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OLYMPIA — Today, House Public Safety Committee Chair Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland) and bill sponsor Rep. Jesse Johnson (D-Federal Way) released the following statement on the implementation of HB 1310.
“Responding to a public outcry over police misconduct and the need for accountability, the Legislature passed a package of bills this year to improve policing in Washington state. These bills are intended to work together to establish clear expectations for officer behavior; to set a baseline for the acceptable use of force, tactics, and equipment; and to put systems of accountability and transparency in place to create systemic change. The goal of HB 1310 was to reduce excessive police uses of force by creating a duty of reasonable care and prioritizing de-escalation and less lethal alternatives. This change is in direct response to people, such as John T. Williams or Manuel Ellis, who lost their lives at the hands of police despite having not committed a crime. The legislation codifies the de-escalation tactics that police are currently trained in as mandated by voter approved I-940.
“Before HB 1310, officers were authorized to use any amount of force necessary to effect an arrest and there were different use-of-force standards across the state. To establish a consistent, statewide standard, we worked closely with community members and our partners in law enforcement to codify into law the preservation and protection of human life as the highest priority. We would especially like to thank the Washington Fraternal Order of Police for their steadfast collaboration on this important legislation. HB 1310 creates a standard of reasonable care when determining whether to use physical force. That standard requires officers to exhaust all available de-escalation tactics, to consider the characteristics and conditions of the person to whom force is being applied, and to use the minimal amount of force necessary to bring someone into custody. Through de-escalation, police can diffuse potentially volatile situations and find peaceful solutions, especially with people suffering from a mental or behavioral health crisis.
“We know it will take time for law enforcement to adjust, but these changes were made for a reason. The level of excessive force used by some police officers, especially in Black and Brown communities, is unacceptable. Washingtonians have demanded action, and HB 1310 aims to transform how police show up in our communities. The vast majority of officers are already abiding by the standards codified in this new law. HB 1310 holds all officers to that same high standard of conduct.
“We are aware of recent questions and concerns about new limits on the ability of police officers, under the Involuntary Treatment Act, to detain people in a behavioral health crisis who have not committed a crime. HB 1310 did not amend the Involuntary Treatment Act, and it was certainly not our intent to impair law enforcement’s ability to respond to behavioral health calls. On the contrary, the intention of HB 1310 and the other legislation passed this session was to give police the tools, training, and support to intervene in ways that decrease the likelihood of escalation and that prioritize treatment whenever possible. Nothing in the new law prevents officers from responding to calls for service and we believe it is law enforcement’s duty to respond.
“We are confident that the dedicated public servants who serve in law enforcement will rise to the challenge of prioritizing de-escalation and limiting their use of force while providing everyone in our community with the public safety they deserve and expect. We are working closely with police chiefs and the Attorney General to ensure that law enforcement has clear guidance on how to implement the law. We will continue to seek input from all interested parties on these critical issues before the upcoming 2022 legislative session and, if necessary, we will pursue legislation to eliminate any ambiguity.”
Rep. Goodman is available for in person, video, and phone follow up interviews. Please contact Peter Kitchen at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange.