OLYMPIA, Wash. - The Washington state House on Wednesday approved a measure requiring police to intervene if they see a fellow officer using, or attempting to use, excessive force.
The bill — prompted by the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd and ensuing Black Lives Matter protests last year — passed on a bipartisan 71-27 vote and now heads back to the Senate, which first approved the bill in February. The Senate will take a final vote, to concur with changes made in the House, before the bill is sent to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature.
Democratic Rep. Jesse Johnson cited the video footage of Floyd’s arrest and death as an example of a systemic problem that lawmakers have an opportunity to address.
"There is a duty to intervene not just as peace officers with the responsibility of protecting and serving, but as human beings," he said. "Protecting and serving is also about correcting behavior that is wrong, or at least looking into the incident. But silence is not an option."
Under the measure, officers would have to intervene to stop excessive force if they see it being used, or attempted to be used, by another officer and they’re in a position to do so. It would also require police to report wrongdoing by another officer to that officer’s supervisor, including criminal acts or violations of professional standards, and it would forbid retaliation against police who intervene or report wrongdoing.
The bill requires law enforcement agencies to adopt written policies on the duty to intervene and ensure that all law enforcement officers obtain training.
Democrats rejected several amendments proposed by Republicans, including one that would only require a duty to intervene if the colleague using excessive force was readily identifiable as law enforcement and another that wouldn’t require intervention unless the actions of the engaged officer are clearly excessive under the circumstances.
Republican Rep. Brad Klippert, who is a deputy sheriff with the Benton County Sheriff’s Office, said he was frustrated that none of the amendments were accepted and said that the underlying bill doesn’t take into account the split-second decisions officers make each day.
"Certainly, if a law enforcement officer is using excessive force, we want another law enforcement officer to intervene and stop that use of excessive force," he said. "But many aspects of this bill go too far."
The measure is one of several police reform bills that the Legislature has been moving during this year’s 105-day legislative session, which is scheduled to end April 25.
On Wednesday, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill that passed with bipartisan support to reform how appeals are handled when officers challenge discipline. It creates a panel of arbitrators to hear such cases, which supporters said will remove financial incentives for arbitrators to sometimes side with the officers.
Also Wednesday, the Senate, on a 42-7 vote, approved a measure that allows the state auditor to review deadly force investigations to ensure procedures were followed. The measure now heads back to the House, which will need to concur with changes made in the Senate before sending it to the governor. And last night, the Senate approve a bill restricting certain police tactics and gear, including the use of neck restraints and tear gas. That measure now heads to the House for a final vote.