Policy

What is the De-Escalate Washington?

It is an Initiative Campaign for Officer Training and Community Safety.   

 Initiative 940 requires law enforcement across the state to receive training on:

  • violence de-escalation,
  • mental health, and
  • first aid. 

What else does the Initiative do?

In addition to training, the initiative:

  • requires officers to provide first aid at the scene under certain circumstances,
  • establishes a good faith standard for use of deadly force,
  • requires a completely independent investigation for use of deadly force where there is a death or injury,
  • requires the involvement of tribes in investigations if their members are killed or injured, and
  • mandates that the community be involved in developing policy for curriculum and training hours, guidelines for rendering first aid, and procedures for the independent investigations.

Who is involved in the campaign's coalition?

The campaign includes families of persons killed or injured by police, civil rights groups, labor organizations, Tribes, Latinos, African Americans, immigrants, the Asian Pacific Islander communities, disability rights organizations, business, lawyers, the LGBTQ community, and others.   

What is the Goal?

The goal is to save lives.  This is accomplished through training and increased accountability.

 In all of 2016 there were twenty-nine people killed by police in Washington State.  According to data compiled by the Washington Post, approximately one third of these twenty-nine showed signs of mental illness

 Already in 2017, as of October 5, there have been thirty-two people killed by police in this state, nineteen since June.  

How will the Initiative Save Lives?

It will require violence de-escalation training so that the officers have the skills to avoid the use of deadly force where possible.  And require training officers on interactions with persons in a mental health crisis.  It puts directly into State law a state policy that officers must render first aid to save lives.  The Initiative says it is a paramount duty to preserve lives.  This will realign priorities and training.  

What is Violence De-Escalation Training?

It is training that emphasizes using force only as a last resort.   It includes calming a crisis through tactics such as compassion and communication, having a mindset in advance, gaining cooperation, creating space between an officer and a subject, waiting for backups and other supports to arrive, and using the lowest level of force necessary.    

Do Officers Already Receive Violence De-Escalation Training?

Yes, but it is not a mandatory requirement in our State Law.   The initiative will make it mandatory, will require that everyone receive it, as well as receive regular updates.    

Is mental health training already required?

Yes and no.  Right now, officers are required to take 8 hours of crisis intervention training during their six months at the Criminal Justice Training Academy.  The Academy is required to develop and make mental health training available however state law does not required that it be taken.   

What is Mental Health Training?

The goal of mental health training is to increase safety in encounters between officers and people experiencing a mental health crisis.  The training has achieved this in police departments across the country by improving officers’ ability to recognize symptoms of mental illness, enhancing their confidence in addressing these situations, reducing stigma and inaccurate beliefs about mental illness, and promoting collaboration with community mental health providers and people with mental illness.

This initiative would strengthen existing mental health training and would explicitly involve people with mental illness and other community stakeholders in the work. 

How are the Curriculum and Hours Set in the Initiative?

The Criminal Justice Training Commission is directed to establish curriculum and hours through rulemaking and must include community stakeholders, law enforcement, the attorney general, and tribes.

Who are Community Stakeholders?

The Initiative says that where the policy making requires involvement of community stakeholders input must be sought from organizations advocating for:

  • Persons with disabilities;
  • members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community;
  • persons of color;
  • immigrants;
  • non-citizens;
  • native Americans;
  • youth; and
  • formerly incarcerated persons.

Is there any guidance in the Initiative about the content of the training?

Yes, the initiative states that the Criminal Justice Training Commission shall consider the following:

(a)    De-escalation in patrol tactics and interpersonal communication training, including tactical methods that use time, distance, cover, and concealment, to avoid escalating situations that lead to violence;

(b)    Alternatives to jail booking, arrest, or citation in situations where appropriate;

(c)    Implicit and explicit bias, cultural competency, and the historical intersection of race and policing;

(d)   Skills including de-escalation techniques to effectively, safely, and respectfully interact with people with disabilities and/or behavioral health issues;

(e)   "Shoot/don't shoot" scenario training;

(f)     Alternatives to the use of physical or deadly force so that deadly force is used only when unavoidable and as a last resort;

(g)    Mental health and policing, including bias and stigma; and

(h)   Using public service, including rendering of first aid, to provide a positive point of contact between law enforcement officers and community members to increase trust and reduce conflicts.

What’s the Campaign’s View of Police?

The Campaign supports police.  We believe the Initiative will make our communities healthier and police work safer.

Do you have Law Enforcement Support?

The Black Law Enforcement Association of Washington has endorsed the initiative, and King County Sheriff Urquhart and Mitzi Johankneckt the candidate for King County Sheriff have as well.

Where is Law Enforcement in general?

We are meeting with police chiefs, sheriffs, and officers and deputies.  We are having candid discussions and listening and learning.  

Why Require a Completely Independent Investigation?

The goal of a “completely independent investigation” is to:

  • Remove bias and influence.
  • Address conflicts of interest.
  • Create an appearance of fairness. 

Consideration should be given to investigations:

  • Being conducted by professionals with specific expertise; and
  • That include civilians to observe the process.  

The result in an investigation that is credible from many perspectives and achieves maximum appropriate transparency.

Initiative 940 requires a completely independent investigation of the incident/crime scene if the use of force results in “death, substantial bodily harm, or great bodily harm."

Resources Referencing Independent Investigations

PERF Guiding Principles on the Use of Deadly Force:   PERF calls for “All critical police incidents resulting in death or serious bodily injury should be reviewed by specially trained personnel.”

Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing:  The Report calls for “external and independent criminal investigations in cases of police use of force resulting in death, officer-involved shootings resulting in injury or death, or in-custody deaths.”

Amnesty International USA.  Deadly Force: Police Use of Force in the United States:  AIUSA calls for “independent, impartial, and transparent investigation” 

What is the Good Faith Standard?

The Initiative removes the de facto immunity (which is the 'without malice and with a good faith belief defense') and puts a good faith standard in place. 

 The good faith standard will require that both an objective test and a subjective test be met.  The objective test is the reasonable officer test, and the subjective test is whether the officer sincerely believed their actions were warranted.

When does the Initiative take effect?

This is an initiative to the legislature, and the 2018 legislature has the option of passing it, proposing an alternative, or doing nothing.  If the legislative proposes an alternative, then both versions appear on the November 2018 ballot.  If they do nothing, just the Initiative appears on the November 2018 ballot.

When will these various provisions be implemented?

Some of the provisions are effective 30 days after the initiative is certified.  This includes the good faith standard and the requirement for a completely independent investigation.  The initiative requires that rulemaking to establish procedures for the investigations must be completed within a year of the effective date of the initiative.   This rulemaking must include the community, the AGO, Tribes, and law enforcement.

 The violence de-escalation and mental health training requirements must be adopted within six months of enactment, and will be developed through working with the community, the AGO, Tribes, and law enforcement.    The requirement to receive violence de-escalation and mental health training takes effect one year after the effective date, and includes requirements for regular updates.  New officers will receive the training within fifteen months of hire, and the criminal justice training commission is directed to establish requirements for the officers who are already employed.

What does the polling show?  

  75% of voters say they would vote Yes on this initiative when they were presented with this ballot initiative language, with 43% saying their vote is a Strong Yes.

How would you summarize the Initiative?

Training works, and police should have the skills to keep themselves and the public safe.

  • Violence de-escalation training reduces the use of deadly force.
  • Mental health training provides skills so that law enforcement can respectfully interact with and protect persons with mental health issues.
  • First aid training and the duty to provide first aid will preserve lives.

Accountability is important.

  • The good faith standard will provide for accountability for unjustified use of deadly force.
  • The independent investigation will allow for an unbiased and impartial process.
  • Including tribal governments in investigations where their members are involved recognizes the sovereign status of tribes.
  • Including community stakeholders in rulemaking is part of accountability to the public.

Reference Materials

These are some of the standards we have used for best practices and philosophies to protect human rights and human life.

Police Executive Research Forum 30 Guiding Principles for Use of Deadly Force
President Obama Task Force on 21st Century Policing
Sue Rahr, the Executive Director of the State of Washington Criminal Justice Training Commission, was on this select task force.
Amnesty International Use of Deadly Force Report
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Additionally, this Seattle Times report discusses the unique law in Washington State and explains its origins.


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