(SYDNEY BROWN/Washington State Journal)
A ban on the use of chokeholds, military equipment, and most types of car chases by law enforcement passed the House of Representatives after lawmakers voted along party lines in a 54-43 vote Feb. 27.
HB 1054 was the subject of much debate. Some Republican leaders said the bill went too far to strip police of self-defense options, and Democrats said the bill addressed a growing problem with violence and racism in law enforcement.
“While Washington State still has work to do to demand equity in our law enforcement, today’s vote is a step forward toward justice, accountability and racial equity,” said Rep. Jesse Johnson, D-Federal Way, the bill’s primary sponsor. “Black and brown communities deserve to walk down the street or sleep in their bed without fear of violence from police.”
Unlike the original, the substituted bill does not ban the use of unleashed K-9 dogs during arrests, but requires the Criminal Justice Training Commission to create a work group and develop a policy around the use of canines. Among others, the work group must include family members affected by police violence, civil rights activists and people from underrepresented backgrounds.
Police also would not have the ability to get or use military equipment, which is defined as armed vehicles, machine guns and grenades. All officers would also have to wear a clear law enforcement identifier while on-duty, meaning they would have to clearly show their name or badge number at all times.
Many Republican lawmakers did not support the bill. They said the ban on less-lethal tactics would put officers in harm’s way and make it more difficult to recruit officers into law enforcement.
“By limiting the non-lethal tactics available to law enforcement, we are pressing more toward the use of lethal force, and that is a matter of great concern from both the law enforcement community and the citizens,” said Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen.
Rep. David Hackney, D-Tukwila, disagreed. He said the bill would be “groundbreaking” in its ability to serve community and law enforcement interests.
“This bill makes our community more safe, not less safe. It gives needed guidance to law enforcement about what is acceptable in Washington State,” he said.
The bill now moves to the Senate for further consideration.