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Tuesday, May 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  WA Government

Opponents, supporters of deadly force law, I-940, agree with proposed changes

UPDATED: Mon., Jan. 14, 2019, 7:28 p.m.

Ryan Blake

OLYMPIA – Some good news for the Legislature trying urgently to correct a mistake it made last year: Changes to a new law on the police use of deadly force had no opposition in a hearing Monday.

The new bill doesn’t make major policy changes to I-940, which passed in November’s election. But it makes the new law easier for the public to understand and comes up with a new definition for “good faith” by officers involved in a deadly shooting that victim advocates and law enforcement groups agree to.

Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, praised work to reach the compromise as bill sponsors and law enforcement groups urged quick and unanimous approval.

The changes are “literally life and death,” Goodman said, promising the committee will vote on it Tuesday and send it to the House later in the day. It could be on Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk by the end of the week, he said.

Both community advocates and law enforcement agencies said the new bill involves consensus changes.

Steve Strachan, executive director of Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, said law enforcement groups originally opposed the initiative but saw a willingness for collaboration when working on the changes that make up the new bill.

“Just as those of us in law enforcement need to understand the perspective of a diverse community, we also clearly saw the backers of the initiative really acknowledge the perspectives and challenges of the men and women who serve in law enforcement,” Strachan said.

The Legislature approved I-940 and a companion bill similar to the proposed fixes last year. But the Washington Supreme Court ruled the way they did it wasn’t constitutional, and sent only the initiative to the ballot.

I-940 received 60 percent approval from voters in November. But the Legislature must pass the changes with two-thirds majorities if it wants them to take effect this year.

Before I-940, an officer couldn’t be held criminally liable unless he or she acted with malice, a standard difficult to prove.

Under I-940, the standard shifts to giving an officer protection if they meet tests that they objectively believed it was necessary to prevent death or serious harm to themselves or others and subjectively considered it warranted under the circumstances.

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