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Published on Monday, December 12, 2016

State task force concludes and recommends changes to deadly force law

The Joint Legislative Task Force on the Use of Deadly Force in Community Policing had its final meeting on November 21 and delivered its final report on December 10. Kelly Harris, Chief Criminal Prosecutor for the City of Seattle, served as AWC’s representative on the body. The task force reviewed state and federal standards for using deadly force, practices for investigating officer-involved shootings, police training and funding, and data on deadly force incidents. Meetings were, at times, contentious for the 26-member task force.

The final report included a number of recommendations including the most discussed issue, amending RCW 9A.16.040 relating to a peace officer’s criminal liability protection in a deadly force incident. By a slim margin (14 in favor – ten opposed – two abstaining), the task force recommended amending the statute to read: (3) A public officer or peace officer shall not be held criminally liable for using deadly force if a reasonable officer would have believed the use of deadly force was necessary in light of all the facts and circumstances known to the officer at the time. The report includes other recommendations related to independent investigations of officer involved shootings, greater law enforcement training on numerous topics, use of force data collection, and funding the state’s behavioral health system.

The report has been sent to the legislature which may or may not move forward with its recommendations. The entire report can be read here including a joint minority report written by task force members representing AWC and the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.

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