Trying to follow new state laws, WSP shut down I-82 Sunday rather than removed woman from roadway

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Uncertainty over Washington’s new policing laws led to the shutdown of Interstate 82 between Ellensburg and Yakima Sunday morning.

After a pedestrian was reported on the interstate the Washington State Patrol responded but the woman refused to leave the roadway, said Trooper John Bryant.

“Because of the new laws we have to change the ways we interact with pedestrians,” Bryant said. “She didn’t want to get in the car with any of the officers, so we had to basically shut down Interstate 82 for about a half an hour, both directions.”

The incident took place about 10 a.m. near the summit of Manastash Ridge and was finally resolved after her boyfriend came to the scene and talked her into getting into his car, Bryant said.

He said she was taken to Yakima for mental health treatment.

The Legislature this year passed a series of law enforcement reforms that went into effect this month. How officers interact with suspects, and especially people suffering mental health issues, are a big part of those reforms.

“We’re just trying to learn how to interpret these new laws,” Bryant said.

Bryant said the woman was running across the lanes of I-82 and it was safer to just close the roadway.

“She also had a knife on her hip, so we have to watch ourselves, as well,” Bryant said.

Bryant said the State Patrol is still looking for clarity, probably from lawmakers, on how the new laws are supposed to work.

“We don’t have mental health professionals sitting in our cars with us,” Bryant said. “And trying to get one a weekend … well, good luck.”