Police Accountability

Governor Signs Off on Changes to New Deadly Force Law

Legislators needed a two-thirds majority vote to change an initiative passed by voters.

By Hayat Norimine February 5, 2019

Governor Jay Inslee on Monday signed off on updates to the state's deadly force law that had been left out of the original version, but had no opposition. 

Voters approved Initiative 940 in the November general election, marking a historic change to state law that makes it easier to prosecute cops over misusing deadly force—by removing the need to prove "malice." Democratic lawmakers, like state senator David Frockt of Seattle, have been pushing this change for years without any luck, and it's a monumental shift for police reform activists. 

But a court decision forced the measure to exclude updates legislators made to address concerns from police unions. After the measure passed in November, officials promised they would pass the revisions again this session. 

Legislators needed a two-thirds majority vote to change an initiative passed by voters. The bill passed unanimously in the House, 47-0 in the Senate. 

Here's what changed

  • It makes the "good faith" standard—that the officer was acting in "good faith"—objective rather than subjective. That means that another officer in a similar situation also needs to have believed use of deadly force was necessary.
  • It still requires police to undergo de-escalation training every year, but doesn't list it as a condition of maintaining certification.
  • It changes the requirement to render first aid to the "earliest safe opportunity," to cover cases in which it's not safe for the cop to apply first aid immediately.
  • It requires that the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission also seek input from police unions and minority law enforcement associations on adopting the rules.
Show Comments