While the placement of Initiative 940 on November ballots was a disappointment to De-Escalate Washington, the campaign reports it’s ready to continue advocating for the reforms statewide.
The initiative would require independent investigations of police use of deadly force and make it easier to prosecute officers who unnecessarily use lethal force in the line of duty. It also would increase requirements for de-escalation and mental health training for officers, as well as require police to provide first aid at the scene.
The De-Escalate Washington campaign delivered nearly 360,000 initiative signatures to the Secretary of State on Dec. 28, expecting then that its final approval would be decided by voters.
Instead, the Legislature engaged the campaign, law enforcement organizations, families of victims of police violence and other stakeholder parties to amend the initiative, putting changes into Engrossed Substitute House Bill 3003.
Anti-tax and small government crusader Tim Eyman filed a legal challenge, pushing for ESHB 3003 and I-940 to be put on the November ballot.
A Thurston County Superior Court judge agreed, and in April ordered I-940 be put on the ballot as it was originally written, striking down ESHB 3003. The Washington Supreme Court on Aug. 28 made the same determination, clearing the way for ballots to be printed and delivered in time for the November general election. The decision found that the lawmakers “impermissibly circumvented the balance of power between the legislature and the people that is built into the constitution,” according to Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud. While I-940 was passed without change or amendment, ESHB 3003 effectively provided those changes in violation of the constitution, according to the decision.
“We are disappointed that the Court ruled this way but all along our campaign has been ready for November,” said De-Escalate Washington co-chair and Equal Rights Washington chair Monisha Harrell in a news release. “The public has asked for these changes. We look forward to talking about the issues across the State.”
The campaign was largely led by Not This Time, a group formed by Andre Taylor, whose brother Che Taylor was killed by Seattle Police officers in February 2016. Since its founding, a number of families of victims of police violence joined the campaign, including siblings and cousins of Charleena Lyles, who was killed inside her apartment by Seattle Police in June 2017.
The Seattle Community Police Commission issued a statement following the Supreme Court decision, urging SPD to update its use of force policy now.
“This is common-sense policy that is necessary to rebuild trust between police and the community. We can’t wait until it’s, once again, too late. We need it now,” the release states.“The Seattle Police Department can take the lead right now to undo a rule that every other state in the country has found to be an unreasonable barrier to justice and accountability.”
The Washington Chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police also issued a statement, where it opposes I-940 due to its lacking the changes law enforcement representatives agreed to in ESHB 3003.
“We are disappointed only I-940 is going to the voters without the critical and necessary improvements made in EHB 3003,” FOP states in its release. “The court’s split decision shows there are differing opinions on how the issue of reforms to Washington’s deadly force laws should be enacted by the voters and the legislature. We respectfully recommend a vote against the ballot measure to allow the legislature to re-enact the improved total package of reforms in 2019.”
The general election takes place Tuesday, Nov. 6.