SEATTLE – Several families of people killed by Washington police officers over the last few years say they have a solution to what they call a problem with excessive force. They want all state law enforcement to receive more training in violence de-escalation, mental health, first-aid, and a change in standards for use of deadly force.
Proposed Initiative 940 would also mandate adding a “good faith” standard and independent investigation.
Charleena Lyles was shot and killed by Seattle Police officers in June.
“We still have to look her four children in the eyes and answer questions,” said cousin of Charleena Lyles, Katrina Johnson.
Daniel Covarrubias was shot and killed by Lakewood Police in April 2015.
“Suppose someone walked up to you and shot you because of that cell phone in your pocket? That’s why Daniel was killed,” said Daniel Covarrbuias’ mother Marilyn Covarrubias.
Thursday, several families with loved ones killed by police officers held a joint press conference in Seattle. All the shootings involving their loved ones were ruled justified or are still under investigation. Now, the families want to create new laws to change how officers are trained.
Outside grocery stores across the state you’ll find volunteers urging people to sign Initiative 940 mandating officers get extra training. The initiative needs 246,372 valid signatures from registered voters by December 29th delivered to the Secretary of State. But the Executive Director of Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission argues this initiative should be handled by the legislature.
“That legislative process would enable us to clarify some questions not the least of which is how this is going to be funded,” said Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission Executive Director Sue Rahr.
All state law enforcement, except state troopers, go through training through the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission. Rahr says more training means a lot more money for those workshops and exercises and for the overtime it’ll cost the state. Even still, Seattle voter Mari says she supports the plan.
“Alternatives to pulling out a gun and asking questions later would be beneficial,” said Mari who signed the initiative.
But the training commission argues what they do now does protect officers and the public and changing it would put lives at risk.
“The training is not to kill somebody. The training is what will stop them from doing what they’re doing. When you watch a gun fight on TV, you see somebody shot and the fall to the ground. That’s not what happens in real life,” said Rahr.
The initiative also wants law enforcement to undergo mental health training.
“If a team of mental health professionals in a facility can’t resolve the issue, I don’t think it’s realistic that a police officer on the street in the front line is going to have better success,” said Rahr.
Rahr says she agrees with some parts of the initiative, but would rather see the issue taken up by the legislature where there is room for dialogue and compromise.