Brothers and Sisters, On behalf of the Washington State Lodge Executive Board, I felt it was imperative to explain the recent events that have been discussed on I-940 regarding deadly force.
Last month, all of the Stakeholder groups to include the Washington State FOP, COMPAS, WACOPS, Troopers Association and WASPC met in Lacey to discuss having a better policy then what I-940 provided. We all agreed that I-940 was bad public policy and that it was up to us to create good policy that provided enough protection against convicting police officers who are forced into a deadly force encounter.
The past several weeks representatives from all organizations met with legislators as well as the individuals who drafted the I-940 language. The meetings were long and tiring. I have to commend Legislative Chairman James Schrimpsher for his work and dedication to Law Enforcement.
Our proposed language removed the word Malice but also created a good faith definition based on the national standard of Graham vs. Connor. This was presented and counter language was offered. The last language provided was from the legislators in the room that was again based around a good faith definition. This new language was reviewed by multiple attorneys as it has always been the FOP position to protect the standard established by Graham. Anything lower we could not support. All of the opinions we received indicated that the language provided was equal if not better than the Graham standard.
Realizing this, the WAFOP could only agree to the language if other issues within the I-940 language were dealt with. This would include paramount first aid and decertification. We also asked that there be a clause put in the bill that all costs accrued would be reimbursed if an officer is acquitted from charges. The WAFOP asked for this language as a deterrent from being prosecuted by someone for political gain. It is my understanding that as of today these issues were addressed. The Washington State FOP reviewed these changes and determined that the best course would be to agree to the alternative bill.
We have fought extremely hard the past 2 years to protect the rights of officers in Washington State and this decision was not made lightly. At the end of the day, we decided that coming up with better policy that provided proper protection to officers was more important than allowing I-940 to be enacted. The Troopers Association and COMPAS did not agree with our stance. The Troopers Association went as far as to put out inaccurate information on why we support the alternate language. These organizations are entitled to their own opinion and we completely respect their decision. We have never, nor will we ever, support the language of I-940. We would never accept anything that would blatantly allow for cops to be charged unjustly. We would never accept any language that changes the bar established by Graham vs. Conner.
Some may also say that we could have fought this in court after I-940 passed. The advice of legal counsel was that we could have an argument but our current law in Washington is above the national standard and would be changed regardless and an officer would have to be charged under the initiative language before any Washington State Fraternal Order of Police www.wafop.com 2839 W. Kennewick Ave #356 – Kennewick WA. 99336 challenges to the language are argued. We felt that having a voice on getting proper protection put us in a much better position than having language forced at us by the initiative or through the court.
At the end of the day, we encourage everyone to look at the bigger picture and ask ourselves if we would allow the language written in I-940 to become law. Through the polling numbers, almost 70% of our citizens believe that it does and support the initiative. Doing nothing would set back public safety for decades and to a point that we may never recover.
The Washington State Fraternal Order of Police has done everything in our power to provide officers the protection and a voice in dealing with deadly force encounters, which our members are entitled to. Officers deserve the right to be able to defend their decision to use deadly force to protect the citizens in the communities we serve. Anything less is dangerous to officers and to the public state wide.
President Washington State Fraternal Order of Police