Sgt. Darren Moss Jr., with the Pierce County Sheriff's Department in Washington state, told "Fox & Friends Weekend" on Sunday that officers have been "unclear on whether they’re going to be OK to use force" in certain situations given the new police reform law, which went into effect last week, and have been advised to take a "conservative approach" in those cases.
Moss made the comments four days after deputies with his department, who were investigating a murder case in Washington, decided not to use a K9 dog in their search for a suspect after taking the new reform laws into consideration.
The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department said it responded to 911 calls reporting shots being fired at a Kohl’s store in Puyallup on Wednesday night and when "deputies arrived on scene they found a young male deceased in the north side of the parking lot."
"Several people reported seeing a male in a black shirt and black pants running from the shooting and deputies checked the area to see if they could locate anyone matching the description," the department said in a statement. "A K9 officer was on scene within minutes, 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."
House Bill 1310, which went into effect in Washington state last weekend, indicates that police now need probable cause before using force, according to KING5.
Moss explained on Sunday that because of the new law, "the officer felt he didn't have enough probable cause to use force in this situation so instead of searching with the K9, he decided to just search without him."
Moss told host Pete Hegseth that the officer made the decision because he was "scared" the K9 dog could "bite the suspect without probable cause," and therefore, "he would be in violation of the law."
He went on to explain the "bigger changes" that arose due to the new law.
"They moved from us being able to use reasonable suspicion to pursue vehicles or to use force in a situation where we found someone we suspected of a crime and they upped that to probable cause, which just requires a little bit more evidence, which is what we use to make an arrest, but not to detain someone," Moss told Hegseth.
"So in these situations, officers are somewhat unclear on whether they're going to be OK to use force."
He went on to say that "in those instances where they're not sure, we’ve advised them to just take the conservative approach and not use force if they can avoid it."
KING5 reports that Rep. Roger Goodman, a Democrat, is one of the bill’s supporters.
"From the majority of agencies typically in my area in Central Puget Sound, they say we understand the legislature's intent, we agree with the intent to use this force to have more equitable treatment of people in the community," he told the station.
"Police should be responding to calls, they should show up. The rules of engagement may change a little bit when they do show up," he added. "Because we want to focus on de-escalation and less use of force."
The police debate has been at the top of the American conscience since a White, now-former police officer in Minneapolis, Derek Chauvin, knelt on the neck of George Floyd for more than nine minutes in May 2020; Floyd later died.
Moss said that his department tried to adjust to the new police reform law in the state, noting that his agency provided "a little bit of training" for deputies prior to the law going into effect and will have a little more starting next week.
"The state academy did not have any training available for the agencies until about the week of the changes going into effect so a lot of agencies were scrambling to get their policies in check and make sure officers had a little bit of training," Moss noted.
He added that his department is "still trying to figure out what exactly … some of the things that haven't been defined in the law" mean, noting that the agency is "trying to work through" that.
Fox News’ Greg Norman contributed to this report.