Andrè Taylor, whose brother was fatally shot by Seattle police in 2016, explains how he worked with others to push changes in Washington law that had all but barred prosecution of police for shootings.
In the final days of Washington’s legislative session, lawmakers agreed to make it easier to prosecute police officers over misuse of deadly force — in a deal that brought agreement from major law-enforcement groups as well as community advocates.
On Episode 72 of The Overcast, The Seattle Times weekly politics podcast, our guest is Andrè Taylor, executive director of Not This Time!, a nonprofit group focused on reducing fatal police shootings.
The podcast was recorded at the Seattle studios of public radio 88.5 FM KNKX, as part of an ongoing partnership.
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Taylor says he’s gratified that lawmakers agreed to significant changes in the law. “But when I think about what happened, I go to the price, the cost it took for it to happen. And that cost has been blood. People’s family members have been killed, and through that blood cost, people have been willing to listen now more than ever before.”
Taylor has personal experience with the cost. His brother, Che Taylor, was shot to death in 2016 by Seattle police officers conducting an undercover operation. An inquest found the officers believed Che Taylor posed a threat to them. King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg declined to file charges over the shooting.
Taylor’s family strongly protested that decision, saying evidence shows Che Taylor was obeying police commands when he was shot. The family recently filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit against the city.
On the podcast, Andrè Taylor explains how a persistent and committed campaign led to the likely change in Washington’s law, which says a police officer cannot be convicted of a crime for using deadly force if he or she acts in “good faith” and “without malice.” Prosecutors have said that’s a nearly impossible standard to overcome. It amounted to “de facto immunity,” says Taylor.
Taylor speaks about his brother’s criminal record, which included convictions for robbery and rape, saying that in no way means he deserved to be shot. “There is this idea that there is supposed to be the perfect victim, as if my brother were Harvard-educated, a black man, and then there should be a natural outrage because of his status in life,” he says. “He paid his debt, he did 22 years. He still has a right to fairness as a human being.”
Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat recently examined Andrè Taylor’s own redemptive journey: “From breaking laws to making laws!” as Taylor wrote recently.
The compromise legislation approved by the Legislature removes “malice” from the law and provides a new definition for “good faith” that community advocates and several law-enforcement groups have agreed to. Lawmakers agreed to the changes under pressure from Initiative 940, a measure that Taylor and other backers submitted 360,000 petition signatures for in December.
The Legislature’s action sought to forestall a public vote on I-940 by agreeing to modified versions of its substantive provisions, which also include increased de-escalation and mental-health training for police officers.
However, the Legislature’s actions have been challenged by frequent initiative sponsor Tim Eyman, who has filed a lawsuit arguing lawmakers violated the constitutional process for handling citizen initiatives.
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