Legislature narrowly OKs change to police deadly force law

March 9, 2018

Sen. Jamie Pedersen, left, D-Seattle, speaks during debate on the Senate floor, Thursday, March 8, 2018, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash., on the final day of the regular session of the Legislature. Lawmakers in the Senate were discussing a compromise measure designed to make it easier to prosecute police who commit reckless or negligent shootings in Washington state. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington lawmakers have voted to make it easier to prosecute police who commit negligent or reckless shootings, updating a law that made it uniquely difficult to hold officers criminally liable.

House Bill 3003 was passed by the House Wednesday and the Senate on Thursday after law enforcement groups and backers of an initiative tied to the deadly force law reached a compromise deal this week, The News Tribune reported . Gov. Jay Inslee signed the measure Thursday, ending years of wrestling over the existing law, which forces prosecutors to prove the officers acted with malice — a hurdle no other state has.

The new law deletes the “malice” requirement and defines “good faith” as whether a reasonable officer would have used deadly force in the same circumstances. It also orders new de-escalation and mental health training for officers, along with new requirements to provide first aid for injured people.

Activists outraged over questionable police shootings in Washington and across the country had gathered enough signatures to force a vote on the measure on the November ballot, but instead, they worked with police organizations on the compromise version lawmakers approved as the legislative session drew to a close Thursday. Lawmakers passed the original initiative as well as the compromise that amended it.

“Tonight’s passage avoids politicization of an emotional issue, and I hope will bring meaningful change, progress and healing,” Inslee said in a statement. “My belief is, and I heard from many tonight, that this should be the beginning of ongoing meaningful dialogue to keep this conversation moving forward toward a safer Washington for all.”

In a news release from supporters of the initiative, family members of several people killed by police in the state said the reforms will result in a reduction of violence and an increase in respect and trust.

Andre Taylor, who has been working to address issues related to police practices including use of force since his brother Che Taylor was killed by Seattle police in February 2016, said, “My family knows this won’t bring my brother back. What it will do is make the future safer for our community.”

While Republicans and Democrats praised the compromise as sound policy, concerns remain about the constitutionality of the way lawmakers approved it. Many said that under the state Constitution, the compromise measure and the original proposal should both appear on the November ballot.

Update hourly