Legislators come to agreement on deadly force reform

The agreement between lawmakers, activists, and police amends the upcoming I-940 ballot initiative.

In a last-minute effort, lawmakers, cops, and community activists reached a deal on lowering the legal standard for prosecuting officers who kill in the line of duty.

House Bill 3003 is a product of a surprise agreement between law enforcement representatives and the backers of I-940, a pending ballot initiative that would reform Washington’s police use-of-deadly-force laws. HB 3003 alters I-940 in the event it passes to make it more palatable to law enforcement.

Washington state has long held a high legal bar for prosecuting police officers that kill in the line of duty. Statute dictates that officers must be proven to have acted in “malice” and “without good faith” to be prosecuted, a standard which critics argue is almost impossible to prove. A 2015 analysis from The Seattle Times found that while 213 people were killed by police between 2005 and 2014, only one officer was ever charged.

Last year, a group called De-Escalate Washington gathered enough signatures to put I-940 on the November 2018 ballot. The initiative would amend state law to lower the standard for prosecuting cops who use deadly force. It would also require that all law enforcement officers in the state receive training on mental health and violence de-escalation, and mandate that police officers provide first aid to injured suspects.

HB 3003—sponsored by Rep. Roger Goodman (D–Seattle) and Rep. Dave Hayes (R-Camano Island)—would alter I-940’s changes to state law by requiring an “objective good faith test” of officers who kill, considering what another “reasonable officer” would have done under the same circumstances when weighing potential criminal prosecution. The bill would only go into effect upon passage of I-940.

At a Senate Law and Justice Committee meeting on the bill on March 4, Rep. Goodman said that the bill would be perfecting the initiative. “We have worked very hard to bring together law enforcement and the community to resolve what is really part of a national discussion: police use of force,” he said.

At the meeting, Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs executive director Steve Strachan said that he supports the bill and that a “lengthy and negative” initiative campaign will not “serve to build community trust” between law enforcement and communities.

“We truly appreciate the willingness of the initiative backers to engage in discussion and to listen,” Strachan added.

“The theme of our campaign has been building bridges between communities and police and we believe this bill reflects that process,” said Heather Villanueva of De-Escalate Washington, adding that the bill “strengthens and clarifies I-940.”

“We’re going to save lives,” she said.

The House approved the bill by a 73-25 vote on March 7 and the Senate passed it on March 8—the last day of the legislative session—25-24 along party lines.

Prior to its passage in the Senate, several Republicans questioned whether it is legal to pass the bill and argued that the Legislature isn’t allowed to amend a ballot initiative.

“This bill clearly amends an initiative,” said Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R–Spokane).

Sen. Phil Fortunato (R–Auburn) said that while he supports the bill’s intent, he couldn’t vote for it because it was changing laws that don’t exist yet. “We are amending something in the future that hasn’t happened yet,” he said.

Sen. Mike Padden (R–Spokane Valley) proposed an amendment that would have placed the changes in HB 3003 on the November ballot as its own initiative that would compete with I-940, but his amendment was voted down along party lines by the Democratic majority.

Some Senate Republicans slammed the bill as an attack on law enforcement. “We need to stand up against this and make very clear that we support the people in law enforcement of this state,” said Sen. Doug Ericksen (R–Ferndale).

Prior to the bill’s passage, Democratic senators praised it as good policy on the divisive issue of police and their use of deadly force. “It supports the people in our community, it supports law enforcement, and it is excellent policy,” said Sen. Manka Dhingra (D–Kirkland).

This report was produced by the Olympia bureau of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@mi-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.mi-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

[flipp]

More in Northwest

The Red Lion Inn at 1 South Grady Way in Renton is being used as temporary site to relocate individuals experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo.
Renton battles King County over temporary shelter at Red Lion Hotel

County officials believe emergency health order will supersede city’s move.

A train route that would shuttle people between Eastern and Western Washington could tie in with the proposed ultra-high-speed rail between B.C. and Portland. Photo courtesy RobertStafford/Pixabay.com
State receives King County to Spokane rail study

It would take about eight and a half hours to reach the Inland Empire from Puget Sound.

Bret Chiafalo. File photo
Supreme Court says state can punish WA faithless electors

Justices: Presidential electors, including Everett man, must keep pledge to back popular vote winner

Gov. Jay Inslee issued new guidance allowing the resumption of self-service buffets, salad bars, salsa bars, drink stations and other types of communal food sources in Phase 2. File photo
Buffets and salad bars back on the menu in King County

Gov. Jay Inslee has revised rules to allow self-serve food areas in Phase 2 of the state’s reopening.

State regulators keep Puget Sound Energy rates steady

Rate adjustments ease economic impact during COVID-19 pandemic

Brian Tilley (left) and Katie Dearman work the wash station Friday at Kate’s Greek American Deli in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Governor’s no-mask, no-service order begins across Washington

“Just do not ring up the sale,” Gov. Jay Inslee said about customers who do not don the proper masks.

King County homeless count: 11,751 people, up 5 percent from 2019

One night a year, volunteers spread out across Seattle and King County… Continue reading

Nurse Sylvia Keller, pictured with Gov. Jay Inslee, is on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle in Yakima County. Courtesy photo
Governor doubles down on mask rules

Inslee: Starting July 7, businesses do not serve those who do not wear a mask

Summer vehicle travel projected to decrease this year

Traffic this summer will likely be lighter across Washington state than previous… Continue reading

Most Read