Johnson’s Use of Force Bill Passes House

OLYMPIA – After months of work by the families of victims of police violence, elected officials, law enforcement organizations and other community groups to answer the call for action in the wake of lives lost to unnecessary police violence, the House of Representatives passed House Bill 1310 today by a vote of 5542. HB 1310 was brought forward by Rep. Jesse Johnson (D-Federal Way) to implement a stronger law enforcement use of force statute. 

Preserving and protecting human life must be law enforcement’s highest values. To build trust in communities, we must set expectations that honor those values and build systems of accountability and transparency,” said Johnson after passage of the bill. “We need to make it absolutely clear that officers must de-escalate to reduce violence. Everyone deserves to be safe, to be protected, and to know that peace officers are there to serve their community.” 

Current law allows police to complete an arrest by any means necessary, a broad authorization that allows an unlimited amount of force. HB 1310 sets the clear expectation that de-escalation should be an officer’s first instinct and that deadly force should only be a truly necessary last resort.  When determining use of force, officers would be required to consider circumstances, such as a person having a disability, experiencing a mental health crisis, pregnancy, or the presence of children. By setting that new standard, deadly force would be a last resort after de-escalation efforts failed. 

HB 1310 is one of a series of bills brought forward by members of the Policing Policy Leadership Team in the House Democratic Caucus and is the second police reform bill passed by Rep. Johnson. His other bill, HB 1054, establishes new requirements for tactics and equipment used by peace officers.