The State Supreme Court ruled Aug. 28 that I-940 must be placed on the November ballot. The Court also ruled that ESHB 3003 was not passed as an alternative.
The mood at De-Escalate was one of determination and confidence. “We are disappointed that the court ruled this way but all along our campaign has been ready for November. The public has asked for these changes. We look forward to talking about the issues across the state,” said Monisha Harrell, co-chair of De-Escalate Washington and board chair of Equal Rights Washington.
The campaign is frustrated that the court voided ESHB 3003. “The work we did with law enforcement to reach a consensus agreement on police reform was tough, honest, and groundbreaking, and we are disappointed that the court took the position it did,” said Tim Reynon, co-chair of De-Escalate Washington and a Puyallup Tribe of Indians councilmember.
Much of the De-Escalate Leadership team has been working on this issue for years. The campaign is a broad coalition of Latinos, Black Americans, Native Americans, civil rights champions, disability rights organizations, poverty advocates, LGBTQ+, Asian American and Pacific Islanders, Labor, and community organizers who formed a powerful grass roots campaign.
On Dec. 28, 2017, nearly 360, 000 signatures were delivered to the Secretary of State’s office and on Jan. 23, the Secretary of State certified I-940 to the legislature. The signatures represented the work of thousands of volunteers, donors, supporters, and endorsers. Public support has been consistent and mirrors the results of the three polls done over the course of the campaign. The latest poll was done in the spring and gives I-940 a 47-point lead, with broad bi-partisan support on both sides of the mountains.
The ballot campaign will focus on the motivation for the much-needed reforms, all of which are based on best practices recommended by national task forces on policing and by law enforcement leadership groups. I-940 closes some big gaps in state law. I-940 will:
- require violence de-escalation and mental health training;
- require first aid training for all officers and require that police render first aid at the scene;
- remove the de facto immunity and adopts an objective reasonable office standard;
- require completely independent investigations of police use of deadly force;
- require involvement and notification of tribal governments where a tribal person was killed or injured; and
- include diverse community stakeholders in policy making discussions.
The campaign is centered on impacted families and the communities affected by police and police violence. The families who have been championing this work include Bill and Patty Langfitt, whose son Billy was killed in March, and includes families whose loss goes back years. The common denominator is a system that is unable to deliver on justice or fairness.
Fred and Annalesa Thomas’s son Leonard was killed by a Pierce County swat team on May 24, 2013. A federal court awarded a $15 million judgment to the Thomases last year and found that Leonard’s civil rights had been violated.
“It was a horrible feeling knowing that our state law could provide no justice for families. We started working with the De-Escalate Campaign in July 2017 and have been deeply moved by the families we have met. It is way past time to change this law and we are here to see 940 succeed in November,” said Annalesa Thomas.
Two members of the leadership team themselves have lost family to police violence. Co-Chair Andre Taylor, the founder of Not This Time, has worked nonstop on police accountability and advocating for families since his brother’s death at the hands of police in February 2016. “We know that I-940 will become law, it is practical and fair for the community and police. These reforms are based on real events and experiences. My brother was left to bleed to death. When 940 becomes law, police will make sure first aid is provided,” said Taylor.
James Rideout, who is the uncle of Jackie Salyers and a Puyallup Tribe Councilmember, is also part of De-Escalate leadership. Rideout joined his sister Lisa Earl in forming Justice for Jackie to advocate for Lisa’s daughter Jackie Salyers. Jackie was killed by Tacoma Police in January 2016. The road for Rideout and Earl included trips to Washington, D.C. to talk to the Department of Justice, conversations with Tacoma Police, and signature gathering throughout the state.
“The Tribe and the community can point to I-940 and be extremely proud of the work we did and sacrifices we made so that this will not happen to others. My niece Jackie Salyers did not die in vain. Her senseless death and our disappointing experiences with Tacoma Police are reflected in the language of I-940. We will be working hard on the ballot campaign and going forward police will not be able to investigate themselves,” said Rideout.
“A unique provision of I-940 is that it recognizes that we need to hear from people who are impacted, people who have been ignored or silenced,” said Monisha Harrell, co-chair for De-Escalate Washington and board chair of Equal Rights Washington. “For the LGBTQ community, having a seat at the table during policy deliberations is extremely important and we believe that the framework that I-940 introduces can be model for other work. We are ready to campaign for 940’s passage.”
Kim Mosolf, an attorney with Disability Rights Washington and a member of the leadership team, said, “I-940 is a huge step forward for marginalized people in Washington State. We know that around 25 percent of people killed by police are experiencing some sort of crisis or have a disability. I-940 requires that law enforcement be trained in de-escalation and in mental health. We will be campaigning for I-940 and will be at the table for implementation to make sure the training is cutting edge, meaningful, and saves lives.”
For Katrina Johnson, this work is very real and always present. Katrina’s cousin, Charleena Lyles, was killed by Seattle Police in June 2017. According to Katrina, “940 is about change. We know that police culture must change. SPD knew her history before they got to her apartment. Police need much different training on working with people in crisis. Her children will be left with the fallout from the officer’s reckless mistakes their entire lives. People are fed up and we will not stop until this system is turned around.”
De-Escalate Washington worked with the state’s major law enforcement labor groups and the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs on the policies in ESHB 3003.
“From the start our goal was to reform the law and build bridges between the community and police. The improved relationship with law enforcement has been an incredible plus. Yes, we would have liked to see the court uphold 940 and ESHB 3003,” said Reynon. “We made commitments to law enforcement to get those polices into the law. We are committed to working with law enforcement after the November election to make sure that the polices in 3003 are enacted by the 2019 legislature.”