Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Police Deadly Force Bill Has Number, Community Policing Bill Also Introduced

Two bills were introduced to the Washington State Legislature on Wednesday. One would amend Washington State law governing the use of deadly force by law enforcement, and the other would establish a joint legislative task force on community policing standards.

Above: Artwork made of welded metal and found objects by John Vanek entitled Justice For All was gifted to the City of Olympia and is installed at the Lee Creighton Justice Center, the site of Olympia's former city hall. 

By Janine Gates

Proposed legislation to amend Washington State law governing the use of deadly force by law enforcement was introduced Wednesday morning to the Washington State Legislature as HB 2907.

The bill is prime sponsored by Representative Luis Moscoso (D-1), and co-sponsored by five others, including Olympia area Representatives Sam Hunt and Chris Reykdal (D-22).

The bill has been referred to the House Public Safety Committee for a hearing and can be read here:

Community Policing Standards Legislation Introduced

Another bill on Wednesday was introduced, HB 2908, that establishes a 13 member joint legislative task force on community policing standards. Representative Cindy Ryu (pronounced Ree-oo), (D- 32), is the prime sponsor.

The bill has been referred to the House Public Safety Committee and can be read here:

In part, HB 2908 reads, “The legislature acknowledges that officers are often placed in harm’s way and must make decisions quickly while under extreme stress. Although regrettable in every case, the use of deadly force may sometimes be necessary to protect the safety of others. The legislature also recognizes that both the people of this state and law enforcement officers themselves rely on and expect accountability, the failure of which damages the public trust in those who serve the public honorably and with compassion.

“The legislature finds that the law of deadly force in Washington provides absolute protection for law enforcement in virtually all instances, above and beyond that which is reasonable and justifiable....It is the intent of the legislature to improve our deadly force law….”

The bill proposes to create the joint legislative task force to review known data regarding the use of deadly force by officers, review proposals and modifications to RCW 9A.16.040, evaluate the availability of body cameras and similar tools, review current police training curriculum and practices, evaluate public confidence in community policing practices and use of force policies in Washington and produce a preliminary report on its findings to Governor Jay Inslee by December 1, 2016.

Karen Johnson, chair of the Black Alliance of Thurston County, was pleased today about the introduction of the two bills.

“The Black Alliance of Thurston County sees supporting both bills as an opportunity because, as we know, changing the use of deadly force law is the strong foundation upon which all of the other systemic changes (data collection when civilians die at the hand of police officers, body cameras, implict/explicit bias, de-escalation training and the like) is built,” said Johnson.

“Let us build a strong foundation. We believe the more strategic, intentional, and collaborative we can be, the better. Please endorse HB 2907 and HB 2908. As Dr. King said, “the time is always ripe to do right,” she said.

According to a press release by the Black Alliance, thirty two local, regional, and statewide organizations to date have endorsed HB 2907: 

A. Philip Randolph Institute, Seattle Chapter, Art Forces, Behavioral Health and Wellness, the Black Student Union of The Evergreen State College (Tacoma Campus), Center for Justice, Church Council of Greater Seattle, Faith Action Network, Families United Against Hate, Interfaith Works, John T. Williams Organizing Coalition, Justice Not Jails, Latino Civic Alliance, League of Women Voters - Thurston County, Mothers for Police Accountability, Olympia Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League, Olympia Coalition to Reform Deadly Force, Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane, Point Defiance Aids Projects/North American Syringe Exchange Network, Risen Faith Fellowship, Seattle Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Self Advocates in Leadership, Spokane NAACP, Standing Up to Racism, Tacoma-Pierce County Black Collective, The Arc of Washington State, The Justice Coalition of the Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation, The United Churches of Olympia, Washington State Commission on African American Affairs, Washington State Commission on Hispanic Affairs, Washington State Independent Living Council, Washington State National Organization for Women, and the YWCA Olympia.

Editor's Note, January 28: HB 2907 was going to the Judiciary Committee as originally stated in this article. It was then referred to the House Public Safety Committee. For up to date information and to track all bills, go to

For more information about the journey to this proposed legislation, the Black Alliance of Thurston County, the City of Olympia’s Ad Hoc Committee on Police and Community Relations, body cameras, and other police related issues in Olympia, go to Little Hollywood,, and type key words into the search engine.

For more information about the Black Alliance of Thurston County, contact Dr. Karen Johnson at