Why we need police reforms

American police kill civilians at incredibly high rates.
Compared to police in other wealthy democracies (Australia, Britain, Germany, Japan, etc.)  American police kill civilians at incredibly high rates {https://www.prisonpolicy.org/blog/2020/06/05/policekillings/)

  • In 2019 in the US 1,099 civilians were killed (that's 33.5/10 million)
  • In 2019 in Australia, 21 civilians were killed (that's 9.8/10 million)
  • In 2019 in Germany, 11 civilians were killed (that's 1.3/10 million)
  • In 2019 in England and Wales, 3 civilians were killed (that's .5/10 million)
  • In 2019 in Japan, 39 civilians were killed (that's 9.8/10 million)

People of color are killed disproportionately often by police. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/investigations/police-shootings-database/ )
The rate at which Black Americans are killed by police is more than twice as high as the rate for white Americans even though they account for less than 13 percent of the U.S. population.  White people are killed by police at the rate of 15/million, Hispanic people at the rate of 28/million, and Black people at the rate of 37/million. 

Nationwide, only 5% of all arrests made in 2018 involved alleged violent crimes and only 4% of what police spend their time doing overall involves enforcing violent crime (homicide, robbery, rape, and aggravated assault).
The majority of arrests that police make annually are for low-level, non-violent activities in encounters that often escalate to deadly force. For example, in 2014, police killed at least 287 people who were involved in minor offenses and harmless activities (drug possession, homelessness, mental illness). In many cases healthcare professionals and social workers are better equipped than the police to handle these issues.

Police union contracts block accountability
Research has established that police unions, and the police union contracts and laws they’ve worked to enact, are associated with higher rates of police violence and lower levels of police accountability. Fewer than 1 in every 12 complaints of police misconduct nationwide results in some kind of disciplinary action against the officer(s) responsible, due in some part to unfair protections for police officers in their contracts and in statewide Law Enforcement Officers' Bills of Rights. These provisions make it difficult for Police Chiefs or civilian oversight structures to punish police officers who are unfit to serve.

recent legislative reforms

Washington State is one of many states working toward police reform, spurred on by the killing of George Floyd 2 years ago, as well as others who were killed at the hands of the police in the last few years. Although some of the language in Washington's new laws needs to be fine-tuned, the reforms, listed below, address many of the issues cited above, and have been proven effective in other states. 


Washington House Bill 1054 mandates a number of changes to police tactics and procedures. These include:
  • A ban on the use of any chokehold or neck restraint by a peace officer.
  • Proposed changes to the use of police K-9s, including a ban on using K-9s for crowd control.
  • Limiting the use of tear gas by police to riots, barricaded subjects, or hostage situations, with several circumstances or conditions that must be met before the tear gas can be deployed. 
  • Banning the acquisition or use of any military equipment by a law enforcement agency, and the return or destruction of military equipment already in the possession of an agency.
  • Forbidding any peace officer from engaging in a pursuit unless there is probable cause to believe an occupant of the vehicle has committed or is committing a violent offense or sex offense, or there is reasonable suspicion that a person in the vehicle has committed or is committing a “driving under the influence” offense.
  • Prohibiting officers from firing a weapon at a moving vehicle “unless necessary to protect against an imminent threat of serious physical harm,” and
  • bans the application or issuance of “no-knock” search or arrest warrants.
Substantial changes in the way officers can use force are contained in House Bill 1310. This requires that officers exhaust all alternatives to use of force before resorting to force in any situation. Washington law officers will now be required to “use the least amount of physical force necessary to overcome resistance under the circumstances.”

The bill specifically cites de-escalation tactics, creating physical distance between the officer and suspect, designating a single officer to communicate to avoid issuance of conflicting commands, calling for mental health professionals and/or back-up officers to respond to the scene, taking as much time as necessary without using physical force or weapons, and leaving the scene if there is no threat of imminent harm and no crime has been committed, is being committed or is about to be committed.


Under the law set out by Senate Bill 5066, Washington officers now have a duty to intervene if they witness “another peace officer engaging or attempting to engage in the use of excessive force against another person,” and have an affirmative duty to report excessive uses of force to their supervisors at the earliest opportunity.


Senate Bill 5259 requires setting up a use of force database and requires Washington law enforcement agencies to report virtually any use of force to this data collection facility. Reports must name not only the person who was the focus of the use of force but also the name of the officer involved and the years of his service.

HB 1267 establishes a review board for all deadly force incidents in the state. This “deadly force investigations agency” must include representatives from various racial and ethnic minority commissions and one person from the family of someone who was the target of deadly force at the hands of a Washington peace officer.

HB 1223 requires that most custodial interrogations be recorded electronically

HB 1088 requires agencies to report officer misconduct to prosecuting attoneys.

HB1089 requires that a state training commission and state auditor review cases to make sure police are complying.

HB 5051 Expands background investigations for applicants of law enforcement and correction officer positions and broadens the grounds for officer decertification.

SB 5119 Requires local jails to conduct investigations into unexpected deaths that occurs within their correctional facilities.

SB 5263 Ensures that law enforcement officers using the felony bar defense must have a determination that the person injured or killed during an arrest was engaged in a felony at the time of injury or death.