The new reform proposals come on the heels of massive protests in the wake of police killings of George Floyd in Wisconsin, Manuel Ellis in Tacoma and more.
Democrat Roger Goodman chairs the House Public Safety Committee.
“The use of deadly force should be used less often than it is today and that the duty to preserve life and that less-than-lethal use of means of force should be a priority,” he said.
That likely means tighter restrictions on chokeholds and tougher requirements for officers to de-escalate confrontations before using deadly force.
Republican Rep. Brad Klippert is also a deputy sheriff.
“My question to you is how can we possibly expect law enforcement officers to use de-escalation before they use lethal force when someone is immediately firing at them?” Klippert asked.
Devitta Briscoe, of the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability, responded, “If you are specifically saying when an officer is being fired at, that is not what we are proposing. We’re also asking that officers are not escalating or being aggressive in a situation.”
Goodman wants a new state agency to conduct investigations of police killings that are truly independent of local law enforcement and prosecutors.
That has the support of the family of Charleena Lyles, killed by police officers in Seattle.
“Police are still investigating police. The result of an investigation of police by police is not believable. The families have no faith in this process,” said Katrina Johnson, also a member of the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability.
Advocates also want much tighter restrictions on the use of police dogs, which they say should never be let off their leash.
“Police dogs can be used for other purposes — like narcotics, rescue, searches, explosives — but not as a weapon,” said Nina Martinez, another member of the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability.
Even though lawmakers will be working virtually because of the pandemic and not inside the state Capitol, Goodman believes significant reform is possible.
“Police reform really is going to be a major priority for us in the 2021 legislative session, and I believe you will see significant legislation pass with support from all sides,” he said.