News Release January 24, 2022

Families impacted by police violence redouble opposition to undoing police reforms

HB 2037 expands when officers can use force, endangering youth and people of color

HB 1788 allows hot pursuits for any offense, going against public safety best practices

The Washington Coalition for Police Accountability (WCPA) has announced its opposition to House Bill 2037, which rolls back last year’s legislation addressing police use of physical force, and House Bill 1788, which strips away the best practices put in place last year for hot pursuits. These and other bills introduced in the 2022 session seek to dismantle the reforms enacted last year in which a package of fourteen bills[i] intended to reduce police violence and to change the culture of policing were passed. 

“The Legislature must keep its commitment to Washington families and reject these bills,” said Fred Thomas, whose son, Leonard, was killed by a Pierce County SWAT Team in 2013, while unarmed and holding his young son. “Throughout my life as a Black man, I have been regarded with suspicion. I have been stopped while driving, thrown up against the hood of a car, detained while walking, and arrested and put in a jail cell for entering my own yard. You cannot dismiss the reality of what Black people face every day. These bills will reverse the precious progress we’ve made.”

HB 2037 will allow officers to use force against a person who flees from a stop based on little evidence connecting them to wrongdoing. Why would a person flee from an officer? Racial profiling and police bias cause distrust and fear. This distrust is based in the reality that law enforcement detains and uses force against people of color at disproportionately higher rates than white people across Washington, as recent reports on policing in Pierce County, Clark County, and the Washington State Patrol show. For example, in Pierce County Black people are five times more likely to have force used against them by a Pierce County Sheriff’s deputy than a white person.  And Black children in Pierce County experience force 7 to 13 times more than their white peers. A July 2021 review by the Tacoma News Tribune based on Tacoma Police Department statistics found this is the case for the City of Tacoma as well.  The Pierce County Executive and the Pierce County Prosecutor are both on record acknowledging the depth of the problem.  Washington needs strong standards in place to protect the people who are subjected to this disparity in police practices.

Katrina Johnson, City of Tacoma resident, WCPA member, and cousin of Charleena Lyles sees this data borne out in her personal experiences and says “the issue of police using physical force unfairly against Black residents, Latinx, Indigenous people, and others cannot be solved by succumbing to fear-based rhetoric.  Our communities are harmed by the bias police apply in their daily decisions to use force. It would be wrong to roll back the 2021 laws.”

“Running, in and of itself, is not a crime,” said Tim Reynon, WCPA member and an enrolled member of the Puyallup Tribe. “Some people run when they’re scared and it’s understandable why they would be. By chasing someone, an officer escalates the situation, making it more dangerous for everyone involved – it’s not worth it, especially on low level offenses. Last year’s law struck the right balance, but HB 2037 will harm people.”

HB 1788 overhauls the best practices for police vehicular pursuits and allows vehicular pursuits for any criminal offense, including when driving without a valid license. Vehicular pursuits are inherently dangerous and put other drivers and pedestrians at risk. Last year, lawmakers passed a law that restricted this dangerous tactic to only the most serious offenses. Dr. Martina Morris, a retired University of Washington social scientist and statistician, testified in opposition to HB 1788. According to Dr. Morris “two-thirds of fatal high-speed chases result in the death or injury of a passenger or bystander, and half of deaths from these incidents are bystanders or passengers. Following last year’s reforms, we saw a 55% decline in deaths from high-speed pursuits in Washington state.” 

The police use of force bills passed in 2021, particularly the laws addressing use of force (HB 1310) and police tactics (HB 1054), targeted the disproportionate impact of policing on communities of color.  These bills addressed real problems, grounded in current data. Clarifying laws to clear confusion is a good thing, but the state shouldn’t overhaul laws because of a bad faith misinformation campaign that prioritizes fear over facts. WCPA supports HB 1719 and HB 1735, which address unintended consequences of the police tactics law and clarify the use of force law.    

HB 1001 Law enforcement professional development grants, HB 1054 police tactics, HB 1088 impeachment and Brady lists, HB 1088 State Auditor Audits of Deadly Force Investigations, HB 1140 juvenile access to attorneys, HB 1223 uniform custodial interrogation act, HB 1267 the office of independent investigations, HB 1310 state-wide standards on the use of force, SB 5051 Criminal Justice Training Commission decertification authority, SB 5055 arbitration panels, SB 5066 duty to intervene, SB 5135 unlawful summoning of law enforcement a crime, SB 5259 collection of data on the use of force, and SB 5263 felony bar to police civil liability.

News Release

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.”

Supporting Data
Pierce County:
City of Spokane:
Clark County: