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I-940 backers working on amendment: ‘Law enforcement needs to know they have support’

SEATTLE -- Voters in Washington State resoundingly passed a measure that will make it easier to prosecute police officers involved in shootings.

Initiative 940 requires police training to de-escalate volatile situations and avoid the use of deadly force. The Associated Press projects the passage of the measure, which also mandates that police provide mental health intervention and first aid on the spot.

Now, lawmakers say they already have an amended version ready to go for the 2019 legislative session. And according to Monisha Harrell of De-Escalate Washington, that was always the plan.

“The voters are still getting exactly what they voted on. It’s still de-escalation training, mental health training and first aid training for law enforcement officers. It’s still the removal of malice and replacement with a good faith standard and it’s still independent investigations,” says Harrell.

When Initiative 940 was first introduced, critics raised concerns over some of the wording. The initiatives backers, along with some law enforcement leaders, agreed on a compromise bill, which along with other adjustments, changed the language governing police use of deadly force.

Governor Inslee signed the bill, but after a legal challenge to the legislature’s modification, the Supreme Court disapproved of the process, not the content, and ruled it must go on the ballot in its original form.

“Law enforcement needs to know they have that support. Sometimes these ballot issues make law enforcement feel not welcome, not valued,” says Lynnette Buffington, with the Washington Fraternal Order of Police. She says this amendment is important to law enforcement.

“The new legislation will retain the objective standard for the use of deadly force and that allows law enforcement to be trained at a level that they recognize and as part of the federal standard of Graham v. Connor,” says Buffington.

“The difference is really something that 940 stayed silent on, which is whether or not law enforcement officers can be reimbursed for their legal expenses in cases where they are found innocent,” says Harrell.

Representative Roger Goodman, of the 45th legislative district, says he backed the original amendment and he’s prepared to introduce a new amended version during the 2019 legislative session, which he says is “likely identical” to the original amendment from last session.

‘We took different paths to get to this point and we are here and everybody is still saying the same things and everybody is still on the same page,” says Harrell.

“The spirit of the law is there, law enforcement is being supported and community voices are being heard,” says Buffington.

Representative Goodman says the amendment would have to pass the legislature with two-thirds support and could then be signed into law by the Governor.

We also reached out to the “Council for Metropolitan Police and Sheriffs."

They oppose I-940 and tonight they tell us: ‘We look forward to meeting with stakeholders in Olympia to fix 940”.