A statewide initiative to make it less impossible to prosecute police officers for the use of deadly force has picked up a series of endorsements from elected officials in the last two weeks. State Senators Pramila Jayapal and Bob Hasegawa have signed on. So has Representative Adam Smith, who represents much of South King County in Congress. Seattle City Council Member Kshama Sawant has also endorsed the initiative, which launched earlier this month:
In a message to the group, Jayapal said, "I was working on something very similar in the State Senate last session and am so glad to see your leadership through this initiative." A proposal to reform the law died in a House committee in February.
A coalition of African American, Native American, and Latino families who have lost loved ones to police violence has filed an initiative with the State of Washington to change the state law on deadly force and make it easier to prosecute police officers who kill.
State law currently requires prosecutors to make a two-pronged argument if they are going to prosecute cops for killing someone: They must show that the officer acted "with malice and without a good faith belief." The law, passed in 1986, is one of the most restrictive in the nation.
The initiative would strike this so-called "state of mind language" from the statute, language that makes the justness of a killing hinge on how a police officer thinks and feels at the time.
Members of the coalition have been collecting signatures for the initiative (I-873) at Seattle Pride and outside retail stores throughout the state. But they'll likely need a coordinated drive by paid signature-gatherers to collect the 250,000 signatures necessary to place the initiative on the ballot.