The GSBA Blog

Police Legislation in Olympia

by Matt Landers, Director of Public Policy & Government Relations
| Feb 16, 2021

There are over a dozen bills dealing with many different aspects of policing in Washington State this session. Here are some of the bills that GSBA has actively endorsed:

* denotes which of the bills is advancing if companion bills were offered in both chambers

Tactics & Equipment (SHB 1054)

Rep. Johnson of Federal Way is leading this omnibus effort that encompasses a long list of reforms on what tactics and equipment are permissible for use by police. It would prohibit the use of chokeholds, neck restraints, no-knock warrants, using dogs to arrest or apprehend suspects, and the acquiring or using of tear gas and certain types of military equipment. The bill requires law enforcement agencies to adopt policies and procedures to ensure officers are reasonably identifiable. Restrictions would be placed on certain vehicular pursuits. Status: passed out of committee in the House, awaiting House floor vote.

Impeachment Disclosures (SHB 1088* / SB 5067)

Requires law enforcement agencies to report an officer’s misconduct that would affect their credibility or any act that may be potentially exculpatory to a defendant. The WA Association of Prosecuting Attorneys would be required to update their policies and develop online training consistent with that policy. Law enforcement agencies will be required to inquire where an applicant has ever been subject to impeachment disclosure. Status: passed House, in Senate Law & Justice Committee.

Law Enforcement Audits - (E2HSB 1089* / SB 5069)

Authorizes the State Auditor to review a deadly force investigations to determine whether the involved actors complied with all applicable rules and procedures. Status: passed the House, in Senate Law & Justice Committee.

Duty to Intervene - (SSB 5066)

Requires an officer to intervene when witnessing a fellow officer engaging in the use of excessive force. Requires an officer observing wrongdoing by a fellow officer to report the wrongdoing to the officer’s supervisor. Requires law enforcement agencies to adopt written policies on the duty to intervene and ensure that all officers are trained on the policy. Status: passed Senate committee, awaiting Senate floor vote.

Certification of Police Officers (SB 5089)

Like many other professions in Washington, police officers are required to hold professional certification from the state. This bill requires applicants for a city or county police officer to be at least 23 years old and to have either an AA/AS degree or have two years relevant experience. It requires a 24-month probationary period for newly hired officers, and awards applicants for certain specific skills or experience (language proficiency other than English; Peace Corps or Americorps experience; professional experience with domestic violence counseling, mental/behavioral health care, homelessness programs, or other social services). Status: passed Senate committee, awaiting Senate floor vote.

De-Certification of Police Officers (HB 1082 / SB 5051*)

Like other professional certifications in Washington, the state can revoke an officer’s professional certification in certain circumstances. This bill expands background investigation requirements for applicants for police, reserve officers, and corrections officers, and expands the conduct for which the certification of an officer may be revoked. It requires agencies to report all separation and disciplinary matters regarding certified officers to the Criminal Justice Training Commission. It removes confidentiality of complaints, investigations, and disciplinary actions for certified officers and requires information be maintained on a publicly searchable database. Status: passed Senate committee, awaiting Senate floor vote. 

There are other bills that GSBA is still monitoring, including SB 5055 which deals with the arbitration process for disciplining officers. This bill is less strong than SB 5134, which would have prohibited collective bargaining agreements from overturning disciplinary decisions, but which did not make it out of the Senate committee.