As members of the De-Escalate Washington Leadership Team, we cannot overstate the practical importance of this achievement. It will give officers the tools they need to de-escalate situations that might otherwise lead to a physical confrontation, or worse, a police shooting.
We can’t pinpoint the exact moment that started Washington’s grass-roots movement to reduce deadly force by police.
We have heard so many stories of loss and violence over the years, particularly in communities of color and with people with disabilities. In Washington, African Americans and Latinos are killed by police at vastly disproportionate rates; Native Americans at a rate higher than any other group. Almost one-third of people killed by police in Washington show signs of mental illness.
On paper these are infuriating statistics. On a personal level, this represents the pain and suffering of families and communities. The result is loss of trust and division between police and the communities they serve.
Read more on Initiative 940
We published a second Op-Ed on this issue written by Steven D. Strachan, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. To read it, go to: st.news/I-940
It is easy to pinpoint the moment we started repairing this trust and bridging the gaps between police and communities. On March 8, the state Legislature adopted Initiative 940. The new law requires law enforcement to receive training for violence de-escalation, mental-health issues and first-aid, and, importantly, changes the standards for use of deadly force.
The enactment of I-940, along with ESHB 3003, seemed impossible as late as last month and reflects both the strength of the grass-roots campaign and the vision of law-enforcement leadership. The disagreement over policy was many years old. After the 2017 legislative session, the community took the lead. The organization De-Escalate Washington is truly grass roots, made up of community advocates and families who have lost loved ones to police deadly force. The campaign sponsored the initiative and gathered nearly 360,000 signatures to get it to the 2018 Legislature.
During the last weeks of the legislative session, De-Escalate Washington leadership and law enforcement sat down to listen to each other. The process brought the parties together to find common ground and paved the way for the Legislature to enact I-940 and pass ESHB 3003.
As members of the De-Escalate Washington Leadership Team, we cannot overstate the practical importance of this achievement. It will give officers the tools they need to de-escalate potential confrontations. It will ensure that tribal rights are respected, including letting a tribe know as soon as possible if a tribal member has been killed. It will bring Washington’s deadly force law into line with most other states. It will save lives. The fact that I-940 has become the law now, more than six months before it would go to the ballot, is cause for celebration.
De-Escalate Washington stands with our law-enforcement partners in saying that ESHB 3003 is the right policy. We will work for its implementation alongside I-940. The Seattle Times editorial board and Tim Eyman believe that the Legislature erred in enacting I-940 and passing ESHB 3003. What to keep central in this conversation is that community advocates using democratic processes at grass-roots level were successful in getting law enforcement to the table for substantive policy discussions.
De-Escalate Washington is proud that the Legislature adopted I-940 and pleased that we have forged a new beginning with law enforcement.
Our state need not wait any longer for reform. We are moving forward.