We gotta re-evaluate this deadly force business.
We gotta re-evaluate this deadly force business. inhauscreative/Getty Images

Initiative 940, backed by De-Escalate Washington, is a no-brainer. It's the one that makes it much easier to hold cops accountable when they use deadly force and kill innocent people. If that's not a selling point, maybe the fact that a police group just endorsed I-940 will sway you.

“In many situations, de-escalation protects officers and the communities they serve better than a gun ever could. I-940 provides such training. It builds trust. It saves lives," said Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper, advisory board member of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), in a statement today.

The Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), a nonprofit group of police, judges, prosecutors, and other criminal justice professionals who advance public safety solutions, announced its endorsement of I-940 today because it increases training requirements and establishes better accountability and transparency. Those have an impact on law enforcement effectiveness and community safety, LEAP wrote in their statement.

In a 2015 investigation, the Seattle Times found that between 2005 to 2014 there were 213 people killed by police in Washington and only one officer was charged. We've seen more innocent lives taken in the years since. Names like Charleena Lyles, Tommy Le, Che Taylor, and more. There are currently nine pending deadly force inquests pending in King County alone. The officers who killed Le—who, may we remind you, was holding a pen and not a knife as the officers originally stated—were completely exonerated.

This report centers around the issue of proving good faith. The legislature established that ambiguous phrase as a requirement for prosecuting officers who killed someone while on duty. They would be shielded from law "as long as they acted in good faith and without malice, or what the law calls 'evil intent.'"

That clause made Washington's deadly force law one of the most restrictive in the country and made it nearly impossible to charge any officers for an unjustified use of deadly force.

I-940 will change that.

The initiative kept the statute's "good faith" language but amended it. I-940 will now impose a "good faith" test asking what a reasonable officer would do in the same position:

"The objective good faith test is met if a reasonable officer, in light of all the facts and circumstances known to the officer at the time, would have believed that the use of deadly force was necessary to prevent death or serious physical harm to the officer or another individual."

LEAP's endorsement is a big deal since I-940's opponents staunchly believe the initiative is "anti-cop."

The Washington Fraternal Order of Police (WAFOP), Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs (WACOPS), Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) and Council of Metropolitan Police and Sheriffs (COMPAS) are all in opposition. One of their arguments is that police don't have a voice in I-940.

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The other thing that bears repeating is that I-940 technically already passed. From our endorsement of I-940:

The state legislature voted I-940 into law last year after hammering out a compromise between reformers and law-enforcement groups. Then Tim Eyman sued the legislature, claiming they broke the law when they made their deal. The state supreme court agreed with Eyman, and so here we are now voting on something that was already decided.