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Lawmakers Hesitant On Changes To Washington's Police Deadly Force Law

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Should it be easier to criminally charge police officers in Washington who use deadly force? A legislative task force said “yes” -- but the vote was far from unanimous.

Washington lawmakers are undecided on the issue as they convene Monday for their 2017 session.

Washington has one of the highest bars in the nation for charging a police officer who kills someone in the line of duty. A prosecutor would have to show that the officer acted with malice and not in good faith.

A task force formed by the legislature last year narrowly recommended taking malice and good faith out of the law. Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, a Republican, wasn’t persuaded.

“Right now I haven’t seen anything I could support\,” he said.

Democrats are also noncommittal on changing the law at this point. But Senate Minority Leader Sharon Nelson, a Democrat, said there may be other things the legislature can do to reduce deadly encounters between the police and citizens.

“One solid recommendation that’s coming out of this is we need more training for our officers on the ground,” Nelson said.

There’s also a recommendation from the task force to create a statewide database on the use of deadly force by officers.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."