Seattle –The League enthusiastically joins De-Escalate Washington in urging voters to pass I-940 to improve training for law enforcement and help save lives. Equipping law enforcement officers with additional training in mental health and violence de-escalation techniques will make our communities and our officers safer. Passing this initiative is the best way to achieve this goal.
“This initiative is a testament to the perseverance of families who have suffered a terrible loss and turned their heartache into a call for action,” said Ann Murphy, president of the League of Women Voters of Washington. Murphy continued, “The commonsense reforms embodied in Initiative 940 are urgently needed, and the League is proud to support it.”
After the League voted to endorse I-940 on August 1, 2017, members worked closely with volunteers from other endorsing organizations to gather signatures across the state. As a result of these joint efforts, De-Escalate Washington turned in 355,000 signatures, nearly 100,000 over the threshold to qualify for the ballot. “We know voters overwhelmingly support this reform. Now we need people to communicate that support with their vote,” said Ann Murphy.
Initiative 940 is a life-saving measure in more ways than one. The law will also provide police officers with first aid training and, after rule-making done by law enforcement and the Criminal Justice Training Commission, will direct them to use it whenever it is safe for them to do so. Expanding the role of police officers as first responders is consistent with their mission to serve and protect the public.
The League applauds the way in which I-940 will improve accountability, transparency, and relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve. An investigative report by the Seattle Times revealed that 213 Washingtonians were killed by police between 2005 and 2014. Only one officer was criminally charged and he was acquitted under the current law. Initiative 940 seeks to prevent these tragedies from happening in the first place, and will help fix gaps in our laws by updating our standards to those used in 27 other states. Initiative 940 will also provide for fair and independent investigations when a tragedy does occur. “The League believes this reform is urgently needed to promote just outcomes for families who have lost loved ones during police encounters, as well as communities and law enforcement,” said Ann Murphy.
The League supports both the practical and symbolic benefits of I-940. People of color, people with disabilities, and other communities have disproportionate contact with law enforcement. Initiative 940 requires that these and other stakeholders work together with law enforcement to shape new policies under the law. The League believes that this collaboration will ensure the benefits of I-940 are meaningful and long-lasting.
About the League: The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization. We encourage the informed and active participation of citizens in government. The League acts in support of, or in opposition to, selected governmental issues which its members have studied. It does not support or oppose candidates, factions or political parties. League members, as individuals, are urged to work in the political party of their choice. To protect the League's nonpartisanship policy, guidelines regarding the political activities of the Board of Directors are reviewed frequently.
League of Women Voters of Washington
Ann Murphy, President, League of Women Voters of Washington
Heather Kelly, Criminal Justice Issue Chair, League of Women Voters of Washington