Initiative 940 will improve training, save lives and help build better relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
I spent 26-and-a-half years as a deputy in King County. I know the kinds of situations officers can find themselves in every day. When you encounter a potentially dangerous situation all you have to rely on is your instincts, and without the proper training, the outcome can be tragic for all parties. I also know that trust between officers and the people they serve is critical to good policing and better safety for everyone.
That’s why as a career deputy, I’m asking you to join me in voting yes on Initiative 940. It would improve training, save lives and help build better relationships between law enforcement and the community.
Throughout my career I was assigned to general patrol, school safety, transit and worked as a detective. I’m also a board member of the Black Law Enforcement Association of Washington, as well as active in the National Black Police Association — both of which endorsed I-940. We’ve been engaged with I-940 since its drafting. It is a thoughtful approach to saving lives by improving training for officers as well as strengthening trust between communities and law enforcement.
The Black Law Enforcement Association of Washington works to be an advocate between the community and law enforcement, wherever we work. Both sides want good policing — and there’s nothing in this initiative that would take away from that.
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To the contrary, what it would do is enhance policing by providing every officer in the state with de-escalation, first aid, and mental health crisis training.
Currently, statewide training requirements include “crisis intervention training” when officers go through the academy — but only 8 hours worth. Mental health training is optional. Those of us who work in the state’s largest metropolitan area — Seattle and King County — have access to expanded training. But if you’re an officer elsewhere in Washington, the basic crisis training and optional mental health training is all you have.
In 2017, more Washingtonians were killed in encounters with law enforcement than in 45 other states, and almost a third of those showed clear signs of a mental health crisis. Clearly the training we have isn’t enough. I-940 will change that.
The truth is that even with improved and expanded training that prevents avoidable tragedies, some situations might still end in deadly force. But when a tragedy occurs, it’s critical that everyone involved, including families, communities and law enforcement have an open and transparent process. I-940 would create a fair and independent investigation process, as well as replace our ridiculous legal standard with a fair standard used in 27 other states that simply asks if the officer feared for his or her life, and if another reasonable officer would have acted the same.
The importance of those changes isn’t to make prosecution easier, and they won’t lead to mass prosecutions. This is a misleading, divisive argument. Simply look at over half the country where these standards are in practice, and officers involved in shootings still aren’t prosecuted. Rather, it’s to build trust in our communities and promote transparency in our policing.
Don’t believe the scare tactics from opponents that are meant to divide us or try to make this an issue that divides us by race. Rhetoric like that puts lives at risk.
We in law enforcement need to always remember who we work for — we don’t just protect the community, we are part of it. We can come together regardless of background and race, just like we have in the past, and make Washington safer for everyone. You can support police and support improving our training, so we can save lives.
Please, join me and others in law enforcement in voting ‘Yes’ on I-940.