OLYMPIA – House Bill 1025, sponsored by Rep. Rep. My-Linh Thai, D-Bellevue, cleared its first major legislative hurdle when it was voted out of the House Civil Rights & Judiciary Committee last Friday. The bill creates a state level civil cause of action for violations of state constitutional rights, Use of Force Standards, and Keep Washington Working. Under current law, a state level civil right of action for victims of police violence does not exist. Without a pathway to justice for the victim, damage is done to the community, the reputation of law enforcement, and the notion of justice.
Police hold the state sanctioned power of life and death. When they lose the trust of the community, public safety is imperiled. On average, people of color are policed more frequently than white people in Washington and with more drastic consequences. The result of police misconduct in Black and Brown communities has resulted in significant trauma and injustice in Washington. This legislation takes action to rebuild community trust in law enforcement.
“Without accountability, there cannot be true justice. This bill provides avenues to justice for victims of police misconduct,” said Rep. Thai. “By holding municipalities accountable when their employees violate a resident’s state constitutional rights, I hope we can encourage them to properly train, support, and discipline their police forces.”
By creating a cause of action against violations of the state Constitution or unlawful conduct on use of force by WA law enforcement, the undermining of justice for egregious acts of violence will not be protected in Washington courts. A critical component of the bill is developing robust training and model policies by the Attorney General’s Office to guide law enforcement and protecting officers when policies are substantially complied with. The status quo of our police accountability system has led generations of Black and Brown people to feel threatened by the very people meant to keep them safe.
“When do we say this suffering should end for Washingtonians”, asked Rep Thai. “The legislature has been in full support of funding de-escalation training, more training centers, and other resources for officers. All the public wants to see in turn is accountability. That can’t happen without this legislation. By creating a state level right of action, we give the people a tool to ensure compliance.”
Substitute House Bill 1025 now heads to the House Appropriations Committee.