“The law’s malice language creates a bar that is “almost impossible to get over” and is difficult to explain to the public.”
– Dan Satterberg, President of the Prosecutors Association
WASHINGTON HAS THE MOST REGRESSIVE AND DANGEROUS USE OF FORCE LAWS IN THE UNITED STATES.
“Washington — it’s the most egregious,” said Jamira Burley, an Amnesty International official who handles gun violence and criminal justice issues, according to the Seattle Times.
WE ARE PAST DUE FOR CHANGE.
In Washington State, our laws are written in such a way that law enforcement officer simply cannot be prosecuted for a death while wearing a badge. It has never happened. Not because it’s never been warranted, but because it’s simply not possible.
While many states around the U.S. are reforming their use of force laws in response to public outcry, Washington remains fixed in a set of laws that falls far below the international, or even national standard for use of deadly force.
Washington For Good Policing has one goal and one goal only. That is to remove the malice clause from our state's use of deadly force statute.
At this point in our state, officers act without impunity and without even having to consider being charged if they commit a use of force crime in the line of duty. In 1986, Washington’s Legislature decided police officers shouldn’t be prosecuted for killing someone in the line of duty as long as they acted in good faith and without malice, or what the law calls “evil intent.”
Only Washington law provides a defense against prosecution when a police officer acts “without malice and with a good faith belief that such act is justifiable.” Malice is defined in law as “evil intent.” King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg says “This almost perfect defense to a mistaken use of force has kept police officers out of court as defendants.” On 9/26/15, the Seattle Times, in “Shielded by the Law” referred to our law as “the nation’s most restrictive law on holding officers accountable for the unjustified use of deadly force.
“I do think that there needs to be a conversation on a policy level, about whether the word malice is an appropriate standard.” ~John Tunheim, Thurston County Prosecutor
In February of 2015 Antonio Zambrano‐Montes was shot and killed. He was suffering from mental illness and threw small rocks at police. There is video of his shooting where as he is fleeing from police, he clearly turns and holds his hands out in an attempt to show he wasn’t armed.
“The Prosecutor found that the incident did not meet the high standard for criminal prosecution of officers under state law, which requires showing that the officers acted with malice and without good faith” “The prosecutor’s statement clearly shows the need to amend our state law for use of deadly force by law enforcement,” said Kathleen Taylor, ACLU of Washington executive director, in a statement.” Tri-‐City Herald 9/10/15.
Attempts to institute reform on the legislative level have failed in the past. Law Enforcement Unions and the Law Enforcement Lobby are a powerful force in the legislature in Olympia. However, due to the pressure our effort in I-873 and the work of the Washington State task force on Police Accountability did, we will get another chance and the momentum is on our side.
Washington for Good Policing was the filing sponsor for I-873. We are currently focused on the 2017 legislative session. We are moving forward with a strong legislative agenda, a team of people to make it happen, and the support of victim families from around the state of Washington.
We simply cannot wait for another legislative session, another committee, or another round of debates to take action. The citizens of Washington demand change now.
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