OLYMPIA – Backers and foes of a successful ballot measure with new standards on the use of lethal force by police said Monday they will work together to get improvements they both support through next year’s Legislature.
Equal Rights Washington, which sponsored Initiative 940, and the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, which opposed it during the fall campaign, said they will reunite in a coalition to get what they consider “consensus revisions” through the 2019 Legislature.
The groups worked together earlier this year, after I-940 supporters had gathered enough signatures to submit the proposal to the Legislature. After a series of meetings with lawmakers, they and other groups agreed to make changes to provisions regarding the standard to protect an officer from criminal liability when deadly force is used.
But rather than passing an alternative initiative with those changes to share the November ballot with I-940, the Legislature tried a novel approach: It passed a separate law with those changes to take effect the day after the initiative became law, which it passed after the changes were signed by Gov. Jay Inslee. The Washington Supreme Court said that was an unconstitutional way to amend an initiative, placing I-940 on the ballot but not the proposed changes.
Law enforcement groups tried to defeat the measure, arguing it would be easier to just pass the proposed changes in 2019, because amending an initiative requires a two-thirds majority in the first two years. But supporters contended passing I-940 would keep the pressure on the Legislature. It passed with almost 60 percent of the vote statewide and carried counties on both sides of Washington, including Spokane County.
House Public Safety Committee Chairman Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, said the changes to I-940 “will be the very first bill we hear” in 2019. The bill will be similar to the changes passed this year but with one exception, he said: an emergency clause that would allow it to take effect immediately.
Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, said he would introduce a bill with the consensus revisions in the Senate.
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