Controversial I-940 would make it easier to prosecute police who misuse lethal force

SEATTLE -- Voters in Washington are deciding on a controversial initiative that would change the standard for investigating law enforcement's use of deadly force.

If I-940 passes, it would remove the word "malice" from lethal use-of-force investigations, meaning prosecutors would no longer have to prove that officers acted with "malice" in order to charge them for deadly encounters on the job.

It would also require law enforcement officers statewide to receive de-escalation, mental health and first aid training.

"Washington state is the only state that has a malice clause," explains Monisha Harrell, board chair of Equal Rights Washington. "We would like to move to a standard that is in the majority of other states across the country ... we know there is no one solution that will fit every single situation, and there’s never going to be a time where we will completely eliminate lethal use of force incidents ...  but what we can do is we can minimize those incidents."

Here's where the added confusion comes in: De-Escalate Washington got enough signatures to send the initiative to the Legislature, which then put the measure on the ballot. But critics raised concerns over the language of the measure, so the Legislature amended it and added a "good faith clause" that both sides viewed as an acceptable compromise.

Carlos Bratcher, who spent 26 years with the King County Sheriff's Office and represents the Black Law Enforcement Association of Washington, supports the measure.

"We’ve seen too many incidents where certain departments, had the training in place and their officers were trained, the outcomes could have been a little different, so that’s why this is vital," Bratcher said.

"I've been on 20 years, and I'm questioning whether or not I want to do this anymore," Solan said. "Is it worth it for me to be stripped of my liberty, to be removed from my family and to be financially ruined? What job is that OK with? What happened to police as public servants that are here to protect you? Somehow that narrative has been lost, and I think that should have everybody concerned."

The Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs is urging people to vote no on I-940. Representatives say they supported the compromise measure that the Supreme Court wouldn't allow on the ballot, and if this initiative passes in its original form, it would be much more difficult for the Legislature to create a compromise bill that law enforcement supports.