Rep. Andrew Barkis’ bill to enhance engagement for limited authority law enforcement officers with peer support counselors passes state House of Representatives

Legislation to allow limited authority law enforcement officers the opportunity to confidentially engage with a peer support counselor was unanimously approved by the state House of Representatives on Tuesday.

House Bill 2611, sponsored by 2nd District Rep. Andrew Barkis, would establish a testimonial privilege on communications made between a limited authority law enforcement officer and a peer support group counselor, while receiving counseling because of an incident the officer was involved in while acting in their official capacity.

“Many of our state agencies, such as the Department of Corrections, the State Parks and Recreation Commission and the Department of Natural Resources, employ what’s known as limited authority law enforcement officers. These officers deal with traumatic experiences, just like our regular law enforcement officers do,” said Barkis, R-Olympia. “These experiences can have lasting effects on their physical and mental well-being. We need to ensure they have the proper resources to handle the rigor of their duties. It’s important they are allowed to engage with peer support counselors during a crisis without fear of being subpoenaed to testify on their communications.”

Barkis’ bill administers the same standards and conditions that apply to the privilege for communications by a law enforcement officer, or firefighter, with a peer support group counselor to now include limited authority law enforcement officers.

“Peer support is a vital component in maintaining health and wellness in any law enforcement agency. This needs to expand to our limited authority officers,” continued Barkis. “My bill will help our state agencies create an environment that focuses on prevention and intervention for these officers.”

House Bill 2611 now heads to the Senate for further consideration.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov