There have been 213 killings by police officers in this state over the past decade.
There have been 213 killings by police officers in this state over the past decade. The Stranger

An initiative to change Washington's uniquely restrictive laws on charging police for wrongful killings racked up significant big-name support last year, counting two Seahawks and even the Seattle Police Department among its supporters. But that wasn't enough to get the initiative on the ballot.

As 2016 ended, the group that filed Initiative 873 said it collected only about half of the 250,000 signatures needed. Now the group, Washington for Good Policing, plans to fight for the changes in Olympia when the state legislature convenes next week.

As Ansel explained in June:

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. The remaining language in the law centers on whether a police homicide can objectively be considered "reasonable" in light of threats to the safety of the officer or the public.

A state task force focused on reducing fatal encounters between police and civilians has recommended removing the malice and good faith language from the law.

Advocates' focus now is "to get it done in the legislature," says Lisa Hayes, campaign manager for Washington for Good Policing. "I think with the momentum and public pressure we’ve created, plus the task force... it is likely it will be resolved in the legislature this year."

One bill for changing the language has already been filed in Olympia. The bill would go beyond just removing the malice language—it would also limit when police can shoot at vehicles and would require officers to have a "reasonable belief of an imminent threat of death or serious physical harm" to justify deadly shootings. Hayes says Washington for Good Policing supports that bill, but that a narrower proposal that only removes the malice language may have a better chance at getting bipartisan support.

To advocate in Olympia, Washington for Good Policing has hired a lobbyist and is fundraising to help pay the lobbying costs. You can donate online here.

Meanwhile, another group that supported Initiative 873—Not This Time, led by Andre Taylor, whose brother was killed by Seattle Police last year—is carving its own path. David Kroman reports today at Crosscut that both Not This Time and Washington for Good Policing may try again this year to get the issue on the ballot. However, due to poor communication and competing visions for reform, they could pursue separate initiatives. A representative for Washington for Good Policing raised questions about Taylor's past in Kroman's report, and Taylor said Hayes, who's white, is a problematic face for the effort.

"As I’ve expressed to Lisa Hayes," Taylor told Crosscut, "It’s very difficult to have a white face on a black problem... I think they mean extremely well, but it’s hard navigating through the terrain of black pain."

Washington for Good Policing says that the families involved in its campaign are racially diverse.

The groups could both file new initiatives this month with a new July 7 deadline for signature gathering, Kroman reports.

UPDATE: Hayes has now posted this response to Not This Time.