Pasco Police Shooting

Police group says ‘deadly force’ initiative backers misled Tri-City fairgoers

The Washington State Fraternal Order of Police says people gathering signatures for Initiative 940 at the Benton Franklin Fair and Rodeo used misleading language. De-Escalate Washington is advancing the initiative to improve police training and make it easier to prosecute used-of-deadly-force cases.
The Washington State Fraternal Order of Police says people gathering signatures for Initiative 940 at the Benton Franklin Fair and Rodeo used misleading language. De-Escalate Washington is advancing the initiative to improve police training and make it easier to prosecute used-of-deadly-force cases. Washington State Fraternal Order of Police

The Washington State Fraternal Order of Police is protesting what it calls misleading language used by people gathering signatures on an initiative at last week’s Benton Franklin Fair & Rodeo.

Volunteers for De-Escalate Washington gathered signatures on Initiative 940 under a banner reading “Support the Police.”

The Washington State Fraternal Order of Police, which opposes the initiative to increase training and make it easier to prosecute officers involved in deadly force incidents, sent a photo from the fair to supporters Tuesday.

It described the sign as “fake advertising” and said signature gatherers acknowledged it was misleading but told visitors the strategy “worked.”

Initiative 940 is partly a response to the February 2015 death of Antonio Zambrano-Montes.

Pasco police officers shot and killed the 35-year-old Pasco man as he threw rocks at passing vehicles. An inquest jury found the officers reasonably believed Zambrano-Montes posed a threat. State and federal officials declined to file charges against the officers, who fired 17 times.

We appreciate that people want to support police. It’s not exactly what they’re doing.

Trevor Severance, Washington State Fraternal Order of Police

Trevor Severance, spokesman for the fraternal order, said the initiative to the 2018 Legislature requires training that is already mandatory and has its roots in antipathy over Washington’s “malice” law that makes it difficult to prosecute law enforcement in deadly incidents..

“We appreciate that people want to support police,” Severance said. “It’s not exactly what they’re doing.”

The voter initiative would require that officers be trained on strategies for de-escalating conflict, first aid and working with people with mental health issues within 15 months of being hired. Its chief aim is to establish a new “good faith” standard around law enforcement officers and the use of deadly force.

The initiative, filed with the Washington Secretary of State’s office in May, is being pushed by De-Escalate Washington. A spokeswoman notes it enjoys bipartisan support and has been embraced by some in law enforcement, including the King County sheriff, a challenger and an association of black law enforcement officers.

It’s collaborative. It’s diverse. It’s thoughtful. It’s reasonable. It is in response to what we’ve learned working on this issues over a couple of a year period.

Leslie Cushman, attorney with De-Escalate Washington

“We believe strongly that this supports the police,” said Leslie Cushman, an attorney serving as De-Escalate Washington’s spokeswoman.

Cushman said De-Escalate uses a mix of volunteers and paid signature collectors to gather signatures, which are due by Dec. 29.

She said the group educates those gathering signatures to better explain how the initiative supports law enforcement.

“It’s collaborative. It’s diverse. It’s thoughtful. It’s reasonable. It is in response to what we’ve learned working on this issues over a couple of a year period,” she said.

A Lake Research Group survey of 601 registered Washington voters likely to vote in the 2018 election found 74 percent support the initiative’s goals.

If the Legislature does not enact the law, De-Escalate plans to submit it to voters in 2018.

Wendy Culverwell: 509-582-1514, @WendyCulverwell

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