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May 10, 2021

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Police in Washington who see fellow officer using excessive force must intervene, Legislature says

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OLYMPIA — The Washington Legislature on Tuesday passed a bill to require law enforcement officers to intervene if they witness another officer using excessive force in an encounter.

Senate Bill 5066 is one of a slew of proposals designed to reshape police tactics and oversight of law enforcement in the wake of last year’s protests over the death of Black people at the hands of police.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, now heads to the desk of Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature.

The bill’s passage came within hours of a Hennepin County jury in Minnesota convicting former police officer Derek Chauvin on murder and manslaughter charges in the killing of George Floyd last year while other officers were at the scene. Those officers were fired and have been charged with aiding and abetting unintentional second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death.

“In a truly just world, three officers would not have stood by while he was murdered in police custody,” Dhingra said in a statement Tuesday. But, “Today in Olympia, we took a solemn step toward that more just world.”

The bill requires an officer to intervene when witnessing a fellow officer engaging in excessive force, according to a legislative analysis. It defines that as force exceeding the degree permitted by law, or by the policies of the witnessing officer’s agency.

The legislation also provides training for officers through the Criminal Justice Training Commission and requires law enforcement agencies to have written policies on the new duty to intervene.

Some of this year’s policing proposals have been contentious and passed largely along party lines in the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

But SB 5066 picked up three Republican votes Tuesday — including a yes by GOP Senate Minority Leader John Braun of Centralia — in its final vote on the Senate floor. It has also drawn support from some law enforcement groups.

In March, the Washington State Patrol Troopers Association and the Washington Fraternal Order of Police testified at a public hearing in support of the bill.

“This really tells you that there are officers who want to do the right thing,” said Dhingra.

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