This Washington

State Legislators Plan to Pass Original Revisions to Deadly Force Initiative

"It really does remarkable work of improving our relationships with law enforcement."

By Hayat Norimine December 3, 2018

State legislators on Monday announced their support for a bill that would implement revisions for Initiative 940, the deadly force measure voters approved in November, originally negotiated by law enforcement and the I-940 campaign when it had passed through the Legislature.

State elected officials originally approved an amended version of the deadly force law that had been negotiated between police unions and police reform activists in March. But a Thurston County Superior Court judge ruled that the legislators violated the state Constitution by passing an amended version, and that the original measure therefore needed to be put on the November ballot. 

The I-940 campaign, which includes families of those killed by police, said they had been committed to pursuing the changes in Olympia if the measure passed. Nearly 60 percent of voters approved the initiative in the general election. 

"[The amendment] does absolutely no harm to I-940," said Leslie Cushman, an attorney who was on the I-940 campaign. "It really does remarkable work of improving our relationships with law enforcement. We're convinced that with better relationships, we're going to have safer communities."

The legislation would change some details of the initiative but ultimately keep its most important component—officers can no longer use lack of “malice” as a possible defense when accused of misusing deadly force.

Legislators will need a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate to pass the amendment to the voter-approved initiative. 

The amended version of the law would:

  • make the “good faith” standard objective, rather than subjective; 
  • remove the condition of staying certified only if they receive the training;
  • change language around first-aid care to acknowledge that it’s sometimes not best practice or could put officers in danger; 
  • make agencies share information with a tribe when deadly force is used on a tribal member; 
  • and add reimbursement costs for the defense of officers if they're acquitted.

State representative Roger Goodman plans to sponsor the same bill in the House that had been introduced in March, with one change that would make the law effective upon governor Jay Inslee's signing, a spokesperson for the Senate Democrats said.

In the Senate, David Frockt and Manka Dhingra will push the same bill; Cushman said state senator Mike Padden, a Spokane Valley Republican who originally opposed the amendment, also supports it.

“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,” Frockt said in a statement Monday. 

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