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CASPC - 2021 Legislative Update - 07/22/21

Cowlitz Association of Sheriff & Police Chiefs



July 21, 2021

The issue of police reform has been under discussion in recent years in our state and nationwide. In 2018 voters of Washington approved I-940 which has become known as the Law Enforcement Training and Community Safety Act (WAC 139). Among the requirements were changing the criminal charging standard for Law Enforcement Officers using lethal force from acting with Malice (with ill intent) to the standard of what a “reasonable” officer would do in the same circumstances.  This legislation requires that any use of lethal force by law enforcement that causes death or serious bodily injury must be investigated by an Independent Investigation Team, which includes citizen representatives.  Independent Investigation Team members are also required to complete 40 hours of patrol tactics training emphasizing de-escalation, cultural awareness, bias, and the history of race and policing.  In compliance with this law, the Cowlitz County Association of Sheriff and Police Chiefs (CASPC) have formed the Lower Columbia Major Crime Team which has been utilized to investigate lethal force incidents. We have trained local instructors to teach the patrol tactics course and have delivered 2 sessions to over 50 local officers. 

 In 2021 the issue of police reform was at the forefront of the Washington State Legislative session. CASPC engaged in the legislative process through the Washington Association of Sheriff’s and Police Chiefs (WASPC) supporting some aspects of police reform while working to shape and clarify other aspects of the proposed legislation. The result was an unprecedented number of new laws that will fundamentally alter the way law enforcement will be able to ensure the safety of their communities. There will be less local control of law enforcement replaced by State agencies, appointees, and Commissions comprised in part by citizens who meet certain minority statuses, without specific criminal justice experience or expertise. These new laws, many that go into effect July 25, 2021, have raised more questions than answers with new undefined terms. The changes include the following:

 ESB 5476 

The Washington State Supreme Court issued a ruling in State vs. Blake in February that the drug possession statute was unconstitutional. This was based on the fact that the word knowingly was not in the letter of the law though it was previously established as an implied necessary element of the crime. The Legislature could have simply added knowingly to the current statute but instead chose to change unlawful drug possession to a misdemeanor that can only result in arrest and charging after two referrals to drug treatment with no accountability that the offender follows through. CASPC has worked with the Prosecutor, City Attorneys, and Drug Court to develop a local county protocol to make referrals and document those so that criminal prosecution may occur upon the third offense. There is no statewide system mandated to track these referrals. As a result, there will be more drug offenders in the community under no court supervision or requirement to be in treatment.  This law went into effect upon the Governor’s signature on May 13, 2021

ESHB 1054

 This law addresses police tactics and equipment. It prohibits the use of neck restraints, no-knock search warrants, and the use of “military equipment” whether obtained from the military or not, limits the use of tear gas, and prohibits shooting at moving vehicles under most circumstances. It limits police vehicular pursuits to circumstances where there is probable cause (a high legal standard) to believe the person has committed a violent felony or sexual assault offense, or reasonable suspicion of driving while impaired (a lower standard).  Initial attempts to ban K-9 tracking of people were rescinded and replaced with a committee to study the issue. This law will go into effect July 25, 2021. 


E2SHB 1310 

This law addresses the use of physical force by law enforcement. The legislative intent is to reduce police interaction with people who have not committed a crime and police may now only use force when there is probable cause to make an arrest, effect the arrest, prevent escape, or protect against imminent bodily injury. The law further strongly encourages de-escalation tactics and unless there is a threat of imminent harm or a crime has been or is about to be committed, law enforcement is directed to leave the area. This measure will alter how we interact with those in a mental health crisis and juvenile runaways. Under current standards, law enforcement may detain someone if there is a reasonable suspicion that they have committed a crime. This temporary detention allows for the development of probable cause through witness interviews and identification of the suspect. If an arrest is not supported by the facts the individual is released. Under terms of this new legislation, when someone runs from law enforcement physical force may only be used if probable cause exists that a crime has been committed. This law will go into effect July 25, 2021. However, a model policy from the State Attorney General is not required to be published until next year.


Other laws that will go into effect next year will require that questioning of juveniles be audio and video recorded and that prior to questioning they must speak with an attorney. Adult suspects must be at least audio recorded and in the case of felony crimes and questioning within a police station, jail, or police car the interview must be video recorded as well. The Governor’s Office will establish an Independent Investigation Team that will selectively take over local law enforcement investigations of use of force incidents. The State Criminal Justice Training Commission will have an expanded role in commencing investigations and pursuing decertification of Officers accused of wrongdoing prior to any local decision to terminate employment.   

 The members of CASPC have been implementing training as well as policy changes to reflect these new realities of policing in our state. We remain committed to providing the highest level of service possible to ensure public safety and partnering with local citizens towards that end. We have enjoyed great support from our communities in the past, particularly this past year, and have avoided much of the unrest that our nearby metropolitan neighbors have experienced. Working together we can and will continue to enjoy the high quality of life that Cowlitz County is known for. If you have any questions or comments about law enforcement and our service to you please contact us.


Sheriff Brad Thurman – Cowlitz County Sheriff (360) 577-3092

Chief Robert Huhta – Longview Chief of Police (360) 442-5800

Chief Darr Kirk – Kelso Chief of Police (360) 423-1270

Chief James Kelly – Woodland Chief of Police (360) 225-6965

Chief Ralph Herrera – Kalama Chief of Police (360) 673-2165

Interim Chief Charlie Worley – Castle Rock Interim Chief of Police (360) 274-4711



Attached Media Files: CASPC Press Release
Cowlitz County Sheriff's Office - UPDATE - Search and Rescue Mission at Mt St Helens - 07/21/21

UPDATE:          Missing Hiker Brian Yang – Recovery Mission


At 1353 hours of July 21st, hikers in the Mt Whittier area called Cowlitz 911 to report finding a hiker on a ridge below them.  The subject was unresponsive and was wearing clothing similar to that of missing hiker Brian Yang.  Search and Rescue staff responded to the area and confirmed the subject, whom they were able to identify as Mr. Yang, was deceased.  Mr. Yang appeared to have fallen about two hundred feet down a very steep embankment.

Mr. Yang’s family had responded to the command post during the search and have been notified of his passing.  The family is not available for comment at this time.

Due to the large scale of this operation, the agencies involved in the search will be on scene for several more hours as searchers return to the command post. 


Attached Media Files: Press Release 2
Photo of Missing Person Yang
Photo of Missing Person Yang
Cowlitz County Sheriff's Office - Search and Rescue Mission at Mt St Helens (Photo) - 07/21/21

The coordinated search by the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office, Skamania County Sheriff’s Office, and U.S. Military continues today for Brian Yang, the person missing in the Mt. St. Helens area and who was believed to have arrived sometime between Sunday July 18th and Monday July 19th.  Today’s search is focusing on the south side of the mountain.

Joining the search for Mr. Yang are Cowlitz County Search and Rescue, approximately 100 soldiers, a variety of aircraft, the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office drone, and others. 

Mr Yang, a 1st Lieutenant from Joint Base Lewis McCord, was believed to be training for an upcoming Ultra Marathon event.  Those who know him say he has no known health problems and that he is in excellent physical condition.  Mr. Yang’s vehicle was found parked at the Coldwater Trailhead Monday sometime between 9 and 10 p.m. 

Mr. Yang is described as a 25 year old male of Asian descent, 5 foot 8 inches tall, with a fit build.  He was last observed wearing a blue vest, black or red t-shirt, black or red shorts, with blue shoes. 

The Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office wishes to thank the public for information already received regarding possible sightings of Mr. Yang, and asks that further information be reported to the Tip Line at 360.577.3183 between 7a.m.- 5p.m. Monday through Friday and 360.577.3098-Option 3 after hours and weekends. 

Due to the volume of personnel on scene at this time, the Sheriff’s Office respectfully requests that others wishing to assist do not attempt to join the search and instead continue to check the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page which will post if further assistance is needed.   


Cowlitz County Sheriff's Office - Arrests Made in "Road Rage" Assault - 07/04/21

On July 3, 2021 deputies were dispatched to a report of a road rage incident with shots fired, near Spirit Lake Hwy and Si Town Road, near Castle Rock. Deputies arrived on scene and detained two suspects identified by multiple witnesses as having pointed pistols at two other subjects in a truck, with at least one suspect firing a shot.

The suspects, identified as Terry G. Middleton, 70, Napavine, and Jack L. Ritter, 63, Salkum, were reportedly seen driving on both sides of a vehicle driven by a Castle Rock man. Witnesses reported Middleton and Ritter were pointing pistols at the truck occupants and forced the vehicle to a stop. The occupants of the truck stated both suspects pointed their guns at them and threatened to kill them. Middleton reportedly pointed his pistol at the truck driver's head, then fired a shot near the vehicle during the confrontation.

Terry Middleton was booked into Cowlitz County Jail on charges of Assault 1st Degree - Two Counts, Felony Harassment - Two Counts and Drive-by Shooting. Jack Ritter was booked into Cowlitz County Jail on charges of Assault 1st Degree - Two Counts and Felony Harassment - Two Counts. Both firearms used in this incident were recovered and placed into evidence. No injuries were reported.


Attached Media Files: Press Release , Logo
CCSO logo
CCSO logo
A21-141 Death Investigation - Suspects in Custody - 07/02/21



JULY 2, 2021


On January 11, 2021, 30-year-old Kelso resident Joshua D. Frazier was reported as a missing person.  Initial investigation by the Kelso Police Department revealed that Frazier may have been assaulted on January 7, 2021, at 101 Pacific Ave Spur.  The Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office initiated an investigation of the assault report, as it occurred outside of city limits.

Joshua Frazier’s body was located in a body of water near Pacific Ave Spur on February 20, 2021.  An autopsy was conducted and determined the cause of death to be exposure and drowning, following blunt force head trauma.  Detectives determined that Frazier was assaulted at 101 Pacific Ave Spur and identified multiple suspects, who have now been arrested and booked into the Cowlitz County Jail on the following charges:

Christina L. Bergman, 32, of Kelso – Assault 2nd Degree, Kidnapping 1st Degree

James E. Bigbeaver, 24, Transient – Assault 2nd Degree

Jerrie P. Larsen, 32, Everett – Assault 2nd Degree



Troy Brightbill

Chief Criminal Deputy

Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office

Attached Media Files: Press Release , CCSO logo