Sheriff’s Department concerns expressed at town hall in Chelan

by Richard Uhlhorn

An estimated 100 concerned Chelan residents attended Wednesday night’s Town Hall at the Chelan Fire Department to hear about recent changes to Washington State laws concerning law enforcement and public safety.

An estimated crowd of 100 residents attended last night’s Chelan Town Hall by the Chelan County Sheriff’s leadership staff. Sheriff Burnett was not in attendance, but Chief of Patrol Captain Musgrove and Sgt’s. McCue and Frank presented information on law enforcement policy changes from the 2021 Washington State Legislative Session.

All Things Lake Chelan wrote an extensive article on these changes from the Wenatchee meeting that attracted 1,100 people and around 3,000 listeners online.

Chief of Patrol Captain Musgrove – Chelan County Sheriff’s Department

Captain Musgrove opened the meeting by telling those in attendance that the new policies guiding law enforcement were unprecedented.

As of July 25, when these changes became law, Sgt. McCue said, “I can’t stop a suspect from leaving (a scene) without probable cause.”

Sgt. McCue – Chelan County sheriff’s Department

“This is not the job I signed up for,” said Sgt. Frank. “We cannot provide the service we signed up for. We feel sorry for you.”

In a letter signed by Sheriff Brian Burnett – Chelan County, Sheriff Kevin Morris – Douglas County, Chief Steve Crown – East Wenatchee Police Dept., and Chief Rick Johnson – Wenatchee Police Department, it was stated that the “new laws touch on many historically-effective methods of policing in the state.”

They impact how law enforcement agencies and staff respond to search and seizure, use of force, vehicle pursuits, drug enforcement, mental health detentions, criminal investigations, tactics and available tools for de-escalation of public safety and health situations.

The letter further states that if no crime has been committed and no imminent threat of harm to others exists, officers and deputies may not respond or if they do respond, may leave the scene.

Some examples of calls for service that may be effected include:

  • Welfare Checks – requests to check on a person in public, a private place, or who has not been heard from for an unusual amount of time.
  • Mental Health – calls for service of any tpe where there is information or potential that the involved subject suffers from a mental health condition.
  • Civil Calls – non-criminal calls for service.

One worried parent who has a special needs child living on his/her own is very concerned and worried. She told Sgt. Frank that this child is registered at the Sheriff’s Department as a special needs individual which Sgt. Frank replied, “Registering is extremely important. It triggers us to know that there might be behavior issues when responding.

Sgt. Frank – Chelan County Sheriff’s Department

Sgt. Frank also stated that law enforcement has received a “black eye” in the Court of Public Opinion. “People who feel that way can be assured that when they dial 911 we are still coming.”

Brigitte Sztab, a concerned resident asked, “What can we do to help?” Captain Musgrove replied that residents can reach out to their legislators and “express how you feel about these changes… that’s the key to success (in changing the laws).

“Your voices need to be heard,” he added. “There are only 11,000 of us (law enforcement personnel), so we are like a speck of sand,” said Sgt. Frank.

Sgt. Frank told the crowd that in the first two weeks of being in Chelan County he heard more “Thank You for your Service” from residents than 10 years serving in the King County Sheriff’s Department.

Mayor Bob Goedde commented that the City’s insurance rates are going through the roof with all these new changes. “We need a grassroots effort to help change this,” he stated.

WASPC (WA. Assn. of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs) is working with legislators and supports follow-up legislation to address unintended consequences, ambiguities, and conflicting provisions of the new laws. WASPC and its members will continue to work in good faith to improve the public service of law enforcement and embrace the sanctity of human life.

For more detailed information on the current issues, check these statements from the Washington Assn. of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs:

On Sunday, August 15, Sheriff Burnett will also appear in Manson for an evening presentation in the community center at North Shore Bible Church.

The Sheriff will go over the recent legislative changes and will also discuss his recent visit to the Arizona-Mexico border. The Manson meeting will run from 6-8 pm.

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