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Seattle Metro Bus driver and artist Robert Horton stands by one of the buses wrapped in art work he created honoring the Black Lives Matter movement. The buses were introduced to the public on Thursday March 25, 2021. (Photo/Susan Fried)
By The Skanner News
Published: 12 April 2021

SEATTLE—Nine bills passed this weekend mark a historic step toward police accountability in Washington, the Washington Black Lives Matter Alliance said today. The Alliance urged quick reconciliation on the bills and immediate signing by Gov. Jay Inslee.

Collectively, the House and Senate bills: ban tactics like chokeholds and no-knock warrants; allow deadly force only as last resort in the face of imminent threat; put misconduct investigations in the hands of the attorney general rather than other police; require officers to intervene when other officers use excessive force; and strengthen community oversight of law enforcement.

“These measures are about deinstitutionalizing our lives, and institutionalizing our power,” said Sakara Remmu, lead strategist for the Alliance. “When Gov. Inslee signs them into law, they will have real impacts on Black Lives, as well as the lives of Indigenous and other People of Color.”

More than a dozen bills drafted

Following the May 25, 2020 murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, hundreds of thousands of people across Washington took to the streets with peaceful demands for change and accountability. By the start of the legislative session in January, more than a dozen bills had been drafted with the aim of ending police killings of civilians, holding officers accountable for misconduct, and breaking the grip of law enforcement unions.

Since the start of the 2021 legislative session, Alliance supporters have engaged legislators with nearly 30,000 messages on police accountability bills and other measures.

The bills passed Saturday include:

  • HB 1054: Prohibits chokeholds, use of tear gas and certain military equipment, concealing badge information and no-knock warrants.
  • SB 5259: Creates a statewide database for police use of force incidents
  • SB 5135: Forbids summoning a police officer for the purpose of intimidation or discrimination.
  • HB 1310: Establishes deadly force may only be used as last resort in face of imminent threat.
  • HB 1267: Creates a statewide Office of Independent Investigations for independent probes into police use of deadly force.
  • HB 1089: Authorizes state auditor to review deadly force investigations.
  • SB 5051: Authorizes decertification for excessive use of force. 
  • HB 1088: Requires police departments to report misconduct to prosecutors.
  • SB 5066: Requires officers to intervene when other officers engage in excessive use of force, and to report all misconduct.

Some of the bills still require reconciliation of differences through conference committee before they can go to the governor. In addition, SB 5055, which prohibits police unions from preventing community oversight boards has already been signed.

“Quick action to get the bills signed is imperative," Remmu said.

“This year has been about moving the mandate of the people and energy of the streets into the halls of power. It’s the start of unconditional liberation.”

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