Posted by on Jan 1, 2018 in Featured

Coalition Seeks to Hold Police Accountable for Use of Deadly Force

Coalition Seeks to Hold Police Accountable for Use of Deadly Force

Olympia, WA – On December 28th, 2017 a broad coalition of police accountability activists turned in over 355,000 signatures for ballot measure I-940, known as De-escalate Washington that if passed would allow police to be prosecuted for unjustified use of deadly force, to the Washington Secretary of State to qualify for consideration.

The effort was driven by family members who have lost loved ones to police violence in Washington State, largely from the Native and African American communities. 

The Puyallup Tribe, in particular, was a driving force behind I-940.  Last year, Puyallup Tribal citizen Jacqueline Salyers was murdered by Tacoma police.  Salyers was pregnant at the time of the shooting.

In addition to Salyers, two other pregnant women were killed by use of deadly force by police recently,  Renee Davis (Muckleshoot Tribe) and Charleena Lyles (African American).

Washington State currently has one of the countries most stringent bars to overcome in holding police accountable for use of deadly force.

According to Jacob Johns, a coalition member, “In Washington state, there is a malice clause that has prevented the prosecution of law enforcement after killing someone with a use of force violation. This Malice clause uses a “good faith” standard that remains undefined for WA officers. Malice is defined by: the intention or desire to do evil; ill will. You basically have to prove what a police officer was thinking during the time they shot and killed someone, and prove that that thought was evil.”

In 2010, John T Williams (Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations) was shot a killed by Seattle police officer Ian Birk.  While the department’s Firearms Review Board would rule the shooting “unjustified”, prosecutors wouldn’t press charges against Birk due in part to the steep legal hurdle that would require prosecutors to prove “malice” in the shooting.

I-940 would amend the standard for “justifiable” use of force.

Ballot measure summary,This measure would require all law enforcement officers in the state to receive violence de-escalation and mental health training, as developed by the criminal justice training commission. It would require law enforcement personnel to provide first-aid to save lives and require law enforcement agencies to adopt guidelines for implementing this duty. It would amend the standard for justifiable use of deadly force by law enforcement, including adding a “good faith” standard and requiring independent investigation.

De-escalate Washington released the following statement, “Today was an amazing and special day as our supporters packed up their passion, pain, and persistence into boxes filled with over 360,000 signatures, marched to the Secretary of State office in Olympia, and officially turned them in. Then we had cake! These pictures show a glimpse of the path these signatures took on that day from packing to delivering. Thank you to everyone that signed, donated, and volunteered for this important and powerful campaign! We have made an amazing statement with this accomplishment and we will continue to work until this initiative becomes law. But for now, we hope that everyone involved takes some time to celebrate and relax. We couldn’t have done this without your help and we cannot thank you enough. Have a Happy New Year! In 2018 it will be Yes on I-940!

Proceeding turning in the  Secretary of State was a mass rally and march led by members of the Puyallup Tribe.  If qualified, I-940 would be sent to voters in 2018.

Photos by De-Escalate Washington

by Wakíƞyaƞ Waánataƞ (Matt Remle)

Matt Remle (Lakota) is an editor and writer for Last Real Indians and LRInspire and the co-founder of Mazaska Talks. Follow @wakiyan7