A group of citizens fighting to end police violence submitted hundreds of thousands of signatures to the state capitol Dec. 28 to get an initiative in front of lawmakers in 2018. If they do not pass the measure, voters will have the opportunity to weigh in on the November 2018 ballot.
Organizers submitted more than 350,000 signatures, considerably more than the 259,622 required by the secretary of state.
If approved, Initiative 940 would require that police receive training in de-escalation techniques and mental health interventions. It also mandates that a civilian injured by a police officer receive first aid immediately. The exact content of the trainings will be set by a commission.
The initiative would also change a provision of state law that makes it virtually impossible for an officer to be found guilty of an unlawful killing if prosecuted. This is called the “malice” standard, which forces a prosecutor to prove that an officer harbored “malice” when they shot their victim. Instead, courts would have to find that an officer acted “in good faith,” a lower bar.
De-Escalate Washington, the organization behind the initiative, launched the effort shortly after the June death of Charleena Lyles, a 30-year-old Black mother of four who was shot and killed by two Seattle police officers after she called for help.
Lyles was shot seven times and didn’t receive medical care until a second wave of officers arrived. An inquest into her death resulted in no action against the officers. It found that both officers had acted within the parameters of the Seattle Police Department’s (SPD) Use of Force policy, despite the fact that one officer had left his Taser in his locker.
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A report released by the SPD Force Review Board showed that the board found that officers did not have time to de-escalate the situation after Lyles reportedly attacked them with a knife. It also found that a Taser would likely have been ineffective in the situation because she was too close to the officers and wearing a puffy, black coat, which could have prevented the Taser probes from penetrating.
The SPD and other law enforcement agencies have been regular objects of community outrage for the killings of unarmed people of color. The civil rights issue that has been a focus of national attention since the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black teen, sparked the Black Lives Matter movement in 2013.
Andre Taylor, whose brother Che was also killed by SPD officers, participated in the I-940 effort. A previous attempt at reform, Washington 4 Good Policing, failed to get the requisite number of signatures to get on the ballot.
Taylor predicted in July that I-940 would be different. He was right.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Twitter @AshleyA_RC
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