Families impacted by police violence oppose rollback of 2021 use of force reform
House Bill 1726 expands when officers can use force, endangering communities of color. The Washington Coalition for Police Accountability (WCPA) has announced its opposition to House Bill 1726, which seeks to roll back last year’s reforms addressing police use of physical force.
Specifically, last year the state passed House Bill 1310, which addressed the real, everyday issues of police use of force against communities of color and the resulting harms. It included a statewide duty of care standard for officers, emphasized de-escalation over confrontation, and required using the minimum level of force possible during encounters with members of the public. “HB 1310 set a bright line around the use of physical force, recognizing that all of us in every community have the right to be free from violence, and this includes restraint and force during police interactions.” said Leslie Cushman, WCPA member and the Citizen Sponsor of I-940. “Where 940 put training standards in place, HB
1310 was about the actual requirements on the job.
And, notably, following the passage of 14 police reform
bills in 2021, police killings declined by 62% in Washington. The law is working and shouldn’t be rolled back.” Despite a reduction in police violence, legislators have introduced HB 1726, which would weaken last year’s reforms by expanding an officer’s authority to use physical force when there is very little evidence connecting someone to a crime. The bill not only undermines HB 1310, but also establishes an unconstitutional standard that officers can use force if they have a “reasonable suspicion.” Expanding officers’ authority to use force will
result in more violence.
HB 1726 is supported almost exclusively by law enforcement, which has worked to undermine HB 1310 since its enactment last year. The state should not overhaul laws because of a bad faith misinformation campaign that prioritizes fear over facts. The Legislature must keep its commitment to Washington communities and reject HB 1726.
“House Bill 1726 sets an unconstitutional standard allowing officers to use force in circumstances where they have reasonable suspicion a crime was or is being committed — a move that is prohibited by the Fourth Amendment,” said Enoka Herat, WCPA member and police practices counsel for the ACLU of Washington.”Reasonable suspicion’ is a subjective standard based on the officer’s perspective and opens the door for officers to use force on the very prejudices that lead to discriminatory policing. That is a dangerous standard
to set and will put communities at harm — particularly communities of color that have been historically subjected to discriminatory policing.”
Voices from Across the State
Katrina Johnson, a Pierce County resident and cousin of Charleena Lyles who was killed by Seattle Police in June 2017, pointed to racial profiling as a continuing problem. “HB 1310 addressed an actual problem, not a fabricated one. Across the state, police still use force more often against Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. Data from Pierce County paints an unflattering picture of police decision-making when it comes to using force. Clearly, law enforcement in Pierce County should not be authorized to use more force.”
Kurtis Robinson, a member of WCPA and first vice president of Spokane County NAACP reminds us of what his community faces on a daily basis. “In the City of Spokane, communities of color are targeted for more force than their white counterparts, and this is across the board for Black Americans, Native Americans, and Latinos. These have been the historic patterns, it is the current reality for our people of color, and HB 1310 was a direct
response to these conditions – do not roll it back.”
Clark County is no different according to Nickeia Hunter. Her brother, Carlos Hunter, was killed by officers from the Vancouver Police Department in March of 2019. “Residents in Clark County and the City of Vancouver have seen excessive force against Black Americans and Pacific Islanders at alarming rates. That is why the NAACP and others joined together to ask the Department of Justice to step in, we have had enough police violence and oppose any expansion of police authority to use more force.”
“There is no justification for lowering the standard put into law in 2021,” said Sonia Joseph, whose son Giovonn was killed by Kent Police in 2017. “We went to the legislature in good faith and worked hard to get HB 1310 enacted. The legislature took a stand to improve the profession of policing. They made a commitment to Washington communities and families last year to reduce police violence. A calculated misinformation campaign has stoked fear and threatens to roll back that commitment. We won’t stand for it.”
Families like Annalesa and Fred Thomas worked hard on the passage of HB 1310. Their son, Leonard, was killed, while unarmed, by a Pierce County Swat Team in 2013. “Washingtonians deserve laws that prioritize the sanctity of life, accountability and community safety, and so far, new policing laws like House Bill 1310 have been effective in reducing police violence,” said Fred Thomas. “In 2021, police killings have gone down 62%. Washington did something right in 2021 and we shouldn’t roll that back.”
City of Spokane: https://static.spokanecity.org/documents/opendata/spd/spokane-pd-disparity-report-police-strategies-llc-jan-2021.pdf
Clark County: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/21102069-11102021-doj-full-letter-final