OLYMPIA, Wash. — In the wake of several high profile deaths linked to police around the U.S. and locally, Washington state lawmakers have placed police accountability legislation to the forefront, passing a dozen measures and sending them to the desk of Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature.
The deaths last year of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of four police officers and that of Manny Ellis in Tacoma have led to urgent calls for police reform.
State lawmakers have moved swiftly to adopt legislation to curb police tactics and equipment, restricting the use of tear gas, choke holds, neck restraints and banning no-knock warrants. Two measures are expected to get a final vote next week.
Inslee has already signed into law a bill that ensures that police department arbitration procedures are not used to shield officers from accountability if they violate department guidelines.
“This bill improves the approach we use when an officer faces a disciplinary action," Inslee said about the measure.
Other bills that are en route to Inslee include bills that:
“This broad package of legislation really is going to improve safety for our communities," said state Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland. "And improve relationships between police and the community.”
The death of Ellis while being arrested by Tacoma police has led to the passage of a bill that establishes an independent office inside the governor’s office that reviews police use of force so that law enforcement agencies are not investigating each other.
“I really am just appreciative of the fact that our caucus and our legislature has come forward to address these issues this year and make it so that protecting and preserving human life is at the forefront of what our law enforcement should be," said Rep. Jesse Johnson, D-Federal Way. "So I think all of these bills together are addressing that.”
Lawmakers said the bills should help boost the perception of policing.
“I want people to know that we are not anti-police," said Rep. Debra Entenman, D-Kent. "We are just a pro-equitable public service response for every person in Washington state and we also want accountability for some police officers who are giving other police officers a bad name.”