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From The Lewiston Tribune
From The Lewiston Tribune

By Melanie Nguyen

In response to sweeping calls nationally and locally to reform policing following the killings of Black Americans, our legislature passed, and Governor Jay Inslee signed, 12 police accountability measures.

 The bills signed include:

  •  House Bill 1054 bans the use of chokeholds and neck restraints by officers, restricts the use of tear gas by police and prohibits police agencies from acquiring military equipment. The bill also requires uniformed officers to be identifiable to citizens, bars vehicle pursuits except in certain exigent circumstances and bans the use of no-knock search warrants. Additionally, the bill creates a workgroup to develop a statewide policy on the training and use of police dogs.
  • House Bill 1267 establishes a new Office of Independent Investigations to investigate police deadly force incidents that occur after July 1, 2022. The office will have the authority to investigate earlier incidents if new evidence comes to light. The office will have a director, a team of non-law enforcement investigators and be overseen by an 11-member advisory board. In addition to training on how to conduct criminal investigations, the investigators will also receive training on topics such as the history of racism in policing and implicit and explicit bias.
  • House Bill 1088 requires county prosecutors to update best practices addressing potential impeachment disclosures. It also establishes that by June 30, 2022 the criminal justice training commission will provide training to prosecuting attorneys on potential impeachment disclosures.
  • House Bill 1089 authorizes the Washington state auditor to conduct a process compliance audit procedure and review of any deadly force investigation conducted pursuant at RCW 10.114.011. The state auditor will then conclude whether the actions of the involved law enforcement agency, investigative body, and prosecutor’s office are in compliance with RCW 10.114.011.
  • House Bill 1140 requires that law enforcement officers provide juveniles with access to an attorney before the juvenile waives any constitutional rights before an officer. With few exceptions, statements made by a juvenile after the juvenile is contacted by an officer will not be admissible in a juvenile offender or adult criminal court proceeding.
  • House Bill 1223 requires law enforcement officers to electronically record every custodial interrogation, with few exceptions. Any interrogation that occurred in detention would require both audio and visual recording. The bill also requires officers to inform the individual that a recording is being made.
  • House Bill 1310 establishes a “reasonable care” standard that requires officers to employ de-escalation tactics, use the least amount of physical force necessary and limits the use of deadly force to situations where there’s an imminent threat of serious injury or death. The bill requires the Attorney General’s office to publish model policies on use of force and de-escalation by July 1, 2022 and that by December 1, 2022 all law enforcement agencies adopt policies consistent with that guidance.
  • Senate Bill 5051 creates sweeping changes to the state’s Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC) which trains and certifies peace officers in Washington. Under this bill, CJTC’s mission will expand to focus broadly on the integrity, effectiveness and professionalism of police officers with the goal of promoting public trust and confidence. To that end, the commission itself will expand from 16 to 21 members and add civilians so that the majority of the membership is made up of non-law enforcement representatives. CJTC’s authority will include the ability to temporarily suspend a police officer’s certification and make it easier to decertify an officer for misconduct. The bill also expands background checks for would-be officers and creates a publicly searchable database of complaints and disciplinary actions against officers. One of the goals of the legislation is to prevent problematic officers from moving from department to department.
  • Senate Bill 5066 requires law enforcement officers to intervene and report any use of excessive force by another officer and render first aid to the victim if needed. The bill also requires officers to obtain training through the Criminal Justice Training Commission. The bill creates a statewide mandate for all officers.
  • Senate Bill 5259 establishes a new advisory group to implement a program to report, collect, and publish information regarding law enforcement interactions with the communities they serve. It requires all law enforcement agencies to report all instances of the use of force to the data collection program.
  • Senate Bill 5263 limits the felony bar affirmative defense in civil actions arising out of law enforcement activities. Previously the statute was silent on the defendant’s burden of proof. Now, the bill requires that the defendant must prove that the person injured or killed was engaged in the commission of a felony at the time of the occurrence causing the injury or death, beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • Senate Bill 5353 creates a partnership model that facilitates community engagement with law enforcement.

In signing these bills, our governor noted,

“The crises of the past year have unmasked long-standing inequities in our society. The consciousness of our state and nation has been raised against inequity in many forms,” Inslee said. “Our moral mandate to acknowledge these hard truths crystallized in the fallout from the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, and the killing of Manny Ellis in Tacoma. The bills I am signing today respect these truths and lay a solid foundation to halt inequity’s pernicious influence in our systems of government.”

 We wholeheartedly agree.