Activists and politicians in Washington are attempting to change a state law to make it easier to charge police when they use deadly force.
The current law now says that police officers who use deadly force cannot face criminal charges if they “act in good faith” and “without malice.” The new bill would replace that wording to say that the shooting is justified if there’s an “imminent threat” to themselves or a third party.
Dr. Karen Johnson, chair of the Black Alliance of Thurston County, told King 5 News the idea to change the law came as a result of a high-profile police shooting in Olympia, last May.
Two men- accused of stealing beer and assaulting a grocery store clerk- were shot by an officer who was later cleared of any wrongdoing. Prosecutors said his actions were justified under the law. The officer had stated at the time he felt “threatened” when one of the men attacked him with a skateboard.
The suspects, both black men, survived the shooting. Johnson says in cases like the one in Olympia — there needs to be more accountability.
Local law enforcements officials don’t support the bill. They say current law is “enough to punish the bad apples.” Furthermore, they say it would make it more confusing for officers to know when they can use deadly force, and might punish them for “making an honest mistake.”
Mitch Barker, executive director of the Washington Assoc. of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, says there’s a huge difference between holding officers civilly responsible, internally in their employment and charging them with a crime.