PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. — Pierce County is seeing a rising number of shootings involving police.
Data from the Pierce County Sheriff's Department show deputies were involved in three shootings in all of 2021. The county’s deputies have already been involved in four this year.
It's a pattern some hoped would be reduced by the state's law enforcement reforms.
“The new laws that went into effect were to help minimize the amount of force used by officers across the state, especially deadly force. But in a lot of these instances, we’re seeing more uses of deadly force,” Sgt. Darren Moss said. “It’s not something the laws have necessarily had an effect on, but we’re just seeing a trend of more deadly encounters with police officers in our county.”
Moss said the shootings aren’t limited to specific situations, but from a general attitude shift that escalates encounters, putting deputies in harm’s way.
“It feels like there’s a lack of respect for the law, not necessarily just for law enforcement officers, but we’re seeing a lack of respect for the law in general,” he said.
Tisha Marie of LegallyBLACK points to a lack of accountability for both criminals and law enforcement.
“You have criminals committing criminal activity, and you have officers using deadly force, and neither of these two scenarios are being disciplined appropriately,” she said.
Moss said that as COVID-19 restrictions begin to loosen, that may allow Pierce County to open its jail more as a deterrent to would-be and repeat offenders.
“Having those people in jail might deter some of this crime and remind people that the law still applies to everybody and we’re not going to let this stuff stand,” said Moss.
Meanwhile, Marie said until the issue is addressed holistically, the numbers will continue to rise in Pierce County.
“You can open the prisons, and that could mitigate crime, and people could be less likely to commit certain crimes because they don’t want to go to jail, and you can have an officer murder somebody and lose their job and go to jail, and that will prevent other officers from murdering people, but neither of those things are happening,” said Marie. “There’s a rise on both sides, and there’s a lack of accountability on both sides, and I think until those two things are met, we’re going to continue to see a rise in crime and a rise in police involved shootings.”