Measure making it easier to prosecute police for deadly force on Washington ballot

Measure making it easier to prosecute police for deadly force on Washington ballot
© Denver Police Department
Voters in Washington state will decide this November whether to make it easier to prosecute police and law enforcement officers for improperly using deadly force after the state Supreme Court this week ruled against an effort to derail the initiative.
 
The measure, which gathered enough signatures to make this year’s ballot, would create what supporters call a “good faith test” to determine whether the use of deadly force by law enforcement officers is justified.
 
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The test would use both objective and subjective means to determine if any reasonable law enforcement officer would have used deadly force in the same circumstances, and whether the officer intended to use deadly force in good faith.
 
Any use of deadly force would be investigated by an independent body.
 
Backers of the bill said the good faith test and the independent investigation would make it easier to charge officers with manslaughter if they acted beyond the scope of their training, without putting officers at unnecessary risk.
 
Officers would be required to undergo de-escalation training and mental health training, in hopes of avoiding deadly force situations.
 
The state Fraternal Order of Police, the Council of Police and Sheriffs, the Council of Metropolitan Police and Sheriffs and the Seattle Police Officers Guild oppose the plan.
 
But those groups signed on to a compromise, which the state legislature passed in March after hammering out a deal with initiative backers. 
 
The compromise removed the subjective portion of the good faith test, though it also erased an existing provision in state law that requires prosecutors to prove an officer acted with malice.
 
Washington is the only state in the country that requires prosecutors to prove malice in order to hold an officer legally accountable for the use of deadly force.
 
But while initiative supporters backed the agreement, which Gov. Jay Inslee (D) signed earlier this year, a group of conservatives — unlikely bedfellows for progressive criminal justice reformers — said the legislature had acted beyond its own authority.
 
When supporters of an initiative gather enough signatures to send a proposal to the legislature, the state constitution gives the legislature three options: Adopt the initiative outright, send it on to voters or send both the original initiative and an alternative proposal to voters.
 
There is no provision that allows the legislature itself to adopt a compromise.
 
Tim Eyman, a conservative activist who has used the ballot initiative process to attack everything from tax rates to car tab fees, sued to force the original initiative onto the ballot.
 
The state Supreme Court agreed and ordered Secretary of State Kim Wyman (R) to put the deadly force initiative on the ballot.
 
“The rules are clear. The court has reaffirmed the people’s ability to pass legislation by initiative, independent of the legislature,” said state Sen. Mike Padden (R). “You can’t block a public vote and expect to get away with it.”
 
The measures has support from the most prominent Democrats in Washington, including Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: HHS diverts funds to pay for detaining migrant children | Health officials defend transfers | Lawmakers consider easing drug company costs in opioids deal Trump health official defends funding shifts to pay for detained migrant children Judiciary Democrat calls for additional witnesses to testify on Kavanaugh MORE (D) and Reps. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalBlue wave poses governing risks for Dems Dem rep: Why shouldn’t Americans believe Trump is as corrupt as his friends? Sunday shows preview: Trump faces fallout after Manafort flips MORE (D) and Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Mattis dismisses talk he may be leaving | Polish president floats 'Fort Trump' | Dem bill would ban low-yield nukes Dems introduce bill to ban low-yield nukes Dems seek ways to block Trump support for Saudi-led coalition in Yemen MORE (D), along with the ACLU, labor unions and Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin, who has been active in facilitating conversations between civil rights groups and police officers.
 
Supporters said they would revive their campaign, which had been shuttered after the compromise legislation was signed, ahead of November’s midterm elections. 
 
“We are disappointed that the Court ruled this way but all along our campaign has been ready for November,” said Monisha Harrell, who co-chairs the De-Escalate Washington campaign. “The public has asked for these changes. We look forward to talking about the issues across the state.”