Police accountability

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*Green icons = bill is moving forward; Yellow = delayed or facing hurdles; Red = failed

Police and court reform

Lawmakers are revisiting some of the police accountability bills they passed last year after law enforcement agencies publicly objected to two measures they say make it difficult for officers to do their jobs.


House Bill 1735 - Guidance for police on use-of-force reform

Official bill information: House Bill 1735

Description of the bill: This bill, introduced by 15 House Democrats, aims to provide guidance for police agencies implementing the new use-of-force laws that passed last session. HB 1735 clarifies that deadly force may be used in the face of an immediate threat, and specifically authorizes officers to use force to take a minor into protective custody or execute a court order. It directs officers to “use the least amount of physical force necessary” in all cases and specifically defines deescalation techniques like using verbal orders, creating physical distance from a subject and communicating with other officers to avoid contradictory commands. The bill also reiterates that the new standard “does not prevent a peace officer from responding to requests for assistance or service,” a point likely directed at the police chiefs and sheriffs who claim that the new reforms could prohibit them from responding to noncriminal calls and mental health checks.

Status: Signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee on March 4, 2022.


House Bill 1719 - Less-lethal military equipment exemptions

Official bill information: House Bill 1719

Description of the bill: Last year’s House Bill 1054 banned municipal police from using military equipment like tanks, grenades, armed drones and certain high-caliber firearms. But it also created ambiguity around some less-lethal force options — under the new rule, launchers used to deploy rubber or beanbag rounds may be considered military-grade equipment. This bill, introduced by 11 House Democrats, clarifies that the ban on military equipment doesn’t apply to any device used to deploy less-lethal munitions, “including, but not limited to, rubber, bean bag, soft nose, sponge, or other nonpenetrating impact rounds.”

Status: Signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee on March 4, 2022.

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House Bill 1725 - Emergency alerts for missing Indigenous people

Official bill information: House Bill 1725

Description of the bill: This bill would designate a statewide emergency alert system for missing Indigenous people, similarly to how Amber Alerts are used for missing children and Silver Alerts are used for missing elderly people. It would establish an agency to distribute information to local law enforcement, school districts, family departments and the general public about missing Indigenous people, as well as a toll-free hotline for people to call with information. The legislation seeks to address the frequency at which Indigenous women and people go missing alongside the lack of resources and attention given to those cases.

Status: Signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee on March 31, 2022.

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House Bill 2037 - Rolling back the new standard for temporary police detentions

Official bill information: House Bill 2037

Description of the bill: This bill clarifies the standard of proof required for police to use force to temporarily detain people for questioning, partially rolling back the standard established in last year’s House Bill 1310. Under this revision, officers must exercise “reasonable care” when using force, and only to the extent that force is “necessary and reasonable under the totality of the circumstances.” This is a rollback of the previous higher standard, which required officers to establish probable cause in order to use force to detain people.

Status: Signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee on March 17, 2022.

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House Bill 1637 - Adding mental illness as a reasons to mitigate sentences

Official bill information: House Bill 1637

Description of the bill: HB 1637 would allow courts to impose sentences outside the standard range if it finds that the defendant's behavior was impacted by a mental health condition at the time of the offense. The bill would add mental health conditions to a long list of mitigating circumstances that already exist under Washington law — currently, judges are empowered to impose lighter sentences if a defendant was coerced, a victim of ongoing abuse, or an accomplice who expressed concern for the victim, as well as defendants who made an attempt to compensate their victim before being caught. As currently written, the bill doesn’t define its criteria for a qualifying mental health condition.

Status: Stalled in the House Rules Committee.

Red dot

House Bill 1788 - Rolling back new rules for police vehicle pursuits

Official bill information: House Bill 1788

Description of the bill: This bill lowers the standard of proof needed for a police officer to engage in a vehicle pursuit from probable cause to reasonable suspicion. The probable cause standard was established last year as part of a broader slate of policing reform. The revisions in HB 1788 would also eliminate language from existing state law that requires an officer to weigh speed, weather, traffic, road conditions and the potential presence of minors in the vehicle when determining whether to engage in a chase, replacing those requirements with language that instead mandates that officers consider “alternatives to the vehicular pursuit.”

Status: Stalled in the House Rules Committee.

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Senate Bill 5675 - Eliminating last year’s police use-of-force reform

Official bill information: Senate Bill 5675

Description of the bill: Last year’s slate of policing reforms included implementing stricter use-of-force standards, limiting the use of deadly force to circumstances with “an imminent threat of serious physical injury or death” and requiring that law enforcement “exhaust available and appropriate de-escalation tactics” whenever possible before resorting to physical force. SB 5675 — introduced by Senate Minority Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, along with 13 other Republicans — would eliminate both of those reforms outright, as well as a 2018 law that requires police officers to receive formal and periodic de-escalation training. It would additionally add language allowing police to “use all necessary means” to complete an arrest should a defendant flee or resist. The bill is part of a larger push from Republicans to execute their Safe Washington plan, which aims to roll back what they call anti-police policies. 

Status: Stalled in the Senate Law and Justice Committee. 


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House Bill 1726 - Lowering police threshold to use physical force

Official bill information: House Bill 1726

Description of the bill: Last year’s House Bill 1310 established stricter rules for when a police officer can use physical force — under that bill,police can only physically restrain a suspect if they have probable cause to make an arrest. That’s a higher standard of proof than before (previously, officers only needed reasonable suspicion). HB 1726 would again roll that standard of proof back to reasonable suspicion, but only in cases responding to violent crime like assault and domestic violence. The bill would amend the law to functionally establish a two-track use-of-force system with different protocols for violent versus nonviolent crime. The bill has 32 sponsors, all Democrats.

Status: Stalled in the House Committee on Public Safety.

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House Bill 1690 - Discouraging police from lying during interrogations

Official bill information: House Bill 1690

Description of the bill: HB 1690 would render a statement from a police interrogation inadmissible in court, if the court finds that an officer intentionally lied to get that statement. The proposal would apply to both misdemeanor and felony investigations. Under the bill, the prosecution could overturn the presumption of inadmissibility if it can prove that the defendant’s statement was “voluntary and not made in response to the officer's use of deception.”

Right now, Washington police can legally lie during interrogations, a standard established by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1969’s Frazier v. Cupp. But other states are also moving to enact their own laws to discourage police from lying to secure a confession — similar legislation is pending in New York, and bills that would ban lying while interrogating minors have already passed in Oregon and Illinois.

Status: Stalled in the House Committee on Public Safety.