officers to provide juvenile with access to an attorney (phone, video, or in person) before the juvenile waives any constitutional rights during custodial interrogation, detention (based upon probable cause of involvement in criminal activity), or request for consent to search, including any property, vehicle or dwelling under the juvenile’s control. 

There is not currently a network of attorneys available 24/7 to consult with juveniles.

Read full session law for SB5259 (PDF)

Law in effect:  Sunday, July 25, 2021 (reporting database at state level to be implemented in 2022 or 2023)

The State Attorney General will establish an advisory group to help design, develop and implement a statewide “use of force” data program.  Once the program is finalized, likely in 2022 or 2023, law enforcement agencies are required to report their data.  Agencies are required to document use of force data beginning July 25, 2021.

Bellingham Police already defines and gathers data on “use of force” by officers. Monthly reports with this data are found on this Use of Force Statistics webpage.

Read full session law for SB5476 (PDF)

Law in effect:  May 13, 2021

As a result of a recent State Supreme Court decision, Washington drug laws have been rewritten to reduce penalties and require referral to drug abuse recovery services. The State Health Care Authority is required to establish a substance use recovery services advisory plan. Behavioral health administrative services organization must establish a recovery navigator program that provides community-based outreach, intake, assessment, and connection to services. None of these services exist, though the law is in effect.

Read full session law for SB5051 (PDF)

Law in effect:  July 25, 2021

In order to help prevent misconduct, ensure accountability and improve public confidence in criminal justice, this law increased the Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC) to 21 members and details the selection process.

It also specifies new laws for background checks.  There are new laws regarding grounds for denial, suspension, remedial training, or revocation of a peace officer’s certification.  Agencies have new mandatory reporting laws and personnel records retention laws.

Read full session law for SB5055 (PDF)

Law in effect:  July 25, 2021

This bill details a selection process to establish a statewide roster of Public Employment Relations Committee (PERC) arbitrators.  PERC will arbitrate law enforcement personnel disciplinary grievances for disciplinary actions, discharges, and terminations to be heard on or after January 1, 2022.  

Read full session law for SB5066 (PDF)

Law in effect:  July 25, 2021

When an identifiable on-duty officer sees another officer engaging, or attempting to engage, in excessive force, that officer must intervene when in a position to do so.  An officer shall render aid to any person injured as a result of the use of force at the earliest safe opportunity.  As well, an identifiable, on-duty officer who witnesses another officer committing wrongdoing shall report that action to their supervisor.

Bellingham Police already have a policy in place requiring officers to intervene, provide aid and to report wrongdoing.