Approximately 68 percent of voters across the state support mandated de-escalation and mental health training for police, as well as changing the state's deadly force law, according to an excerpt from a new telephone poll.
The De-Escalate Washington campaign would not release the results of the entire poll, saying that it would be used for proprietary purposes in the campaign. Still, the results from the ballot title question alone show a reason for I-940 supporters to be cautiously optimistic come November.
Like earlier efforts to change the state's deadly force law, De-Escalate Washington's initiative would alter the clause that says law enforcement officers can only be criminally charged for a death if they act "with malice" and "without good faith belief." This legal requirement, one of the most restrictive in the country, makes it just about impossible to charge officers for wrongful deaths or shootings in Washington State. For this reason, I-940 would remove the "with malice" clause, but keep "without good faith," and add a standard for what "good faith" actually means. The same ballot initiative also mandates that police deliver first aid after shootings and receive mental health and de-escalation training statewide.
The poll, conducted by EMC Research for De-Escalate Washington, the sponsors of ballot initiative I-940, took place over the course of last week. The statewide calculation drew from a 740-person sample of likely voters distributed between Western and Eastern Washington, and came with a 3.6 percent margin of error.
According to the EMC pollsters, who have also conducted surveys on local mayoral and City Council approval ratings in the past, support for the initiative reaches 73 percent in the Seattle/Puget Sound area, with just 18 percent voting "no." In Eastern Washington, 62 percent said they would vote yes or "lean yes" on the initiative, while 26 percent said they would vote against it. (For these calculations, there was a 5.3 point margin of error.)
The biggest opposition to I-940 comes from statewide police organizations and unions, who say the initiative doesn't address the "true problems" that officers face (like the opioid crisis and a lack of mental health treatment funding), but still lowers the bar for prosecuting cops.
I-940 received enough signatures to go to the state legislature for consideration, but if lawmakers don't pass the initiative, it will go on this November's ballot.