Most observers expected I-940, the De-Escalate Washington ballot initiative organized by anti-police brutality activists, public defenders, and families of people killed by police, to head straight to the November ballot without much consideration from the state legislature. But with mere hours to go before the end of the 2018 legislative session, the state legislature narrowly passed a version of the initiative that changes the state's restrictive deadly force law.
The bill, which is part of a deal that takes I-940 off the November ballot, now heads to the governor's desk for signing.
Still, in order to seal the deal, legislators must pass the un-edited I-940 by the end of today.
Four days before the end of session, politicians, police groups, and De-Escalate Washington reached a deal to push the deal through the legislature. HB 3003, as the modified I-940 bill was known, raced through the House of Representatives and the state Senate in just 54 hours.
The version of the initiative passed by both chambers of the state legislature makes it easier to hold cops criminally liable for wrongful shootings. It removes the deadly force statute's "malice" clause, which made it nearly impossible to charge police over deaths in custody. The new law will keep the statute's "good faith" language, but adds a definition for it that imposes a test asking what a reasonable officer would do in the same position.
HB 3003 also adds numerous training mandates, including training involving de-escalation, mental health, alternatives to deadly force, and implicit bias. The deal reached by law enforcement groups and community activists also adds language that officers should render first aid, but only after securing a scene.
“The agreement reached between law enforcement groups and DeEscalate Washington is one of the most profound and important agreements I have seen since my time in Olympia," Senator David Frockt (D-Seattle) said in a statement. "For the last two years, first on the Task Force on the Use of Deadly Force and then in the 2017 legislative session, we sought common ground. We worked to remove the word ‘malice’ from this statute and find language that would create a fair, objective standard for police accountability."
State Sen Rebecca Saldana in tears asking for passage of this Deadly Force bill saying it’s remarkable all sides have come together. pic.twitter.com/WbvhKaP0T8
— Keith Eldridge (@KeithKOMO4) March 8, 2018
On the day the deal was reached, the Washington State Fraternal Order of Police released a letter from its president, Marco Monteblanco, to members explaining his reasoning. He acknowledged that some police organizations—like the Troopers Association and the Council of Metropolitan Police and Sheriffs (COMPAS)—disagreed.
"At the end of the day, we decided that coming up with better policy that provided proper protection to officers was more important than allowing I-940 to be enacted," Monteblanco wrote.
Monteblanco also cited polling showing that if I-940 were to go to the ballot, it would be overwhelmingly popular. "Through the polling numbers, almost 70% of our citizens believe that it does and support the initiative," he said. "Doing nothing would set back public safety for decades and to a point that we may never recover."
We'll update this post if/when legislators pass I-940.
Update: The legislature successfully passed I-940, securing the passage of HB 3003.
"I want to thank the legislators for passing this now and especially want to thank the law enforcement community for coming forward to work with us," Puyallup Tribe member Lisa Earl, mother of police shooting victim Jacqueline Salyers, said in a statement. "This is such an important step towards building bridges between communities and the police."