Initiative 940, which will change the state law governing the use of deadly force by law enforcement, would be replaced with a compromise bill that retains key elements approved by voters.
OLYMPIA — Community advocates, law-enforcement groups and state lawmakers are vowing to quickly approve the compromise legislation that was thrown out by the courts earlier this year to change Washington’s police deadly-use-of-force law.
Legislators approved the compromise, House Bill 3003 this spring, right before approving Initiative 940, the measure the compromise was supposed to replace. That arrangement was intended to keep both measures from going on the ballot, avoiding a divisive election campaign on how police use deadly force.
But the maneuver sparked a lawsuit by initiative activist Tim Eyman, who argued lawmakers pulled an unconstitutional move. This summer, the state Supreme Court ruled that I-940 would have to be on the ballot before it could be altered. Voters last month strongly approved the measure.
On Monday, Andre Taylor, co-chair of De-Escalate Washington, the organization that pushed for I-940, and later agreed to the compromise legislation, praised law- enforcement groups for both coming to the table and keeping their word on the deal even after the court decision.
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“That lets you know that community and law enforcement can work together,” said Taylor, in a news conference at the Legislature.
“I am honored to be with them, standing together with them as we go forward,” added Taylor, who is the brother of Che Taylor, who was shot to death by Seattle police in 2016.
Steve Strachan, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, also urged lawmakers to re-approve the compromise that he called a historic agreement on an often divisive issue.
“Our state can set an example for our divided nation,” said Strachan.
Before I-940, an officer couldn’t be convicted of a crime for using deadly force if she or he acted in good faith and without malice, which the law describes as “evil intent.”
That standard made it almost impossible for prosecutors to bring criminal charges, even when they concluded an officer wrongfully killed someone, according to a 2015 report by The Seattle Times.
I-940 sought to change that by creating a two-part test to determine whether an officer acted in good faith while using deadly force. One part requires proof that a reasonable officer would have used such force in the same circumstances. The second part asks if that officer “sincerely and in good faith believed that the use of deadly force was warranted in the circumstance.”
HB 3003 simplified that standard. Its language would ask prosecutors to examine only whether a reasonable officer would have considered deadly force necessary to prevent death or serious physical harm to police or others if placed in the same situation.
Both I-940 and the compromise measure offer law-enforcement officers more training intended to help them avoid deadly confrontations.
Democratic lawmakers Rep. Roger Goodman of Kirkland and Sen. David Frockt of Seattle both said they expect the compromise bill to swiftly advance once the Legislature starts up in January.