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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Police tactics bill headed to Inslee’s desk after passing Legislature

Police in downtown Spokane deploy tear gas on May 31 on Main Avenue following the looting of the Nike Store.  (Libby Kamrowski/THE SPOKESMAN-REVEW)

OLYMPIA – Bans on chokeholds, neck restraints and military equipment. Limits on police dogs and vehicle pursuits. Restrictions on using tear gas during public riots.

All of these could soon become a reality for law enforcement agencies, if a bill passed by the Legislature on Friday is signed by Gov. Jay Inslee.

The state House of Representatives approved the final version 55-42, and the Senate approved it 28-20.

Sponsor Rep. Jesse Johnson, D-Federal Way, said the bill is “about the people.”

“We have not idly stood by and allowed the status quo to continue,” he said on the floor. “We’re making progress and we’re moving forward.”

The bill is part of a broad legislative package proposed by Democrats this session to address police accountability following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May.

After disagreement on the use of tear gas, lawmakers reached a deal Thursday to allow tear gas to be used on the public, only to prevent serious harm and only after a verbal warning from officers. It also requires law enforcement to receive approval from the highest elected official in a jurisdiction, such as the mayor, county executive or governor.

The bill prohibits the use of chokeholds and neck restraints. It bans law enforcement agencies from acquiring military equipment, including machine guns, armed helicopters or tanks. It also puts restrictions on the use of vehicle pursuits and police dogs.

Other police reform bills that passed this session include creating a statewide use-of-force database, establishing a decertification process for officers who use excessive force and requiring officers to intervene when they see another officer use excessive force.

Laurel Demkovich's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.