By Arlene Kiyomi Dennistoun
Northwest Asian Weekly
The two-yard gains Toshiko Hasegawa had hoped for may or may not have happened at the third meeting of the Joint Legislative Task Force on the Use of Deadly Force in Community Policing. The agenda looked promising — it included a roundtable discussion on whether or not to amend the statute on deadly force. But after meeting for nine hours in Olympia on Sept. 13, and spending only about an hour discussing the pros and cons of changing the deadly force statute, gains appeared minimal.
The divide amongst panel members was still evident and demonstrated during the roundtable discussion on whether or not to modify the law. Law enforcement representatives said removing the protections afforded police by requiring proof of malice (evil intent) and lack of good faith (honest and lawful action) would have a “chilling effect on law enforcement and law enforcement’s response to calls.”
When a panel member raised the issue of racial bias and discrimination in communities of color, Hasegawa expressed the sensitivity of addressing the elephant in the room by prefacing her comments with, “My palms are sweaty. Are anyone else’s palms sweaty?” It was a hard conversation for the task force to have, but they pushed on, and that may have been a two-yard gain.
The group spent most of the time at the meeting being informed on state and federal criminal and constitutional laws by attorneys — a law school professor, the executive secretary of the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, and the director of the Center for Justice, American Civil Liberties Union. An officer also showed the task force less-than-lethal options available to police.
The working group reviewed videos of how police have escalated encounters in a matter of seconds, in contrast to police spending 15 minutes observing, walking, and talking with a mentally ill person wielding a knife. Camden, N.J. police did not use weapons, and all survived the encounter.
After House Bill 2907 fell through, which would have removed malice and good faith requirements for deadly force to be lawful, a compromise bill created the task force. A final meeting is scheduled for the second week of November before the panel makes its recommendations to the legislature.
Hasegawa, appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee to represent the Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs on the task force, is hosting a community conversation to provide updates and get feedback. Hasegawa will host the next discussion in early December. Hasegawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Arlene can be reached at email@example.com.