Olympia, Washington – Today, the Washington State Senate passed Senate Bill 5919, a bill that expands law enforcement’s ability to use physical force. Enoka Herat, police practices and immigration counsel at the ACLU of Washington, had the following statement:
“It’s disappointing to see the Senate rush through a bill that will harm communities, particularly the communities of color and people with disabilities this Legislature made a commitment to protect when it passed more than a dozen bills last year aimed at reform and accountability in policing. The effectiveness of those bills is indicated by data showing a 62% decrease in police killings since their enactment last year.
“By contrast, Senate Bill 5919 expands police powers and lowers the standard for when an officer can use physical force, authorizing officers to use physical force when they have little more than a hunch that someone was involved in wrongdoing. Officers already have the tools they need to investigate crime and prevent someone from fleeing. SB 5919’s dangerous authorization to use physical force under the low ‘reasonable suspicion’ standard will increase harm to communities of color and people with disabilities, communities disproportionately impacted by police violence. This bill and others like it in the Legislature, including House Bills 2037 and 1788, were drafted and advanced without the support or input of the communities that will bear the negative effects if they become law. These efforts give officers more leeway to harm people and make it harder for victims of police violence to hold officers accountable when they willfully violate people’s rights. They are a step backwards on racial justice, reduction of police violence, and police accountability, issues that brought thousands of Washingtonians to the streets throughout our state in 2020.
“The House of Representatives must reject this dangerous attempt to allow officers to use more force on Washington residents and put an end to similar attempts in their chamber. The Legislature should build upon last year’s progress, clarifying and strengthening the new laws that improve public safety and build community trust in law enforcement. These bills are not clarifications – they are rollbacks, and people will be harmed as a result.”