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WA Legislature Passes Police Reform Bills

A series of bills have passed both chambers for the Washington State Legislature which would change law enforcement practices and enact other reforms, if passed by concurrence and signed by the governor. These reforms include an independent office to review deadly force, a process to decertify officers charged with misconduct, bans on neck restraints and choke holds, as well as a ban on no-knock warrants. A final bill, not yet on the Senate floor, would create a state-wide standard for de-escalation.

HB1267 would create an independent office to review the use of deadly force. This could be a step forward for police departments in Washington that do not have an independent body for these matters, potentially including Renton. The bill passed the House 57-39 and the Senate 27-22.

HB1054 bans no-knock warrants, choke-holds, and neck restraints. The Renton Police Department itself does not train for chokeholds, but special units with officers from the Auburn and Kent police departments may. If signed, these practices would be entirely banned. The bill passed the House 54-43 and the Senate 27-22.

SB5051 would create a process to decertify police officers who have been charged with misconduct. The bill passed the Senate 26-19 and the House 54-43.

Finally, not yet passed through both chambers, HB1310 would establish a de-escalation standard state-wide. The bill passed the House 55-42 and has not yet reached the floor of the Senate. It is waiting its second reading, once completed it will go through a third reading and be voted upon if all is successful. RPD already has a use of force continuum and mandates 40 hours of de-escalation and mental health training every three years.

Update: As of 4/10/2021, HB1310 has passed the WA Senate, putting it on track with the rest of the bills for concurrence in both chambers and signing by the governor.

These bills have become priority issues for the state legislature in the wake of the nationwide protests last summer, including Renton, that took place over the murder of George Floyd by a police officer. Across the country, local, county, and state governments are enacting changes that provide more accountability and restraint on law enforcement practices.

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