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

King County Council has nine members who each represent a district. Courtesy of kingcounty.gov
King County Council passes $12.59 billion biennial budget

King County Council on Nov. 17 passed a $12.59 billion biennial budget… Continue reading

Tim Eyman get in some last minute campaigning for I-976 in downtown Bellevue on the afternoon of Nov. 5, 2019. File photo
Eyman fights allegation he repeatedly broke campaign laws

In a lawsuit, the state accuses the prolific initiative promoter of getting kickbacks.

Screenshot from Gov. Jay Inslee’s news conference Nov. 12 with his wife, Trudi.
Inslee to hold news conference to announce new restrictions

Among them, reportedly, will be a ban on indoor service at restaurants and retail limitations.

t
Inslee issues travel advisory for Washington

Joins Oregon and California governors asking residents to limit travel; self-quarantine

Screenshot of Gov. Jay Inslee from a July press conference. FILE PHOTO
‘Further restrictions’ coming as Thanksgiving nears, Inslee says

Asks residents to forego traditional holiday gatherings due to COVID-19

Stock photo
State health officials call for renewed efforts to combat COVID-19 as cases increase

Disease transmission at accelerated rate across Washington

Stock photo
800,000 ballots returned so far to King County Elections

55% of 1.4 million registered voters; turnout expected to hit 90%

Aaron Kunkler/staff photoAlvin Sweet is a resident of Martin Court in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood. Martin Court is a former motel which was transformed into a supportive housing complex two decades ago. New funding from King County’s Health through Housing ordinance could expand this type of program across the county.
King County wants to buy motels for emergency, affordable housing

The concept has proven results in addressing homelessness.

Stock photo
U.S. Senate committee report calls unfair practices by tech companies a threat to local news

Report shows total newspaper revenue will have dropped by nearly 70% by end of 2020

King County 2020 unemployment numbers. Source: Washington State Employment Security Department
Boeing, coronavirus likely to impact King County economy

Unemployment remained high in September.

Stock photo
Eleven indicted in illegal marijuana trafficking investigation

Allegedly shipped illegal marijuana across the U.S.; locations in six South County cities searched