Washington State House Democrats


House passes legislation to strengthen and clarify Initiative 940

OLYMPIA – Earlier today, the House of Representatives approved legislation to clarify and strengthen the language of Initiative 940, which updated Washington’s statute on police use of deadly force. House Bill 1064, sponsored by House Public Safety Committee Chair Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, passed unanimously on a vote of 98-0, exceeding the two-thirds majority required to amend an enacted initiative.

House Bill 1064 is the culmination of years of collaboration between families, community groups, and law enforcement.

In 2016, the Legislature created the Joint Task Force on the Use of Deadly Force in Community Policing to provide recommendations on best practices to reduce the number of violent interactions between law enforcement and members of the public. Although the task force produced multiple recommendations, legislation updating the use of force statute did not move during the 2017 session.

Prior to the 2018 session, De-Escalate Washington, a “coalition of families, law enforcement leaders, mental health and disability rights advocates, tribes, LGBTQ groups, racial justice organizations, and many other concerned community and civil rights organizations and leaders,” organized across the state to send Initiative 940 to the Legislature. Initiative 940 updated the use of deadly force statute to remove the standard of “malice” and require law enforcement officers to receive de-escalation, first aid, and expanded mental health crisis training.

During the 2018 session, legislators convened meetings of family members, community groups, and law enforcement to find shared goals and agree on clarifying language to facilitate implementation. The result of those meetings, House Bill 3003, created additional requirements and prescriptions to strengthen the initiative’s language.

At the request of the stakeholder coalition, the Legislature passed the initiative along with House Bill 3003. This action was challenged in court, and the Supreme Court invalidated the enactment of both measures, sending Initiative 940 to the ballot. The initiative became law after winning almost 60 percent of the vote last November.

“The initiative is a great step forward in repairing the trust between the public and law enforcement,” said Goodman. “However, the initiative painted the solution in broad strokes and there are provisions that need to be more explicitly defined. The consensus language clarifies those, while also strengthening training, first aid, and independent investigation requirements in the law.”

Before the 2019 session began, the coalition of stakeholders again called on the Legislature to move quickly and pass the clarifying and strengthening language. House Bill 1064 mirrors House Bill 3003 from the 2018 session.

Together, Initiative 940 and House Bill 1064:

  • Require annual training for law enforcement, including training on implicit bias, de-escalation tactics, mental health, and less lethal alternatives;
  • Establish that law enforcement officers have a solemn duty to preserve life, including providing or summoning first aid at the earliest safe opportunity;
  • Institute processes for independent investigations of deadly force incidents;
  • Establish standards for family and community notification, including a requirement to notify tribes if an officer’s use of force results in the death of a tribal member; and
  • Remove the requirement that police “malice” be proven in order to bring criminal charges and replace it with an objective “good faith” or reasonable police officer standard by which prosecutors can more fairly evaluate deadly force incidents.

House Bill 1064 also includes a provision requiring the state to reimburse an officer for reasonable defense costs when he or she is found not guilty or charges are dismissed under certain circumstances.

“Trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve is essential for public safety,” said Goodman. “These measures will begin to build that bridge, provide better tools for law enforcement to carry out their difficult jobs, and make it possible for victims to get justice.”

House Bill 1064 now goes to the Senate for further consideration.