The House Committee on Public Safety voted to advance two bills Friday concerning the use of deadly force by police officers. The bills focus on data collection and the formation of a new task force on community policing.
The committee chose not to vote on a third, more controversial bill, that would change current law to make it easier to criminally charge a police officer for improper use of deadly force. Nearly 70 people testified on that bill before the committee earlier this week.
Members voted to pass House Bill 2908 out committee unanimously. It establishes the “Community Policing Standards Task Force for a Safer Washington,” tasked with reviewing:
- Laws, practices and training programs regarding the use of deadly force by law enforcement
- Policies, practices and tools that are available as an alternative to deadly force (for example, tasers and other non-lethal weapons)
It must also recommend modifications to the “standards for justifiable homicide and criminal liability.” A preliminary report is due at the end of the year, with a final report in 2017.
The committee amended the bill to add more seats to the task force, including representatives from the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs, the Black Alliance of Thurston County, and the Disability Rights of Washington. It removed the representative from the Attorney General’s office.
Committee Chair Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, said the bill is a way to build a relationship between law enforcement and the public.
“There is not enough trust between the community — whether they are vulnerable communities, under-served communities, or the community in general — and our hard working law enforcement,” he said.
“We need to be listening more to one and other. And that means gathering around the table in a respectful and deliberate fashion.”
The second bill, House Bill 2882, would require Washington law enforcement agencies to report data on justifiable homicides and instances of deadly force to the Attorney General annually.
Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, said that the state has never collected this type of data.
“This is not to besmirch law enforcement, this is just to gather the data,” she said. “And if it turns out that most of the homicides were justifiable, that’s one thing. If it turns out that it wasn’t, then we need to do something to change the law.”
Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, voted against the bill because of the deadlines and requirements outlined for law enforcement, but said he agreed with the goal of the bill.
The bill was passed out of committee with five in favor and four opposed.