Lawmakers considering bill that would change state's police deadly force law

(File image)

OLYMPIA, Wash. - A bill that would rewrite a state law addressing how police officers use deadly force while on the job stalled in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

Substitute House Bill 3003 passed the House Public Safety Committee with a unanimous vote Tuesday morning. It was supposed to be up for a full vote House vote Tuesday night.

Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, sponsored the measure that would clarify confusing language in current law, which now bars convictions if the officer acted “in good faith” and without “malice.” The bill weighed by the Legislature considers what an officer acting reasonably might do.

“We have been able to improve and clarify the initiative to make it more workable, more understandable to the public,” Goodman said during the hearing. “To agree that we can improve training but also have a statute that’s fair and just so that if there is ever egregious conduct by law enforcement that they’re held accountable.”

Goodman could not be reached Tuesday night to comment about why the bill wasn’t voted on by the House. The House could take it up again on Wednesday.

State associations representing prosecutors and public defenders, as well as the two largest police unions joined up with De-Escalate Washington to support the bill.

Andre Taylor, whose brother Che Taylor was fatally shot by Seattle police in February 2016, said he supports the bill as well. Taylor said he plans to travel to Olympia Wednesday to follow the progression of the bill.

Heather Villanueva, spokeswoman for De-Escalate Washington, said the bill signals “the start of a culture change.”

“We were prepared to go the ballot and we were still prepared to go to the ballot but if we can get this done six months, sooner then we’re all the better for it,” Villanueva said after the hearing.

Among the changes the bill would do:

  • Mandate crisis and de-escalation training statewide for police.
  • Require the independent investigation of deadly police shootings.
  • Better clarify the state law and when deadly force is justified.

Rep. Dave Hayes. R-Camano Island, said it’s time to do what’s best for everyone. Hayes, a Snohomish County sheriff’s deputy, said the bill offers a good way to move forward.

“This is a pretty doggone emotional issue that we’re discussing here today,” Hayes said.

POLL: Would you rather vote on a deadly force initiative or see the legislature pass a law that makes changes? Answer our poll below or click here.

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