SEATTLE - Lawmakers are on the cusp of overhauling policing and police accountability in Washington state, acting with unusual urgency to curb bad behavior by officers following last year’s turbulent protests for racial justice.
As this week’s deadline for passing bills out of the house where they were introduced elapsed, most of the key bills had been approved. Hearings were set to begin as soon as Thursday as House bills moved on for consideration in the Senate, and vice versa.
"We’re moving further and faster than Olympia normally would on an issue," said Seattle Democratic Sen. Jamie Pedersen, chair of the Senate Law and Justice Committee. "But given what we’ve all learned and experienced in the past year, that is appropriate.
The bills include measures limiting the use of tactics like neck restraints and creating an independent office to investigate police use of deadly force. Officers would be required to intervene if they see a colleague using excessive force and to exercise reasonable care in deciding to use force — a standard designed to require de-escalation tactics and to take into account whether someone is having a mental-health crisis.
The state’s Criminal Justice Training Commission would be empowered to decertify officers for misconduct, helping ensure bad officers don’t simply bounce from one agency to the next.
Police departments would generally have to record custodial interrogations of juveniles and interrogations in felony cases. Detained kids would get to consult an attorney before waiving their Miranda rights and agreeing to be interviewed.
Versions of one bill have already passed both chambers, with a final vote still to come in the House, clarifying and strengthening requirements of law enforcement agencies to uncover whether officers have engaged in behavior that could impeach their credibility at trial and to turn that information over to county prosecutors.