The 2018 midterm ballot will include Washington Initiative 940, which deals with police training and criminal liability in cases of deadly force.
“This initiative addresses the environment in Washington,” said Leslie Cushman, citizen sponsor of De-Escalate Washington. “Training for police will prevent tragedies and save lives.”
Washington has more people killed by police than 45 other states in the country, Cushman said. Of those people killed, a third of them were experiencing a mental health crisis.
“We think training is effective,” Cushman said. “Mental health training, first aid training and violence de-escalation training.”
The cost of training will be roughly $1 million, Cushman said.
Legislature anticipates I-940 to pass, she said, so Washington representatives have already allocated money for the first year of training.
“This is about having skills to calm people in a crisis,” she said. “Officers should be able to identify people who are autistic or hard of hearing. It’s a reasonable officer standard.”
Washington is the only state with a malice clause. The law requires lawyers to prove evil intent when prosecuting a police officer for unlawful use of deadly force. I-940 would adopt a standard that is already in place in 27 other states, Cushman said.
“We have a state law that is essentially broken,” she said. “Prosecutors call it de facto immunity because it’s hard to prove a state a mind.”
I-940 would allow for a completely independent investigation when a case involves the use of deadly force, Cushman said.
Along with police and community support, she said, I-940 has gained support from the American Civil Liberties Union, League of Women Voters, Disability Rights Washington and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
“This is a grassroots initiative,” Cushman said. “We need modern training so our communities and officers are safe.”
The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs could not be reached for comment.