Posted on May 24, 2021

Washington Governor Signs Sweeping Police Reform Measures

Gene Johnson, Associated Press, May 18, 2021

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday signed one of the nation’s most ambitious packages of police accountability legislation, prompted by last year’s outcry for racial justice following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black people at the hands of police.

The dozen bills Inslee signed include outright bans on police use of chokeholds, neck restraints and no-knock warrants such as the one that helped lead to Taylor’s killing in Louisville, Kentucky.

They require officers to intervene if their colleagues engage in excessive force — a demand inspired by the officers who stood by while Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin pressed a knee to Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes.

The bills also create an independent office to review the use of deadly force by police, make it easier to decertify police for bad acts, and require officers to use “reasonable care,” including exhausting de-escalation tactics, in carrying out their duties. The use of tear gas and car chases are restricted and it’s easier to sue officers when they inflict injury.


A coalition of Washington state law enforcement unions, representing more than 14,000 officers, said it could accept some measures, including the arbitration reform and duty-to-intervene bills. But it expressed concern that the decertification bill threatened the due-process rights of officers. The Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs, which represents 60% of the state’s fully commissioned law enforcement officers, opposed the bill restricting police tactics and the measure requiring “reasonable care” in using force.


Sen. Jamie Pedersen, the Seattle Democrat who heads the Senate Law and Justice Committee and who sponsored the decertification bill, apologized to community members at the bill signing for taking so long to embrace the cause of police accountability. He likened himself and other white people in power to the officers who stood by as Floyd died.

“Where I find myself is feeling a lot of guilt and shame that for so many years as you have spoken out … too many of us, myself included, stood by and did nothing and tolerated a system infused with racism, because it was comfortable and easy,” Pedersen said.

The Washington Black Lives Matter Alliance called the signing of the bills “a potential sea change in how police in Washington interact with people in communities they’re hired to serve — especially Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color.” {snip}