Breaking down ballot Initiative 940

Breaking down ballot Initiative 940

If passed, an initiative on the November ballot would remove the requirement that prosecutors show a law enforcement officer acted with malice when using deadly force.

Initiative 940 was drafted and submitted to the state legislature by a group called De-Escalate WA. In addition to adopting what’s described as the objective good faith standard, the initiative would require certain kinds of training for law enforcement – meant to reduce the use of force and provide relevant insight to officers working with people who have mental illnesses, people of color and the LGBT community, among other groups.

It would also place a new emphasis on law enforcement’s role as first aid providers.

The initiative has received support from Governor Jay Inslee, Senator Patty Murray, several tribes and even some law enforcement members like King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht and retired King County Sheriff’s Deputy Carlos Bratcher, who served for 26 years and is a member of the board of the Black Law Enforcement Association of Washington.

Bratcher told KXLY on the phone that he supports Initiative 490 because of the training requirements included in the text. He said that in a moment during which an officer has to make a decision, that officer relies on instinct. Bratcher said instinct can be strengthened by the kind of training 490 would require.

He also said that law enforcement serves the people- and if, come election day, Initiative 490 receives the votes of the people, they’ll carry it out.

Not all members of law enforcement agree- in fact several large police associations do not- the Seattle Police Guild, the Washington Fraternal Order of Police and the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs (WACOPS).

Officer Craig Bulkley, the president of WACOPS, told KXLY over the phone that he thinks Initiative 940 is “bad public policy”.

On the phone with him was Sgt. John Griffin, the president of the Spokane Police Guild. Several of the problems they said they had with I-940 involved the language. One concern: the word ‘paramount’ to describe officers responsibilities as first aid providers. Bulkley and Griffin said they feared the standard set by the word paramount would interfere with law enforcement’s ability to secure a scene.

Bulkley also said he did not think the objective good faith standard proposed in I-940 would allow the legal process to take into account the circumstances an officer reacts to in use od deadly force situations.

Earlier this year, Bulkley and others who feel similarly were able to discuss those concerns with the state legislature and the initiative’s authors. Once De-Escalate WA submitted the initiative to the legislature, conversations began among the groups with interests.

The result- the legislature approved I-940, but it also approved HB 3003, which would amend 940 in ways that reflected those discussions.

HB 3003 passed easily in the state house, but narrowly in the state senate, where there was some objection to the method the legislature was using. By that method, I-940 would not have made it onto the ballot.

Other objections reached the state Supreme Court, which upheld a Thurston County judge’s ruling that I-940 must be on the November ballot.

Bulkley and Griffin said they are eager to begin discussions again in 2019 to bring some of the changes made in HB 3003 back- no matter what happens to the initiative in two weeks. Members of De-Escalate Washington expressed a willingness to do so- should the legislature make that decision.

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