A deal struck between police groups and anti-brutality activists to change the state's deadly force law has been thrown into disarray.
Last week, Thurston County Judge Christine Schaller ruled that state legislators erred when they passed the last-minute deal as a piece of legislation, rather than putting the original ballot measure presented by anti-brutality activists on the ballot.
In place of the bill passed by the legislature, Judge Schaller ordered that the original initiative, I-940, go to the voters come November.
Lawyers for the legislature and De-Escalate Washington are appealing Judge Schaller's ruling, but one police group that supported the deal has also come out and said it would fight I-940 if the appeal doesn't flip the judge's decision.
In a statement released to its members on Tuesday, the Washington State Fraternal Order of Police said that they maintained that I-940 was "bad for our communities and bad for public safety."
"During the last Legislative session, the groups once polarized against each other over this issue came to common ground. De-Escalate Washington, WASPC, WACOPS and The FOP sat at the table together to negotiate an alternative that addresses the issues and hand, while preserving public safety," the statement continued. "Sending I-940 to the ballot would deepen the divide between the community and law enforcement we have worked so hard to overcome through working together on HB 3003."
As I've written before, HB 3003—the legislative deal reached by all sides—didn't change the main point of the original initiative, which eliminated the "malice" clause from the state's deadly force statute. Requiring cops to show "malice" in deadly force encounters in order to be held criminally liable meant that virtually no police officers were ever charged for unjustified use of deadly force. The modified bill, however, did give some concessions to police, including language tweaks that mandated officers deliver life-saving aid to people wounded in deadly force encounters only after securing a crime scene.
The legislature passed both I-940 and HB 3003, with the understanding that the latter modified the former. Leslie Cushman, co-chair of De-Escalate Washington, said by e-mail that she now hopes an appeals court will support the legislature's passage of I-940 as law so legislators can get to work adopting HB 3003.*
But De-Escalate Washington won't fight against its own ballot measure if it's left on the ballot in its original form, Cushman added. If I-940 goes to the ballot, she said, activists "will have a fully engaged and positive campaign."
"We appreciate and honor the work we did with law enforcement and will work with law enforcement to make sure the policies in 3003 become law," Cushman said by e-mail. "And to do that, we need the solid policies of 940 in place."
*This post originally said Cushman hoped the appeals court would support the passage of HB 3003. That was wrong. She hopes it supports the legislature's passage of I-940. God, this is confusing. We regret the error.