Governor Signs Amendment of Initiative 940
Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed the bill amending Initiative 940. Initiative 940 was passed in November making it easier to prosecute police officers for negligent shootings.
The bill will change when officers can be held liable for using deadly force. Now, I-940 would have required officers to show that they believed they were acting in good faith, the bill imposes an objective test: whether another officer acting reasonably in the same circumstances would have realized deadly force was necessary.
Inslee said, “Conversations are occurring around our country regarding the issue of excessive force against communities of color.” The bill, he added, “doesn’t fix everything, far from it. But it is a start.”
Both activists and police groups have supported the measure. After Governor’s sign a long, often contentious process that included drawn-out negotiations between the two sides, an unusual move by the Legislature and a ruling by the State Supreme Court has been put to rest.
I-940 was first introduced in the legislature at the end of 2017, after a series of high-profile police shootings nationwide.
Community activists had long tried to change the standard for prosecuting police Washington in case of shootings, which previously required prosecutors to prove that officers acted with malice — something only required in Washington State. But early efforts failed, which made the activists propose Initiative 940; they gathered enough signatures to send it to the Legislature.
Initially, Police groups have resisted, but later joined the initiative’s sponsors in fraught talks.
The two sides eventually agreed to talk and compromise. And in an unusual maneuver, the Legislature passed both the original initiative and an amendment bill.
But, all efforts seemed to be done in vain, when the Supreme Court struck that down, finding the procedure unconstitutional and sent the original version of I-940 to the ballot – without the changes the two sides had agreed on previously.
However, voters approved that version last November, but police groups and activists agreed to stick to the compromise they’d reached. The bill signed by Governor on Monday updates the standard for prosecution, alters requirements for police to render first aid, and requires the state to reimburse an officer’s legal fees if they are acquitted.
There were figures like Monisha Harrell, a key figure in the movement behind the initiative, and Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick present at the time of signing.
Klippert also serves as a Police officer, and he was against the initiative in 2017. But on Monday there was no difference in the opinions of the two lawmakers.
“It was worth the work,” Klippert said.