A week shy of the one-year anniversary of the death of George Floyd during a Minneapolis police arrest that prompted protests in Washington and all over the country, Gov. Jay Inslee signed sweeping legislation Tuesday to reform law enforcement policies and oversight.
The 12 bills, which ban certain tactics like choke holds and limit others like the use of tear gas, will give Washington the most accountable and transparent police system in the United States, Inslee told reform advocates and families who lost members as a result of police actions.
"This is the beginning. This is not the end," Inslee said during a bill signing ceremony at a Tacoma community center.
Rep. Jesse Johnson, D-Federal Way, the sponsor of the bill that bans choke holds and neck restraints, called those new restrictions the beginning of a process to "demilitarize police."
2020 was a difficult year, he said, with the deaths of Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25; Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, on March 13; and Manny Ellis in Tacoma on March 3. But people in Washington came together to demand change, Johnson said.
"Justice is just us, coming together to transform the system," he said.
"These changes came about because Washingtonians demanded it," Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, added.
House Public Safety Committee Chairman Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, said work between advocates of reform and the law enforcement community was "a more collaborative approach than you would have imagined."
But members of law enforcement agencies and organizations that represent them weren't on hand for the formal bill signing.
Inslee said later he didn't know whether they hadn't been invited or weren't able to attend. But he insisted the bills were common sense improvements that will protect officers as well as the public through independent investigations and statewide standards for tactics.
"I used to work with law enforcement personnel. I know how tough their job is," said Inslee, who was once a deputy prosecutor. "I don't sign bills without a recognition that everyone's life is valuable on our streets."
Asked whether the new bills will prompt some officers to quit their jobs or move to another state, Inslee replied: "I certainly hope not... These folks want to have good policing, the ones that are in the profession."
Major changes from the bills Inslee signed include: