Transcript of “WCPA Legislative Preview”
Facebook Live video by Washington Coalition for Police Accountability recorded on January 5, 2021
LESLIE: Okay, can we go to slide one, please? Slide one please.
[Slide reads, “Washington Coalition for Police Accountability – 2021 Legislative Agenda:
- Police Tactics (HB 1054)
- Use of Force and De-escalation
- Civil Accountability
- Oversight and Decertification (SB 5051)
- Independent Investigations and Prosecutions”]
Thank you. Hi, I’m Leslie Cushman, I want to welcome you to this one-hour webinar. I think, Noel, you have to go on mute. Okay, are we good? Okay. This is– I’m Leslie Cushman, and I want to welcome you to this one-hour webinar. We are grateful for your time, and are asking you to work with us to get this focused agenda enacted. I’m a member of the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability. I live in Olympia. I was the citizen sponsor of I-940, one of hundreds and hundreds of people who worked to get that groundbreaking initiative into law. After 940 was enacted, the work didn’t stop. The campaign ended, and work began on implementation of 940. We worked closely with the Criminal Justice Training Commission. We met with prosecutors, talked to law enforcement, and had conversations with the community. We’d learned what was working and where the gaps were.
In May, when George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis, and when the news of Manuel Ellis’ murder by Tacoma police became public, we formed this coalition so that impacted families and impacted communities would have a voice in the formation of policy at the Washington State legislature. I want to thank Chair Goodman, Chair Peterson, Representative Johnson, Entenman, Lovick, Thai, and others, for the close collaboration on bringing policies forward that reflect the lived experiences of impacted people.
Today we are going to talk about the five priorities you see on the slide. You will hear from coalition members who will introduce themselves as we work through this material. You can write your questions in the Q&A, we will try to get to them during this hour at the end. If not, we will respond with a follow-up email to attendees. I want to take a moment to reflect on the lives that have been lost to police violence. Next slide please.
[Slide reads, “STOP POLICE BRUTALITY” in large white letters on a black background. Many people’s names written in red and blue are overlaid on top. The logo for the ACLU is in the lower left corner of the slide.]
I want to thank ACLU for preparing this slide. You see the names of 169 Washingtonians killed over the last five years by police. Every year, police kill over a thousand people across the country. These are not just words on a page. Every name is a worthy, valuable human being with a story and people who love them. These are Black Americans, Natives, Latinos, Pacific Islanders, Native Hawaiians, Asian Americans. These are old and young and middle aged, gay, straight, trans. There are people here who died holding their children, unarmed people holding a cell phone, pregnant women, people killed during traffic stops, people killed because they were profiled or harassed, people with their hands up, people not reaching, people who were misunderstood or in a crisis. Our five priorities are founded on an acknowledgement that race and bias play a significant role in police culture, and that the history of race and policing must be addressed. Our legislative priorities cannot bring these loved ones back, but our work honors their lives. Now we will hear from Devitta Briscoe.
[Slide reads, “The Washington Coalition for Police Accountability
- Representatives of 16 families who lost loved ones to police violence
- Tribes (Puyallup, Muckleshoot, Suquamish)
- The faith-based community (Faith Action Network)
- Civil rights organizations (e.g. ACLU and DRW)
- Labor unions (SEIU 1199)
- State-wide organizations (e.g. NW Immigrant Rights Project)
- Activist organizations (e.g. Not This Time, Black Lives Matter SeattleKC, Next Steps Washington)
- Regional organizations (e.g. Spokane NAACP)
- Service organizations (Asian Counseling and Referral Service)”]
DEVITTA: Hello everyone, thank you for joining us today. My name is Devitta Briscoe, I’m the Acting Director of Not This Time. I’m also a member of the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability. Not This Time is a grassroots organization that we launched– my brother and I, Andre Taylor, and his wife Dove Taylor launched that grassroots organization when my brother Che Taylor was killed tragically in 2016 by two Seattle police officers. Unanimously in the inquest hearing they found that my brother was complying, he was not reaching, and so we launched that Not This Time to work on police accountability in Washington State. We played a very active role in bringing I-940– in the passage of I-940. So we knew that we could not stop at just deescalation training and mental health training, so that’s why we are here, to fill those gaps and also to carry on the work of Initiative 940. This coalition centers families and communities that are impacted by police violence. We have members of this coalition include 16 families who have lost loved ones to police use of deadly force. Also this is I-940 campaign leaders, civil rights organizations, tribes, labor unions, the faith community, and activists committed to ending the violence that is present in police culture and practices in Washington State. I want to hand it off now to Malou.
[Slide reads, “We Believe
- Police hold state-sanctioned power over life and death.
- They can de-escalate crises rather than escalate them.
- They can treat those they suspect of committing crimes with dignity, and stabilize dangerous situations safely and humanely.
- Every person’s life is sacred, and police must be held accountable for unnecessary violence.”]
MALOU: Hi everyone, thank you. My name is Malou Chavez and I’m Deputy Director at Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. I believe police accountability is an immigrant rights issue. I’m also a member of the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability, and I’m here to introduce to you our values. We believe police hold state-sanctioned power over life and death. They can de-escalate. They can treat all community members with dignity, especially those they suspect of committing crimes. We believe every person’s life is sacred, and police must be held accountable for unnecessary violence. Next slide.
[Slide reads, “We believe
- More than two years have passed since I-940’s passage, yet unnecessary police injuries and killings of community members continue unabated.
- Stronger measures are required to motivate police officers and their employers to stop the violence.”]
More than two years have passed since I-940’s passage, yet unnecessary police injuries and killings of community members continue unabated. We believe stronger measures are required to stop the violence. Next slide.
We believe the community must be involved in making policy. Directly impacted families and community members must have a significant place at the table. We believe our lived experiences should inform and drive the development of policy. And next, I would like to introduce Sonia Joseph. Thank you.
[Slide reads, “1. HB 1054 – Rep. Jesse Johnson – Police Tactics
- The police tactics legislation bans or restricts policing practices that historically have been used in a discriminatory manner, such as hot pursuits or chokeholds, or that are used to escalate violence rather than de-escalate, such as the use of military equipment in communities.
- Tactics such as police dogs and neck holds are used to intimidate and control entire communities.
- We have to recognize this and say no more.”]
SONIA: Good morning. Thank you all for being here. I’m Sonia Joseph. My son– my twenty year-old son was killed in the city of Kent in 2017 by Officer Rausch and Davis. I got involved in this work to help save lives, and House Bill 1054, Jesse Johnson is the representative that’s working on the bill, and it’s police tactics. The police tactics legislation bans and restricts policing practices that historically have discriminated people, Black and brown, in hot pursuits or chokeholds, and usually it escalates violence rather than de-escalates, such as the use of military equipment in communities. Tactics such as police dogs and neck holds are used to intimidate and control communities. And we recognize this, and we say no more. Next slide please.
[Slide reads, “1. HB 1054 Police Tactics
- Includes prohibitions on:
- Chokeholds & neck restraints.
- Unleashed dogs for arrests and apprehension.
- Tear gas.
- Does not ban pepper spray.
- Military equipment.
- Covering badge number.
- No-knock warrants.”
Images of diagrams depicting chokeholds and neck restraints, a German Shepherd wearing a police vest, a hand holding a tear gas canister, a Seattle Police badge with black tape covering the badge number, and several officers next to a military-grade vehicle, all with a red X across them.]
House Bill 1054 Police Tactics includes to prohibit chokeholds, neck restraints, unleashed dogs for arrests and apprehension, tear gas– this does not ban pepper spray– military equipment, covering badge numbers, and no-knock warrants. I’m going to go ahead and pass it on to Malou.
PAUL: I think it’s my turn. Hi, my name is Pauly Giuglianotti of Next Steps Washington, founded by Annalesa and Fred Thomas, who are parents of the late Leonard Thomas. My background is in aerospace engineering.
[Slide reads, “1. HB 1054 – Police Tactics – Ban Military Equipment
- The use or acquisition of military equipment is banned.
- A review of data by the newspaper Atlanta Journal Constitution showed that military equipment correlated with more killings by police agencies.
- This list includes armored vehicles, armed planes and drones, rockets, bayonets, grenades, missiles, guns and ammo 50 caliber or greater, and equipment that uses sound and energy to inflict pain and injury.
- The equipment must be returned to the federal government or destroyed.”]
House Bill 1054 is about harm reduction through demilitarization. The bill seeks to disrupt the connection between the military industrial complex and law enforcement agencies in Washington State. It bans 21st century military weapons and equipment. The ban includes armored or armed vehicles on land or air. It bans firearms or ammunition of 50 caliber or greater. And silencers, like the one used by Seattle police in the killing of Shaun Fuhr. Next slide please.
[Slide reads, “1. HB 1054 – Police Tactics – Ban Military Equipment
The ban includes:
- Long Range Acoustic Hailing Device (LRAD)
- Directed energy systems
- Electromagnetic spectrum weapons”
Screenshot of an article from the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog with headline that reads, “Police say new speaker system used at Seattle protests is an LRAD Long Range Acoustic Device,” and a photo of two police officers in riot gear next to a car with a device on the top resembling a bull horn.]
HB-1054 bans 21st century warfare weapons, including the Long Range Acoustic Hailing Device or LRAD. The police may say the LRAD is a voice-projection device, but it’s really designed to inflict pain on its victims. Deafness is a possible side effect. Next slide please.
[Slide reads, “1. HB 1054 – Police Tactics – Ban Military Equipment
- The ban includes the Active Denial System”
Photo of a device resembling a large satellite dish attached to a military vehicle. Also shown is a diagram of the device with the following labels:
- The ‘Active Denial System’ deters attackers by sending a non-lethal millimeter-wave of electromagnetic energy, causing a burning sensation.
- Wave penetrates the skin to 1/64 of in inch, causing a feeling similar to being on fire
- Transmitter produces 95 GHz frequency waves
- Two-second burst can heat skin to 130℉
- 98.6℉ Normal
- 122℉ People pull away reflexively]
This bill will project Washingtonians for generations to come because the ban includes emergent technology. It bans directed energy weapons, like the Active Denial System, which can shoot an invisible beam of energy similar to microwave radiation at its victims, inflicting serious pain and described like the sensation when skin is on fire. Law enforcement may say it’s for less-lethal crowd control, but there’s nothing inherent in the technology itself that prevents the energy output of the weapon from being dialed up to be potentially fatal. The weapon is designed to hit a region, not a point, meaning the Active Denial System and other EM spectrum weapons can strike multiple people simultaneously. Combining this danger with the potential of increasing the power output levels means these weapons are both deadly and indiscriminate, and we seek to ban them in Washington State. Thank you, and I now announce Enoka of the American Civil Liberties Union.
[Slide reads, “1. HB-1054 – Police Tactics – Vehicles
Requires Model policies by 12/21 for:
- Vehicular pursuits
- Prohibited unless all of these are present
- “Violent offense” – Class A or some class B felonies, or
- “Sex offense” – felonies, class A, B, C
- Necessary to identifying or arresting
- Risk of losing them greater than the risk of pursuit, and
- Pursuit is authorized by a supervisor
- Shooting at a moving vehicle
- Prohibited unless
- Necessary to prevent against imminent threat of serious injury from use of deadly weapon in the vehicle”
Photo of several police cars on a highway, in pursuit of a white truck driving towards the camera.]
ENOKA: Hello my name is Enoka Herat, my pronouns are “she” and “hers”, and I am the Police Practices and Immigration Counsel for the ACLU of Washington. And we believe that these bills are incredibly important, in particular the Tactics and Use of Force Bill really limit the authority and scope of police powers in our state, and set an expectation for de-escalation, et cetera. And what the Tactics Bill does, in addition to prohibiting the tactics and equipment that were just mentioned, is that it significantly reduces and restricts the ability for police officers to engage in vehicular pursuits or hot pursuits. And these are car chases that are incredibly dangerous, and they will be prohibited unless the person– the driver or passenger in the car is committing a violent offense or sex offense and the chase is necessary to identiy or arrest the person, but officers will be required to do a risk calculation of whether the risk of losing the person is greater than the risk of the pursuit itself, and the pursuit has to be authorized by a supervisor and managed in that way, and this was language– oh, if we can go back to the previous slide? This is language that we worked with Representative Lovick on, who– he himself was a supervisor at the Washington State Patrol for seven years, and he wanted to put a lot of these restrictions in place. The other thing that the bill does is it prohibits shooting at moving vehicles unless, basically, officers are being shot upon and a deadly weapon is being used by a driver or passenger against officers. And so these two tactics model policies will be required for those by the end of this year. And I am going to pass it on to Devitta.
“2. The Use of Force and De-escalation Bill
Upholds Washington Values:
- We must protect the safety of individuals.
- We expect officers to use the minimum force necessary to do their jobs and to treat people with dignity and respect.
- This bill provides state-wide policy on when force can be used.”
Black and white photo of Black men holding up signs. The sign closest reads, “POLICE BRUTALITY MUST GO”.]
DEVITTA: Thank you Enoka. Again, this bill is in alignment with Washington State values and upholds the sanctity of life. We know that police officers hold state-sanctioned power over life and death. We believe they should de-escalate crises rather than escalating them, and that they could stabilize dangerous situations safely and humanely, and treat the people that they suspect of committing a crime with dignity. And so hopefully– we expect our officers to use the minimum amount of force that’s necessary to do their jobs, and this is a statewide policy that applies to how police do their everyday work, and sets a statewide standard for physical and deadly force. Next slide please.
[Slide reads, “Rep. Jesse Johnson – Use of force and De-escalation
The state-wide policy on use of force sets out the requirement to use the least amount of force necessary
- Must avoid creating the need for force.
- Must exhaust de-escalation tactics.
- Must designate an officer to communicate (to avoid competing demands).
- Must use minimum force necessary – taking into account youth, pregnancy, mental health crisis, under the influence, vulnerable adult, suicidal, limited English, in the presence of children.
- Must end use of force as soon as necessity ends.
- Must use less lethal force, and have it at the ready.
Police can only use deadly force as a last resort – when necessary to prevent serious bodily injury or death to the officer or others.”]
Representative Johnson is the representative that is pushing the use of force and de-escalation. This is a state-wide policy, again, on use of force and it sets out a requirement to use the least amount of force that’s necessary. So we are requiring that officers avoid creating the need for force, which means that they’re not being aggressive and creating a situation where they are required to use deadly force; that they must exhaust all de-escalation tactics, and that includes calling for backup, using cover, creating time and distance. They must designate an officer to communicate to avoid competing commands, this creates confusion and also creates where an officer might be required to use a weapon. They must use a minimum force necessary, taking into account the characteristics of a person; is it a young person, is it a pregnant woman, is it a person in front of their children, are they in a mental health crisis, are they under the influence, are they suicidal, do they have limited English, is it a vulnerable adult; so, taking in the characteristics. And they must end the use of force as soon as necessity ends, and they must also have less lethal options available and have them ready. We believe that police can only use deadly force as a last resort, again emphasising the sanctity of life and the sacredness of life when necessary to prevent serious bodily injury or death to the officers or others. And I will hand it off to Enoka again.
[Slide reads, “2. Rep. Jesse Johnson Use of Force and De-escalation
Tightens up 940 – provides that use of deadly force is justifiable if it is necessary.
- Revises the criminal defense statute so it is crystal clear that deadly force must be necessary.
- Must look at the totality of the circumstances leading up to the use of deadly force.
- It must be the last resort – when necessary to protect imminent threat to of serious bodily injury/death
- Officers can respond to imminent threats with deadly force.
- This aligns with our value on preservation of life and the proposed state-wie standard on de-escalation and duty of care.”]
ENOKA: The second part of Representative Johnson’s Use-of-Force Bill tightens up the I-940 standard for criminal prosecutions. So if an officer has been charged with homicide, for example, they could use as a defense that the deadly force was necessary– was justifiable, but only if it was necessary. So this criminal standard really mirrors the civil standard that Devitta just spoke about, that it really only allows for the use of deadly force when that force was necessary, when it was the last resort, and when there was an imminent threat. And so it aligns our values, both on the civil side and on the criminal side, on the preservation of life and proposed state-wide standard on de-escalation and duty of reasonable care. And we can go to the next slide.
[Slide reads, “3. Rep. My-Linh Thai – Peace Officer Accountability bill
- Purpose: Creates a new way to sue police officers and departments, compensate victims, and hold officers accountable
- Why do we need this? There are a lot of obstacles to bringing cases and winning against the police under current law
- Long term: Change police culture and practices and help stop police violence”]
Photo of a protestor holdding a sign that reads, “We see police get away with murder,” with police officers standing in a line behind them.]
This is the third bill that we’ll discuss today. It’s Representative My-Linh Thai as the prime sponsor, it’s the Peace Officer Accountability Act. And the purpose of this bill is that it creates a new way to sue police officers and departments to compensate victims and hold officers accountable. And the reason we need this is that the current legal paths that are available have many obstacles, so it’s very difficult, actually, to hold officers and departments accountable through civil litigation. And in the long term, when there is this level of liability for departments, we have seen that departments change their behavior, their practices, their policies, and so that is the long-term goal for this bill. Next slide.
[Slide reads, “3. Rep. My-Linh Thai – Peace Officer Accountability bill
- Holds officers accountable by creating a way to pursue legal action for people harmed by police misconduct. Individuals can bring a lawsuit for misconduct including constitutional violations, torts, and violations of state law like KWW.
- Holds police departments accountable by holding them liable for negligent hiring, training, supervising, and disciplining officers involved in misconduct.
- Improves access to justice by allowing attorney fee and cost recovery if the victim is successful and wins their lawsuit against the police.
- Authorizes the Attorney General’s office to investigate and bring suit, promoting fair police practices across Washington.
- Removes obstacles to civil liability such as qualified immunity, which has undermined justice for even the most egregious acts of misconduct.”
Drawing of someone opening a door to a police officer who holds a search warrant, with the caption, “arrests and searches.”
Drawing of two people kissing as two officers pull them apart, with the caption, “separate ICE and police, not our families.”]
So what this bill does is that it holds officers accountable by allowing a new path– a legal path to sue officers for misconduct such as constitutional violations, torts, which are any time an officer violates a duty that they owe, so if– something like excessive force or violating the duty to de-escalate, that I was just talking about in the Use of Force Bill. Officers can also be held accountable for violations of the state law Keep Washington Working, and that is a law that was passed a couple years ago that prohibits information sharing and collaboration between local law enforcement and immigration officials and ICE and deportation officials. And the reason that this bill is necessary is that for something like that, for Keep Washington Working, there aren’t many paths to actually sue officers and hold them accountable. And so this would create a way to do that, and not just officers but also departments. And so departments can be held accountable for unreasonable hiring, training, supervising, or disciplining for misconduct, and so an example that’s come to mind recently is that the Spokane Police Department just hired four officers that were formally Seattle Police Department officers, and at least one of them have been– and I think actually two of them have been involved in fatal shootings in the past. And so if either of them then harmed someone, under this bill they could be held– the department could be held accountable for even hiring them. And so this would deter officers– another tool to deter departments from hiring officers who have been involved in violence in the past.
It also improves access to justice because this new legal path would have attorney’s fees, and that’s really critical because while some forms of misconduct result in huge damages, so huge monetary costs like hospital fees et cetera, there’s a lot of misconduct and routine daily harassment that police officers engage in, including things like punches and kicks and verbal harassment, that they often don’t get held accountable for because the impact of that might only result in a bruise. And right now, in order to bring a lawsuit against the officer for that kind of conduct, you would have to seek damages, and if the damages are only $200 for a bruise or something like that, but it costs $5,000 to bring a lawsuit, those lawsuits just don’t happen. And so officers have been able to, in a sense, get away with a lot of misconduct and harassment that really undermines and harms community– undermines community trust and harms community. And so this would allow for attorney’s fees so people wouldn’t have to pay out-of-pocket for the cost of bringing that lawsuit.
An additional thing it does is it create a cause of action for the Attorney General’s office, so the Washington State Attorney General’s office could bring a lawsuit if they find a pattern and practice of a department that is engaging in misconduct repetitively. And we have something like that on the federal level, and that’s why something like the consent decree was possible in Seattle, and so this would allow for our state’s Attorney General to bring similar cases. I’m sorry, it just got noisy outside. And lastly, this new legal path would remove other obstacles such as qualified immunity, which have been shields to bringing these kinds of lawsuits against police officers and departments. Okay, next slide. And I’ll hand it over to Noel, thank you.
[Slide reads, “4.Senator Pedersen – SB 5051 Oversight and Accountability
This proposal takes the very weak system in place now in Washington State and makes our police oversight one of the best in the country.
- Changes the CJTC so that it is majority non law enforcement, with significant community membership.
- Very important and key to getting impacted voices involved in policy making and oversight.
- Requires decertification of police officers so they lose their licenses if they have serious misconduct.
- Sets up mandatory reporting by local agencies, makes some offenses required decertification.
Real consequences for misconduct and real authority to the Criminal Justice Training Commission.”]
NOEL: Hello everyone, my name is Noel Parrish, and I am a loved one of Joel Nelson. Joel Nelson was killed by Officer Ditrich, a Thurston County Sheriff, on January 5, 2016, so five years ago today. Joel was– he was unarmed and he was walking down the road, and as a result of that arrest he ended up killed, and he– I just want to say that he lives on with all of us today. We have been working in his family and myself for the last five years, I-873, I-940, and in this current coalition, I just want to give thanks to all the representatives and the coalition members. This is not easy work and it’s something that needs to happen because the [inaudible] will not stop until it does. It needs to happen, and so I just thank you everyone who interested in this, and I just want to put that out there that like in Joel’s case, he wasn’t, you know– allegedly, you know, he– [inaudible] when he surrendered, and these officers were not granted immunity, but there’s no way for us to charge at this point, it’s civil suit only, like the last person was talking about. [inaudible] So it’s important that we look at oversight and accountability so that there is– we can look at that power differential for those that are acting as if they’re above the law. We want to make sure that police are, you know, just in this coalition we have a lot of conversations about that, about no one should be above the law. So the fourth one that we’re going to talk about today is Senator Pedersen’s SB-5051 Oversight and Accountability. This proposal is– [inaudible] police oversight, one of the best in the country, that changes the Criminal Justice Training– excuse me, I forget what the last C is– CJTC…I apologize.
(LESLIE): That’s OK, you’re doing great. The Criminal Justice Training Commission.
NOEL: Yeah, the Commission. I always thought it was “coalition”, I apologize. So the CJTC, this slide– Yeah, so anyway it changes some of that power differential and very important and key to getting impacted voices involved in police and making oversight, you know having community oversight, and a lot of different representation is important. This also requires de-certification of police officers so they lose their license and are accountable, and again, to ensure that no one is above the law, to allow for that power differential to, you know– in certain instances of misconduct, that de-certification may be required. And then also just having the– if people are misusing their power, that there is real consequences that the Criminal Justice Training Commission can enforce in order to kind of have that culture and that change in our criminal justice system, like, be implemented structurally. Thank you. And I’ll hand it off to Tim.
[Slide reads, “5. Rep. Debra Entenman – Independent Investigations and Independent Prosecutions
- It is not possible for police to investigate police.
- Police cannot remain impartial as they interview witnesses, collect evidence, view video, prepare results, and make recommendations regarding fellow officers.
- Even the most careful criminal investigation done in good faith and in compliance with I-940 9s going to fall short because of the immense difficulty in investigating a colleague.
- The county prosecutor is faced with significant conflicts of interest when weighing whether to file criminal charges in a police involved shooting.”]
TIM: Thank you Noel.
[Tim introduces themself in indigenous language]
Good day to you, honorable and noble people. My name is Tim Reynon and I am a member of the Puyallup Tribe, and a former Puyallup Tribal Council Member. I currently serve as the Chair of the Law and Justice Committee for the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, and I’m a member of the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability. I served on the Governor’s Task Force of Independent Investigations in Police Use of Force, as well as the Joint Legislative Task Force of the Use of Force in Community Policing in 2016. And I served as a co-chair of De-Escalate Washington, as you’ve heard, the coalition that led the successful I-940 campaign in 2018. I began working on police accountability and reform efforts when one of our Puyallup Tribal members, Jacqueline Salyers, and her unborn child, were killed by Tacoma police in January of 2016. Jackie was shot and killed as she tried to drive away from the police officers attempting to apprehend the man in the car with her. Tacoma police conducted the investigation of the incident involving their own officers and found the shooting justified. The Pierce County prosecutor then reviewed the investigation and concurred that the use of deadly force was justified. At the end of the day, we had police investigating police and a prosecutor who works closely with those officers from that department deciding whether the shooting was justified. And so this is exactly the type of situation that we are trying to address in this upcoming legislative session. The bill that Representative Entenman is proposing, the Independent Investigations and Independent Prosecutions Bills, will eliminate this. We’re going to change the ability of police to investigate police, and we’re going to change police culture and improve accountability and trust of law enforcement. And so we are supporting the recommendations that the Governor’s Task Force worked so hard to develop over the last four or five months. We believe that there is a conflict for police to investigate police. We just don’t think it’s possible. It’s impossible for them to remain impartial as they interview witnesses, conduct the investigation, review video, make recommendations regarding their fellow officers. We also feel that no matter how carefully they do the investigation, how in good faith they do the investigation, there is still going to be this appearance of conflict, this appearance of preference or bias in the investigation. And so– and it’s going to fall short because of the difficulty of investigating colleagues. We also feel that there’s a similar conflict with local prosecutors. Local prosecutors rely on these officers to do their job, to provide them evidence for their cases that they’re prosecuting. And so we think it’s very difficult for them to make an objective decision in charging police involved in shootings.
And so we’re calling upon the state legislature. If we can go to the next slide. We’re calling upon the legislature to support the task force recommendations that are being included in Representative Entenman’s bill to set up a state-wide entity to do criminal investigations of police use of deadly force. To establish a prosecutor independent of county prosecutors. To create or to establish a– to hire a director of this new statewide investigative agency who is non law enforcement. Again, we can’t have law enforcement investigating law enforcement, so we feel it’s very important that this director of this new office be a non law enforcement professional.
At the same time, we recognize that in the beginning, we may not have enough people that are currently trained that are non law enforcement to stand this new agency up. And so we’ve asked for a transition period– a five-year transition period that will allow us to move to a completely non law enforcement professional criminal investigative staff within five years within the enactment of this bill. We’re also asking that this new agency has the authority to investigate those cases that happened after I-940 was enacted, as well as those cases that happened prior to– in prior years. There’s no statute of limitations on prosecuting homicides, and this should be no different for law enforcement officers– homicides perpetrated by law enforcement officers. And so that’s why we’re asking for this new agency to have this authority. It’s very important to many of us here in the coalition.
And finally, we’re asking for an advisory board to be created that includes a super-majority of members of the community and members of impacted families and impacted communities. The purpose of this board will be to provide hiring input to the new director, as well as to provide regular performance reviews for the director as well as the department.
And so this bill, along with the other bills that we talked about today, will help us establish transparency and accountability in law enforcement, restore credibility and trust to law enforcement, and provide a pathway for justice for those families who have lost loved ones at the hands of police. And so now, I’ll turn it back over to Noel to share how you can all help us during this upcoming legislative session. Thank you.
NOEL: Thank you, Tim. And so all you can all help and get involved is to first of all follow our Facebook page. This is live right now on our Facebook and you can go back and watch this later too. You can follow our Facebook page, email us at info@WCforPA.org. If you have any questions, there’s also the Legislative Hotline, you can contact Chair Hansen and Representative Thai and tell them, “The Peace Officer Accountability Act must include a reference to Representative Johnsons’ use of Force Bill so that we can hold officers accountable for following the duty of care”. You can also call and check in and support House Bill 1054 and that hearing is on January 12. There’s also some other opportunities that’ll be coming forward to support bills. They’ll be posted on our Facebook site. And I just want to say, you know, whatever you– supporting this work, we need everyone. Talking to your friends and family like, big or small, whatever contribution that you could push forward. We’re stronger with us all united in this effort.
So on the day of the hearing, you’ll be able to sign in supporting the leg.wa.gov so if you just keep an eye out on our Facebook page, you’ll be able to go in often and see what the agendas are for the day for the legislative agenda. And everyone that you can support for these five bills and around police accountability is appreciated by families and our coalition.
So there will be other opportunities coming up as well through communications. And now I just wanna again thank you all and I’m gonna pass it over to– open it back up to Leslie. If there are any questions, or there– we can wrap it up.
[Slide reads, “Now we have time for questions.”
Graphic of a thought bubble with a question mark inside.]
LESLIE: Sounds good. Thank you, Noel. And I want to ask everyone on our panel to go off mute. Unless that fouls up our audio. We’ll find out. We’re gonna address some of these questions. Maybe Enoka can handle a few that you read. I’m gonna go back on mute cause I hear a lot of feedback and maybe it’s Noel’s phone.
ENOKA: There are a couple of questions about whether Department of Corrections are included in these bills. Department of Corrections are included in the Tactics Bill and the Use of Force Bill and I believe– actually Leslie, maybe you know whether it’s included in the Decertification and the Independent Investigations Bill.
LESLIE: So independent investigations– and Tim can chime in here– covers custodial homicides and assaults, and it covers sexual assaults by officers as well. So yes, it’s covered. Let’s see here. Now I–
PAUL: There was a question about when will there likely be bill numbers for use of force and officer accountability.
ENOKA: We’re expecting that the Use of Force Bill is gonna be dropped next week and then it’ll get a bill number. And same with the Peace Officer Accountability Act. That’s what we’ve heard so far.
LESLIE: Let’s talk about how our package fits together. We’re trying to change police culture and reduce violence and there’s two ends of the system. We’re trying to work upstream and we think that the Police Tactics Bill will make a big difference in reducing injuries and deaths by just taking some tactics off the table– can’t use them anymore. And then Use of Force sets standards for everyday officer behavior. It regulates the amount of force. It says when force can and can’t be used and that’s about everyday work. That’s upstream. The accountability pieces we have seen in other jurisdictions that when independent investigations are put into place that police officer involved shootings are reduced. Consequences make a difference and so this package works together on both ends of the system. 940 focused on training. We’re putting– and we thought that was a good start– this puts something right into the law that you have to de-escalate and less lethal force and deadly force as a last resort so we think this package makes a lot of sense. What do ya got, Pauly?
PAUL: One of the questions from Mindy Chambers. It says, “How many police killings have occured since I-940 passed? What has its affect been on the resolution of those killings such as discipline, prosecution, etc.” Thank you, Mindy!
LESLIE: So, Mindy? We track the data and Cathy has the data. She could chime in here, maybe put it in the Q&A. There is about an average of 40 a year. Last year was 41. Let me tell you that the People of Color are overrepresented in the data and a third of the people killed are experiencing a mental health crisis and over 25% of the people killed are Latinos. So we have lots of work to do in this state to address overrepresentation of vulnerable, marginalized Black and brown people. We have a lot of work to do. And that’s what we’re doing with this package.
PAUL: I have a question here from Juan. He says, “We all know that White Supremacy in law enforcement is responsible for many of the shootings by police across the country. Shouldn’t we be demanding that White Supremacy in law enforcement be addressed in the legislature if we want the shootings and killings of People of Color and LGBT communities to end?” And maybe somebody that was participating in the Governor’s Task Force for Police Use of Force or Independent Investigations might wanna answer that.
LESLIE: Tim, do you wanna talk about the background checks?
TIM: Yeah, that’s exactly– that’s one of the things we talked about on the task force and the coalition is having background checks done for officers that include looking into their social media background, their affiliations with racist organizations, and those types of things. So I believe that is part of our recommendations and hopefully that will be included in one of our bills.
PAUL: We have another great question, this one from Allison. “Can you talk about the difference between the two accountability bills, please? The one by Thai and Peterson.”
ENOKA: I can take that one. Thai’s accountability bill results in civil liability and so it allows people to sue officers and departments and it results in financial or monetary punishments for officers and departments. And that has been one way in which you can change police behavior and police culture. Peterson’s bill is sort of further down the line. It’s a decertification bill. So it removes an officer’s ability to actually be a law enforcement officer, ever. So while one is a sort of punishment for conduct, the other removes an individual officer from the force and prevents them from ever being a police officer again in Washington. But in order for that to happen, there’s a lot of different things that have to be triggered by the statute in order to be decertified.
LESLIE: Let me tell the audience that there are– these are our five priorities but we’re also gonna be supporting other bills. And there’s a bill called “Felony Bar”, maybe Tim can talk about it in a minute or I can talk about it. It is another accountability measure. There’s a statute that prevents persons who were involved or alleged to be involved in a felony from suing the police officer that beats the crap out of them. And so that’s not fair and it wasn’t really the intention of the statute so it’s been an exception to this that’s being put into the law and Senator Frockt and [inaudible] for working on that. But I also wanted to mention the hiring bill that Senator Patty Kuderer is working on. We’re gonna be looking at that. And there’s bills on duty to intervene which changes police culture, that looks at the “blue code” and you are required to intervene and required to report misconduct. We think that will have a big impact. Anybody else have something to add on that piece?
PAUL: I’m gonna go ahead with the next question– Oh, go ahead, Noel.
NOEL: I was just gonna add: I think that some of the questions around hate crimes and racial profiling are addressed in the Police Officer Accountability Bill by Representative Thai as well. Representative Thai has written in there some accountability around misconduct and harassment is– Is there specific language around racial harassment, Leslie, when it comes to that bill? I was thinking there are misconducts that are called out regarding race and profiling. Is that correct?
LESLIE: You know, I can’t accurately answer that but we will address that.
ENOKA: One of the parts that addresses it is called “outrage” and so something like the use of racial slurs and things like that could fall under that.
NOEL: Yeah, under “outrage”. Yes, so that is– I just wanted to bring that up because that’s one of the things in Representative Thai’s bill that I think is important for us to highlight in this conversation.
PAUL: Alright! If any of the other panelists want to jump in, feel free! I have another here from Jade. I really like it: “How is “necessary” defined and what are the guidelines for deciding “last resort”? And it goes on, “for all situations in which officers who must decide, whether an act was a hot pursuit or use of force or use of deadly force, is necessary, how is their decision later evaluated? How do we cut out subjectivity? It’s common for officers to exaggerate certain circumstances and then they have a different view of what “necessary” and “last resort” means than I and many others do.” Great question!
ENOKA: When we were coming up with the language to use for this bill, we worked really closely with legislative staff because we know that so far– you know, up until now, officers have avoided responsibility and accountability because of some squishiness in the law, some ambiguity, and because some of the language has really looked at what a reasonable officer would do in the circumstances. But all of that language has sort of been stripped out, and now, you know, we feel that the current language is as precise as we could get it, where “last resort” really means “last resort”, so that– and there should be an evaluation as to whether de-escalation tactics were used. The bill outlines what de-escalation tactics look like. It also, you know, in terms of defining things like “imminent threat”, you know, it’s not enough to just have something in your pocket somewhere, but actually you have to have tried to use it, and been able to– and what you have in your hand had to have actually been able to cause significant bodily injury, you know, it can’t be a cell phone that someone thought was a weapon. And so we have really worked hard to make the language as precise as possible, to close some of those loopholes that we have seen be used throughout– over the past decade in these kinds of police misconduct cases.
LESLIE: Enoka, can you address the question that Representative Klippert asked during that work session?
ENOKA: Sure, and you know, we know that actually police misconduct runs the gamut from everything, from the use of a racial slur to a shooting and killing, you know, and so the Use of Force Bill really tries to look at all of that and really deal with sort of the daily occurrences of police harassment and misconduct in communities. But we were asked the question by Representative Klippert, “Well what happens when, you know, when someone’s immediately shooting at a police officer?” Well then of course, in that instance that is the time when deadly force can be used, if it is– if the officer or another person’s life is at risk. So it accounts, I think, for all those circumstances, and will significantly reduce the use of violence by police officers.
LESLIE: And one of the things we hear is that this is too restrictive and police hands are tied, but that’s not the case. If they have an imminent threat, they are able to use deadly force.
ENOKA: That’s right, and I think one of the other questions I saw in the chat was about, you know, the failure of police reform over the past 50 years, and I just want to be very clear that the kind– these five bills have not been tried before in Washington State. This is a huge departure from the kind of police reform we have had for the past 50 years, and it is– I mean, these would have been unthinkable a year ago, and it’s amazing that the activism and the people’s movements in this country have created this opportunity, and we really want to take opportunity to have these bills and push them forward because it will change what we’ve been seeing.
LESLIE: So these bills came from our families who are part of the coalition. They came up– the family’s experience at what happened to their loved ones created this list of priorities, and then we all started working– supporting it. Devitta, who has had lots of experience in the police practices area, came up with the idea of, we need a statewide requirement that’s in law, not just training requirement, but a requirement for de-escalation. And then working with Enoka came up with that part of the Use of Force Bill. So this is really a grassroots effort, this is a big coalition. We listen to each other, and we’re working hard on a package that is bold and makes a difference. We’re not here for working on the edges, we want to make a big change in police culture.
PAUL: We have a question from a fellow named Les Liggons: “Are retired or former law enforcement allowed to function as independent investigators?” And there was also another question concerning the independent investigations, as far as where will the qualifications and people that would be doing the investigations, where would they be coming from, or what field would you be pulling from? So that’s a good question for our task force member, perhaps?
TIM: Yeah, thank you for that. You know, with it– like I said, there’s going to be a transition period, so within the first five years, former law enforcement would be able to, you know, be hired on. The goal is to transition to completely non-law enforcement, but professional criminal investigators. And so, I know there has recently started at one of our local community colleges, a program to start training folks to do these types of investigations. And so part of what our hope is, is that we can start recruiting from that program and get professionals trained through there. There’s also– there has been discussion about a separation period, so after, I want to say three to five years, you would be eligible for working in this agency. Somebody can correct me if my timeframes are wrong there, but– we’ve heard from different professionals, experts, that there’s– these types of investigations can be done by, you know, archeologist-type– those are some of the type of investigations– investigators that have been mentioned. But, I mean we are embarking on a new area, so we are going to need to train up folks, and in the beginning rely on those who have the expertise, and have them train up our investigators, our non-law enforcement investigators going forward.
LESLIE: I wonder–
PAUL: And– go ahead, Lesie.
LESLIE: I wonder if we should– so there were questions on bill numbers, and there will– and I know Enoka mentioned some of that, but please– we will be posting things on our Facebook page. We’re in the process of getting a website up and that will be available, and we’re using ActionNet to send messages to folks, so we’ll be doing calls to action. I’m looking at the time and I think I’m going to turn it over to Malou to close this out today, is that okay?
[Slide reads, “Thank you for being here and for your support.
- HB 1054, the police tactics bill. Jesse.Johnson@leg.wa.gov
- The use of force and de-escalation bill. Jesse.Johnson@leg.wa.gov
- The police officer accountability act. My-Linh.Thai@leg.wa.gov
- SB 5051 Oversight and accountability act (de-certification). Jamie.Pedersen@leg.wa.gov
- Independent criminal investigations and independent prosecutions. Debra.Entenman@leg.wa.gov”]
MALOU: Thank you. Thank you, everyone. I wanted to first appreciate all of you for spending your lunch hour with us, learning about these important bills, these issues that are very important to our communities. I want to thank our speakers, our family members in particular who share their stories over and over, and who have been working especially, spending very dedicated time to see this change. We hope that you continue to support our movement, that we continue to be in communication. As Leslie mentioned, we will be following up. Our Facebook page, as Noel mentioned, is live and we will be updating with bill numbers, with any information, calls to action. We want you to remain engaged as this is a very important time, we’ve been waiting for many years for this to happen. Police accountability impacts everyone, every community, every person, from different walks of life, so we appreciate your time. Thank you everyone, if anyone on the speaker platform would like to say anything else, please feel free, but we will be following up with responses to some of the questions we didn’t get to, and most of that information will be posted on our Facebook page. Anyone else?
LESLIE: Thank you. I just want to say thank you to everyone, and I’ m excited to be working with everyone who participated today, we had close to 200 participants, and many people following on Facebook today.
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