North Seattle Progressives is pleased to announce its endorsement of Washington State Initiative 940 (I-940). The number of fatal shootings by police is dramatically increasing in Washington State, and those being shot are disproportionately people of color and the mentally ill. This is unacceptable. North Seattle Progressives agrees that every law enforcement officer in this state should be trained in de-escalation techniques and trained to recognize and safely interact with people suffering from mental illness so that use of deadly force becomes the last resort. If a suspect is shot, police should be trained to render life-saving first aid while waiting for an emergency medical response. Under I-940, every law enforcement officer in Washington would receive this training and would be held accountable for applying this training in the communities they serve. In sum, I-940 will save lives. We can’t think of a better reason for North Seattle Progressives to issue its first formal endorsement. We strongly urge our 3,000+ members to pitch in to help obtain the needed 340,000 signatures in support of I-940 by December.

Too frequently, we read about interactions between the police and the communities they serve ending in tragedy. While national media attention may focus on St. Louis, Chicago or New York, did you know there are more fatal shootings by police in Washington State than in Missouri, Illinois or New York? And did you know that although it is only September, there have already been more fatal shootings by Washington police in 2017 (28 so far) than there were in 2016 (26) or 2015 (16)? It’s true; the problem in Washington State is getting worse, not better. With at least 28 fatal shootings so far in 2017, Washington has one of the highest rates of use of force resulting in death in the nation. Half those killed this year were people of color and at least a quarter were reported to suffer from mental illness.[1]

The problem I-940 seeks to address isn’t adequately explained solely through statistics. Each person shot by police has a life story, and a community of friends and family who will never be the same. So do the police officers who pull the trigger and later learn the person who may have been holding a knife was a Native American wood carver or a pregnant mother of three with a known mental disorder.[2] For the sake of those lives who could be saved by de-escalation, their families and communities, and law enforcement officers unfairly placed in dangerous situations they are not adequately trained to handle, the changes I-940 would bring are long overdue.

I-940 would adopt revised standards for the use of deadly force and would require an independent investigation to make sure these standards are met whenever the use of force results in death or substantial bodily injury. One reason for a deterioration of trust between the police and some of the communities they serve is state law that effectively immunizes police from legal accountability. Current Washington law says officers cannot be held liable if they acted “without malice and with a good faith belief.” I-940 removes the word “malice” from the law and provides a legal definition of good faith. When criticized for not bringing charges against police even when a shooting is found to be unjustified, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg explained the extraordinary standard required to hold a police officer accountable in this state as follows:

“What the state would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt is that the officer was not telling the truth, that he did not really feel like he was in danger and that when he … exited his car to go encounter this individual, he had every intent to kill him no matter what,” Satterberg said, KIROTV reported. [3]
Reform is needed and long overdue. Many in law enforcement agree. For example, King County Sheriff John Urquhart and his challenger Major Mitzi Johanknecht have endorsed I-940, and the King County Council agrees de-escalation training is needed. [4]

The approach taken by De-Escalate WA in this initiative is highly responsible. Rather than petitioning to be placed directly on the ballot, I-940 is a Petition to the Legislature. This means that if sufficient signatures are gathered, I-940 will go before the legislature for action. If the legislature refuses to act, then I-940 will be on the ballot next year. North Seattle Progressives believes in building bridges between constituents and their representatives. I-940 is a bridge worthy of crossing, together.

Please join us in helping De-Escalate I-940 meet its 340,000 signature goal. Contact us or come to our biweekly meetings to pick up petitions, hop on the De-Escalate WA page for suggestions, and look for additional events/information from us in coming weeks. This is an opportunity for a grassroots organization like North Seattle Progressives, in partnership with De-Escalate WA and many, many others, to actually save lives.
We’re all in!

[1] While several sources report much higher numbers, the statistics used here come from a comprehensive database created and maintained by The Washington Post for the past three years. You can find the database at This database tracks fatal shootings by police nationwide, and breaks down the data by state, race, mental illness and other factors. The Washington Post was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for this work.
[2] Please read about Native American woodcarver John T. Williams and Charleena Lyles, a pregnant mother whose three children were present when she was shot