Initiative 940 would require more mental-health and de-escalation training for Washington law enforcement officers and make it easier to prosecute police over the alleged misuse of deadly force.
Flanked by people whose family members have been killed by police, organizers formally launched a proposed statewide initiative Thursday that would require more mental-health and de-escalation training for law enforcement officers and make it easier to prosecute them over the alleged misuse of deadly force.
Among the speakers was a relative of Charleena Lyles, whose fatal shooting by Seattle police June 18 has added fuel to the initiative effort.
I-940, the proposed initiative, would replace the current deadly force language in Washington law with a more detailed, multipart threshold that examines what a “reasonable officer” might have done under the circumstances, and considers an officer’s intentions to determine if he or she acted in good faith.
It also requires “law enforcement officers to obtain violence de-escalation and mental health training, so that officers will have greater skills to resolve conflicts without the use of physical or deadly force.”
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If filed as an initiative to the state Legislature, I-940 supporters would need to submit about 260,000 signatures by Dec. 29, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. It would then go to state lawmakers for the 2018 legislative session. Lawmakers could approve I-940, or deny it — in which case it would go on the 2018 ballot.
If legislators amended the proposal, both the original and amended version would go to voters.
Another proposed initiative on the deadly force law last year failed to make the ballot.
In November, a task force made up of community advocacy groups, legislators, law enforcement and prosecutors voted on a series of recommendations on policing and deadly force.
In that vote, 14 of the task force’s 26 members approved removing “malice” and “good faith” language from the law.
Washington law states that an officer can’t be convicted of a crime if he or she acted in good faith and without malice, or what the law calls “evil intent,” when using deadly force — a standard that makes it nearly impossible for prosecutors to pursue charges in such cases.
Most law-enforcement groups balked at changing the law and opposed a compromise bill this year.
On Thursday, dozens of I-940 organizers and supporters gathered on the steps of Seattle City Hall to announce their efforts, which have already begun and will use paid and volunteer signature gatherers.
“I’m excited that this gives possibility and change for the future, not only for the family members that have lost their loved ones but to secure a future that’s safer for all communities, especially communities of color,” said Andrè Taylor, whose brother, Che Taylor, an African-American, was fatally shot by two white Seattle police officers last year.
A King County inquest jury found in February the officers believed Che Taylor posed a threat of death or serious injury when they shot him, and no criminal charges were brought against the officers. A police review board found the shooting fell within policy.
Also speaking at Thursday’s event was Katrina Johnson, a first cousin of Lyles, a 30-year-old African-American mother of four children, who was fatally shot by two white Seattle police officers who said they were threatened with a knife or knives. The shooting is under investigation by Seattle police.
Lyles was battling mental-health issues, according to her family and court records.
Asserting Lyles wouldn’t have been killed if police had proper de-escalation training, Johnson said, “Charleena Lyles would still be alive today.”
“If you’re gonna take a life, you have to be able to make it make sense to the family and right now none of it makes sense to us,” Johnson added. “And we want justice for Charleena Lyles, and we will not stop fighting until we get it and this law is a step in the right direction.”
Under I-940, independent investigations would have to be conducted of killings by police, and officers would be required to render first aid.