Washington has become the latest state to introduce comprehensive police reforms in response to the assassination of George Floyd by the police with the adoption this week of 12 new laws banning suffocation, requiring officers to announce their presence before raiding a home and Apply the use of full-raise techniques before using force.
The reform package, signed by Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday, follows similar legislation passed in other states since Mr. Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police in May last year, sparking a wave of protests against police abuse that continued into the summer. The new laws come as a bill on the police, named after Mr. Floyd, got stuck in the U.S. Senate after it was passed by the House of Representatives; President Biden has called on lawmakers to pass it by Tuesday, which is the first anniversary of Mr Floyd’s death, but it seems unlikely.
With little federal action, more than thirty states – and many local governments – have implemented a series of reforms in recent years. At least 16 states have restricted or banned officers’ use of neck restraints, and 10 have required or increased funding for body cameras. Washington has also joined several states that have required police officers to intervene, if possible, when they see a fellow officer using excessive force.
And at least six states, including Washington, have restricted the use of no-knock officers’ warrants, which allow them to enter a home without warning and which, according to experts, could make situations more dangerous in cases where residents believe they are being attacked. The state of Washington is one of those that completely bans the practice and joins a number of municipalities that have done so as well. Police’s murder of Breonna Taylor during a raid on her apartment in Louisville, Ky., Last year paid wide attention to the “no-knock” warrant initially issued for the raid, although officers eventually knocked on her apartment’s door knocked. .
At the signing of the bills, Mr. Inslee, a Democrat, said the state of Washington will be a leader in the transparency and accountability of the police. In addition to the murder of Mr. Floyd, he also referred to the police murder of another black man, Manuel Ellis, last year in Tacoma, Washington, which he said made clear the need for new police laws. Mr. Ellis, 33, died in March 2020 after several police officers punched and held him; his death was decided as a murder, and the State Attorney General’s Office said he would decide this month whether to file criminal charges against the officers in that case.
“The crises of the past year have exposed long – standing inequalities in our society,” he said. Insled in a statement, adding that government leaders have a “moral mandate to acknowledge these hard truths.”
Teresa C. Taylor, executive director of the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs, a federation of police unions advocating for officers, said members of the group are committed to implementing the changes.
“There is no profession that is under scrutiny anymore, and no group of technical experts is more skilled in training and transforming their work than Washington’s peacekeepers,” Taylor said in an email. “This package of accounts is important and our members will approach the new requirements with the same professionalism as they approach their duties every day.”
The new laws in Washington come a month after a Minnesota jury found Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, guilty of murdering Mr. Floyd, a rare conviction for a police officer. Many activists said it remains to be seen whether the verdict indicates that officers will be held more responsible for abuse. But the wave of legislation – which in some cases was bipartisan – indicates that state legislators are willing to act.
Despite the rush of new laws, some reform activists have said the bills do not go far enough to stem police abuse.
In Minnesota, lawmakers last summer implemented a series of reforms – including a ban on suffocation – seized by many top police officers, whose departments were shaken by Floyd’s death. But lawmakers could only pass the bill after weeks of negotiations, during which Democrats abandoned some of their more far-reaching proposals, such as having the Attorney General investigate police killings.
The new package of laws in the state of Washington contains one that will create a state agency, called the Office of Independent Investigations, headed by a director appointed by government insolvency. The office will be able to investigate the use of lethal force by officers from July 2022. The office will also be able to conduct cases that have already been investigated by other agencies if new evidence comes to light.