WA legislature narrowly OKs change to police deadly force law

Both chambers still need to vote on the original measure, which was initially proposed as an initiative to the Legislature.

Washington lawmakers have voted to make it easier to prosecute police who commit bad shootings, updating a law that made it uniquely difficult to hold officers criminally liable.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed the measure, ending years of wrestling over the existing law, which forces prosecutors to prove the officers acted with malice — a hurdle no other state has.

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Activists had gathered enough signatures to force a vote on the measure on the November ballot, but instead, they worked with police organizations on the compromise version lawmakers approved as the legislative session drew to a close Thursday. Lawmakers had to pass two measures — the original initiative, as well as the compromise that amended it and was signed by Inslee.

“Tonight’s actions regarding I-940 are incredibly meaningful examples of what happens when people choose to open their mind, to listen and to compromise," Inslee said in a statement. "De-Escalate Washington overcame the odds and brought this initiative to the legislature, and I want to thank them for bringing a voice that many felt had gone unheard for too long."

While Republicans and Democrats alike praised the compromise as sound policy, concerns remain about the constitutionality of the way lawmakers approved it. Many said that under the state Constitution, the compromise measure and the original proposal should both appear on the November ballot.