IW Board Endorses I-873

On July 12, 2016 the Board of Directors of Interfaith Works formally endorsed Initiative 873 concerning police deadly force.

Last February, the Board endorsed House Bill 2907 to amend the state statute on police use of deadly force in recognition that current law makes it virtually impossible to charge a law enforcement officer with a crime when he or she uses deadly force against a citizen.

That bill failed to pass, but a study bill, HB 2908, on this issue was adopted creating a broad-based task force of law enforcement professionals, human rights groups, and citizens to study the current law and report back to the Governor and legislature by December 2016 on any recommended changes to the law.

Pursuant to ESHB 2908, the Task Force on Police Use of Deadly Force had its first meeting June 28 (view the meeting at http://leg.wa.gov/JointCommittees/DFTF/Pages/Members.aspx), with discussion that was civil and wide-ranging. There will be three more meetings, July 26, September 13, and in November.

I-873-nulled-gunMeanwhile, an initiative to the legislature (I-873) was filed on May 20, to amend the state statute on police use of deadly force. By December 31, 2016, 250,000 valid signatures must be collected in order for the legislature to consider it. (See sidebar for the Ballot Title and Ballot Measure Summary that appear on the petition.)

Such a change would remove from state law what experts and activists alike have identified as a central impediment to being able to charge a police officer with a crime. Police would arguably be more careful, possibly preventing police use of deadly force in certain instances because officers would be aware of increased accountability for their actions.

The endorsement of I-873 by the Board builds on IW’s interest and involvement in the issue of gun violence, police reform, community peacemaking, its February endorsement of HB 2907, and the timeliness of the issue both locally and nationally. The Board encourages IW members to consider helping with signature gathering and for support in the 2017 legislature.

Initiative 873

Ballot Title

Initiative Measure No. 873 concerns use of deadly force by public officers or peace officers.

This measure would amend the law to eliminate consideration of whether an officer acted “without malice and with a good faith belief” when determining whether the officer committed justifiable use of deadly force.

Ballot Measure Summary
This measure would amend the law that exempts public officers and peace officers from criminal liability for using deadly force under specific circumstances. It would eliminate consideration of whether the officer acted “without malice and a good faith belief.” Instead, under this measure, a public officer or peace officer could not be held criminally liable for using deadly force if the act was justifiable under the specific circumstances set forth under the statute.