Bean bags, tear gas off limits; Cowlitz deputies blast law


'Law enforcement was at the table' when new law was negotiated

LONGVIEW, Wash. (KOIN) — Cowlitz County deputies are blasting a new Washington state law that took effect 10 days ago that they say makes their job more dangerous and puts the public in harm’s way.

The Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office said the new law prevents them from using bean bags and tear gas, two less-lethal options they say were needed on a call Wednesday that ended with a deputy taken to the hospital and an injured K9.

The call began around 10 a.m. when a woman called and said her husband was armed with a knife and threatened to sacrifice her to God.

“This was a scenario that we were worried could happen. We’ve tried to prepare for it as best we can, but frankly without those options, we’re scrambling and people are going to get hurt,” said Troy Brightbill, the Chief Criminal Deputy for the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office. “Our suspects are going to get hurt, our officers are going to get hurt and this affects our communities. This isn’t just something that affects law enforcement.”

Troy Brightbill, the Chief Criminal Deputy for the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office, August 5, 2021 (KOIN)

Brightbill said the deputies would have fired bean bag rounds to get him to comply the one time the suspect came out. Later they would have used bean bags to break windows to fire tear gas into the home to get him to come out.

Instead, they had to use rocks to break windows and couldn’t deploy the tear gas. Eventually SWAT went into the home. The suspect attacked the deputies and K9 and tried to rip out one of the deputies’ eyes from his socket.

They did use a Taser but it didn’t stop the man, Brightbill said.

Unintended consequences?

There are unintended consequences of the law that was passed along party lines. Police officials told KOIN 6 News they weren’t listened to about those unintended consequences.

State Rep. Sharon Wylie, a Democrat from Vancouver who was one of the sponsors of the new law, takes issue with the notion that no one listened to law enforcement.

“What I’m hearing is that some law enforcement folks are telling people we won’t be able to do this, that, or the other thing to protect you because of this law. And I will be looking very, very closely at anything that needs to be adjusted in that law,” Wylie told KOIN 6 News. “But most of the things that were in the suite of laws that we supported, the session had been negotiated over a period of 5 or 6 years and law enforcement was at the table.”

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