With just hours left in this year's legislative session Thursday, lawmakers unexpectedly tackled the issue of police reform and approved Initiative 940—making a historic change in how the state can prosecute law enforcement officers for unjustified deadly use of force.
In just two days' time, state representatives pushed I-940 (also known as "De-Escalate Washington") and House Bill 3003 through the House with a bipartisan 73-25 vote and through the Senate in a 25-24 vote, split down party lines. HB 3003 would change some of the language in the initiative but ultimately keep its one of its most important components—removing proof of "malice" to prosecute someone for deadly force.
The amended language—proposed by both Roger Goodman, a Kirkland Democrat, and Dave Hayes, a Camano Island Republican, of the House Public Safety Committee—makes some compromises to the initiative that puts both law enforcement and De-Escalate Washington campaign stakeholders in agreement.
Though it removes the defense of "malice" in state law, it keeps the "good faith" objective standard rather than the subjective one that exists today. It requires more de-escalation training, but not as a condition of staying certified. And it tweaks the requirements on providing medical care, acknowledging concerns that immediately facilitating first-aid sometimes wouldn't be a best practice or would put officers in danger.
The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, De-Escalate Washington campaign, Washington State Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, and Washington Defender Association all testified in support of the amendment.
As the bill passed the House with overwhelming support—with the help of Hayes, the key Republican negotiator—Goodman called it a "historic moment" and an example for the country on how to find consensus.
"Communities have felt aggrieved and have suffered," Goodman said. "I really do think it's an example for the nation to begin this process of compassion between both sides."
Others objected to the process the bill went through, like senator Mike Padden, a Spokane Valley Republican, who voted against it in committee.
Hayes, who was a sergeant in the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office, said law enforcement officers "are great servants for our entire state, who have to make the hardest decisions, under the worst possible circumstances and dynamic situations, and be right."
He added, "It's a very difficult thing for many of us to do, but I do want to see some closure for us on this issue."
Updated 9:09am on March 9, 2018, after the Senate's vote on the initiative.
Updated 10:52am on March 10, 2018 to correct that removing "malice" and an objective "good faith" standard are both significant changes to state law.