Police Abuse

Washingtonians to Vote on Making It Easier to Convict Cops for Using Deadly Force

The measure would also require officers to render first aid directly after shootings and undergo new training.

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DAVID RYDER/REUTERS/Newscom

Voters in the Evergreen State will get to decide on a ballot measure dealing with police use of force and training in November after the Washington secretary of State's office accepted enough of the nearly 360,000 signatures filed for the ballot measure to qualify.

It's particularly difficult to prosecute and convict police officers in Washington State. Data collected by the National Police Misconduct Reporting Project (NPMRP) showed the state had the lowest prosecution rate for cops accused of misconduct of all 50 states. It also had the second lowest conviction rate in the country for such cops, as NPMRP founder David Packman pointed out in 2011 while discussing what made the nationwide problem of lack of accountability "significantly pronounced" in Washington.

Initiative 940 (I-940), led by the De-Escalate Washington campaign, would change the law surrounding justifiable use of deadly force, requiring police officers to meet a "good faith" standard in order to be protected from criminal liability. Currently, prosecutors must prove police officers acted with malice to overcome their immunity, which makes convictions exceedingly difficult.

I-940 would also require police officers to undergo violence de-escalation training and mental health training (to help in dealing with others' mental health issues, not their own). The classes would be formulated by the state Criminal Justice Training Commission in consultation with law enforcement agencies and "community stakeholders."

Finally, the measure would require officers to be trained on how to administer first aid to victims harmed in encounters with police, and would require policies establishing a "duty to preserve the life of persons whom the officer comes into direct contact with while carrying out official duties, including providing or facilitating immediate first aid to those in agency care or custody at the earliest opportunity."

A statewide task force recommended in 2016 that the "malice" standard should be removed from the law, but legislators failed to act.

They could still pass I-940 before the November vote. More than 30 state legislators have endorsed the initiative, according to The Stranger. But organizers are not optimistic that it won't still come down to the ballot initiative.

"We have hopes, but we're not betting on it," Andre Taylor, who sits on the leadership team of De-Escalate Washington and is the brother of police shooting victim Che Taylor, told The Stranger.

Two politically influential labor groups, the King County and Washington State labor councils, have endorsed the initiative.

Not surprisingly, the Washington Council of Police & Sheriffs (WACOPS) and other police unions are opposing the effort, as they did in 2016. The unions complained in a letter last month that the "true purpose" of I-940 was to "make it easier to prosecute officers."

The whole situation could have been avoided. Ideally, police departments should have the kind of rules in place that make it possible for leadership to discipline and remove problem officers before they kill, and the kind of leadership in place willing to use the ability. Too often, however, police unions have helped negotiate contracts that make preventive measures difficult to accomplish, leaving cops with little accountability until they do something so egregious they find themselves facing a criminal trial.

If police unions and advocates want it to continue to be difficult to convict police officers, they need to make it easier to fire those who cause problems. Insisting that a good faith standard is unacceptable both in court and when it comes to a cop's employment status only increases the pressure to weakon the immunities from criminal liability that police currently enjoy.

NEXT: A Year After Reforms, Virginia Still Suspends Nearly 1 Million Driver's Licenses For Court Debts

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  1. I’m trying to remember if this is the law I’m thinking of (I’ll have to read it later) but the whole thing made me queasy. As I recall, it seemed to be something that set impossible standards for police officers. Ie, the heart is in the right place, but the law demanded officer’s make bizarre, impossible assessments during every encounter– assessments that no one could realistically make.

  2. Step in the right direction

  3. “…the “true purpose” of I-940 was to “make it easier to prosecute officers.”

    Well, yeah. That’s a feature not a bug.

    1. They’re intentionally missing the point.

  4. Another way to get cops from shooting people is to take away all their toys like armored vehicles, military outfits, military helmets, and military weaponry.

    Since most cops are chicken shits, they will run from the first sign of trouble if all they have is a 6 shooter and a baton.

    1. I disagree. It’s a mentality. The mentality needs to change. I’m not sure how to accomplish that beyond:

      1. Hamstring the unions, making their unlawful actions unlawful instead of employer/employee disputes, subject to arcane rules of arbitration, favoring the abusive cop.
      2. As a result of #1, hold cops accountable for clearly unlawful behavior.
      3. Change officer training to be more defensive, less offensive. the nuts and bolts of this are too complex to list here.
      4. Change the recruiting process– which may start to self-select when people see 1,2 & 3 in full force.

      1. Yeah, I think the key is training, such that I’m ambivalent about just making it easier to prosecute — that seems more likely to just encourage the cops to disengage entirely and/or to circle their wagons all the more.

        I’d favor reducing equipment giveaways that encourage the creation of SWAT teams in places that have no real need for them, and thus end up putting them to escalatory uses, though I think vehicles are really at the bottom of the problem list. Actually, I think distributing old M113s and MRAPs is probably pretty useful in situations like floods and brushfires, as well as criminal situations where police need cover to rescue wounded lying in the open. In any event, I’m aware of far less harm caused by them in police service than I am “mere” M4 carbines.

        1. Actually, I think distributing old M113s and MRAPs is probably pretty useful in situations like floods and brushfires, as well as criminal situations where police need cover to rescue wounded lying in the open.

          I’m not against a few big-city police departments having the odd MRAP. It’s the training that has them hiding in it for 12 hours while they wait for a drunk homeless guy to fall asleep before they cuff him.

          1. I’d rather have them eating donuts in a MRAP, waiting for your drunk to fall asleep, than go charging in like gangbusters and hurt someone, or each other.

            1. At the wrong address; don’t forget that part.

        2. Training is nonsense. You can’t train someone to be kind when they are a sick a-hole that shoots friendly dogs on sight or thinks it’s OK to “beat the Mexican piss” out of a perp after they’ve been cuffed. You can’t train someone to “see something/say something” unless there are severe consequences for doing so.

    2. Then how will they chase down those illegals in the desert?

      1. While parts of Eastern WA resemble a desert, if they made it that far then they can walk to the 7-Eleven and buy a water. They can also blend in with a sizable migrant worker population.

        1. Your commentary is just indicative of how we shamefully we ignore the Canadian Illegal Immigrant menace.

          1. Canadians a menace? Of what, politeness?

  5. Could it be that the toughest part of training any police force is… coping with adrenaline rush? Pilots run various failure scenarios in trainers to help focus when something real happens. That makes sense. For police, having something real happen may be an almost daily occurrence, depending on their city and the shift they work. It’s kind of like driving in a way – odds of an accident the first year are pretty high, driven by lack of experience.
    As for the special problems of swat teams serving as shelters for loons [seeking to create non compliance situations like the trigger man in Mesa Arizona], that’s where Coping with Adrenaline should be it’s own class that lasts for the duration in any police academy. Yes, it aids with fight or flight, but it can also be the stumbling point from going from ‘brotherhood’ to an ‘us versus them’ mentality for those who aren’t mentally prepared for very intense situations ahead of time. It’s a fine line, and it matters a whole lot, because for those addicted… we pay the price.

    1. Start holding these cowboys accountable and suddenly they’ll cope with adrenaline just fine.

  6. Food stamps for Fido

    1. SNAP recipients should be required to EAT their livestock first before sponging off the defenseless taxpayers.

    2. I can finally afford my dream, a pet elephant!

  7. The standard for civilians and cops should be the same, a reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm. They always claim the fear but they are never held to the reasonableness. I’m pretty sure if I was in a verbal argument and I shot the guy and claimed he appeared to be reaching for his waistband I’d go to jail for a long time.

    1. I think the standard should be higher for the guy with body armor, an arsenal, and training specifically for such situations, if anything.

      1. How much stiffer than a reasonable fear of death or grave bodily harm can you get? Remember, when the action happens, you have about 1/10 second to make up your mind, and the rest of your life to be second guessed.

        That having been said, I’d like to see a lot more of Sir Robert Peel’s “Principles of Policing” imbued into our police culture. It tends to be too confrontational.

        1. The problem with a standard like that is that it’s only applied to the moment of the shooting, and ignores the fact that the police might have needlessly created the dangerous “quick draw” situation. Proper accountability would require addressing the reasonableness and prudence of the police putting themselves into such a confrontation in the first place. See the John Crawford and Tamir Rice cases to see how that works.

        2. Peel was never part of our law enforcement philosophy. Our cops have “Fugitive Slave Patrol” in their DNA and it shows.

    2. I agree. I think this law over-complicates things. There should be a ‘civilian test’ with every cop shooting. I’m not the first to suggest this. But the formula goes like this: If a civilian (non cop) were to pull the trigger in the exact same conditions, would he/she be prosecuted? If the answer is ‘yes’, why not the cop?

      1. That’s not unreasonable. There should be no problem holding officers to the same standard as a citizen would.

        1. Same with perjury.

      2. The standard cops’ response to that is that since police officers are required to intervene in potentially dangerous situations that ordinary citizens are free to leave or stay away from, they should have special privileges to use force in order to protect themselves?even at the expense of the safety of the public. The big flaw in that argument is that cops are NOT “required” to be cops?they can turn in their badges and walk away any time they want to. They volunteered for the job. The job involves taking risks so the rest of us don’t have to. That’s what we’re paying them for. If they don’t like that, they need to find other careers. As Super Chicken often said to Fred, “you knew the job was dangerous when you took it.” (And yes, I know that being a cop is not actually a particularly dangerous job compared to what many of us who aren’t cops do for a living.)

        1. The standard cops’ response to that is that since police officers are required to intervene in potentially dangerous situations that ordinary citizens are free to leave or stay away from, they should have special privileges to use force in order to protect themselves?even at the expense of the safety of the public.

          And I would say that’s a response that can be refuted/debated.

          Yes, the job of a cop is to run towards a dangerous situation and diffuse it. But that doesn’t mean that civilians are immune from that scenario. And in fact, that’s the point. That being the central feature of the cop occupation, they’re supposed to be trained to BETTER know and understand when a threat is real and assess a situation without letting their emotions get in the way.

          The civilian test still works. If the untrained civilian kills someone and the person is found to be unarmed or not a threat, more often than not, the civilian will be prosecuted criminally. Therefore, that means the cops are in fact being held to a LOWER standard, not a higher standard that they claim.

          The ‘untrained civilian’ has a greater chance of being prosecuted precisely because he has less training and made the wrong call.

        2. even at the expense of the safety of the public.

          Addressing this specifically, this is never an option. The entire purpose of a cops being is to protect the safety of the public. That’s a non-starter.

          1. But if you discuss this with police officers, they will come right out and tell you that “shoot first, ask questions later” can be a reasonable course of action for them to insure their own safety. They tell me their training comes from this perspective, and they are taught the danger of hesitating to open fire when they feel they are in danger. And they deny their responsibility for creating these quick-draw confrontations, insisting that “procedure” requires that they charge into uncertain situations with guns drawn.

  8. I bet they treat the new de-escalation and mental health awareness classes with the same level of seriousness they treated their high school French literature elective.

    1. The classes won’t make much difference even if they are taken seriously. What will make a difference is seeing abusive cops go to prison.

      1. I lean toward an annual Purge of civilians vs. naked, unarmed cops who are dropped off in the ghetto, but prison will do. Maybe we even get some prison reform out of the deal.

      2. Into GenPop with a naked woman tattooed on their backs. A few years of PMITA followed by a shiv sounds just about right for abusing the public trust.

      3. Yeah. I seriously question the basic humanity of a lot of these thugs. That’s something most of us are trained in as children. If the guy next door put 4 bullets in an innocent man crawling across the floor and begging for his life, would anybody suggest training? Until they are made to pay a personal price nothing changes.

    2. that’s a trap, cops didn’t ‘elect’ french literature in HS.

      1. Hell, most cops have never read a book in English.

        1. Not unless it was a comic book.

  9. Being a reasonable person, I’ll wait until all sides of the debate have been heard from before I make any judgments about the issue. Where’s Dunphy with the “cops are different than mere mortals and can’t be held to the same standards” and the “unless you’ve faced down 14 bath-salt crazed zombies trying to eat your face off like all cops do on a daily basis, your opinion is worthless and stupid” explanation?

    1. Didn’t he get a federal rap for something?

  10. Watch out for the “Baltimore effect”.

    Baltimore Police Backed Away From a Community That Protested … (redstate.com)

    1. What’s the down side?

      1. That the cops went home safe.

    2. Shut up and just learn to take the long cock of the law you fucking unappreciative fucks.

      Though, anyone using Baltimore as an example of anything should just shut the fuck up. That city is just a dumpster fire.

  11. Dunphy hardest hit.

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