A bill that would have changed Washington state’s deadly force statute died in committee Friday, when members of the House Public Safety opted to recommend measures to collect data and form a task force to study the issue instead.
Friday marked policy cutoff in the Legislature, meaning most policy bills needed to receive committee approval by the end of the day to advance in the 2016 legislative session.
In Washington, police officers can’t be convicted of using unnecessary force unless a prosecutor can prove they acted with malice. House Bill 2907, introduced by Rep. Luis Moscoso, D-Mountlake Terrace, would have removed that language.
The committee decided to defer action on Moscoso’s bill and instead voted unanimously to pass Substitute House Bill 2908. The original bill was introduced by Rep. Cindy Ryu, D-Shoreline, and the substitute by Moscoso.
Committee Chairman Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, said he though a task force would be the best way to facilitate a discussion and reach the best solution to the lack of trust surrounding Washington’s deadly force law.
“We have a very difficult problem in our society,” Goodman said. “Not just in Olympia, not just in Washington state, but across the country. There is not enough trust between the community and our hard-working law enforcement. We need to be listening to each other, and that means gathering around the table.”
The measure would create a task force that would review Washington’s use of deadly force and justifiable homicide statutes and the practices used by law enforcement agencies. The task force would also examine training and explore tools officers can use instead of deadly force.
The group would meet four times in 2016 and deliver recommendations at the end of the year.
The task force would comprise representatives from each of the Legislature’s caucuses, Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, the Washington State Patrol, the Criminal Justice Training Commission, the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, three defense attorney groups, Disability Rights of Washington, the Washington State Association of Counties, the Association of Washington Cities, the ACLU, the NAACP, One America, the Black Alliance of Thurston County, and the state commissions on Hispanic, Asian Pacific American, African American and Indian affairs.
The bill would cost the state about $5,000.
“While I am disappointed that we are not going to be working directly on this matter through (House Bill) 2907, I am happy that we will start the discussion,” Moscoso said.
The committee also passed House Bill 2882, which would require Washington law enforcement agencies to report all incidents of justifiable homicide and use of deadly force to the Attorney General’s Office. The data would be compiled annually and released to the public.
According to a fiscal note, the HB 2882 would cost the state about $59,000 during the 2017 fiscal year, about $54,000 from 2017 to 2019 and the same amount again from 2019 to 2021.
Five members of the committee voted in favor of the measure, while four voted against it.
Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, said that while he believes use of deadly force and justifiable homicide should be studied, he had a problem with the dates and requirements in HB 2882.
Bill sponsor Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, said she introduced the bill because she believes it’s about time Washington started compiling data regarding the use of deadly force.
“We’ve never collected data on justifiable homicide or use of deadly force with law enforcement,” Appleton said.