OLYMPIA, Washington - Washington state lawmakers are considering a measure that would allow victims of excessive police force to sue officers for damages.
A number of bills this legislative session aim to hold police officers more accountable for their actions.
Police-accountability measures are a major theme in Washington state's legislative session this year. Among a host of proposals is House Bill 1202, which would allow people harmed by police officers to bring civil lawsuits against them for damages. Nickeia Hunter's brother was killed by Vancouver Police nearly two years ago. She says the officers involved were never held accountable.
No one ever contacted our family. No one ever called our father and said that they took his son, that there may even be an incident where Carlos could have been hurt. We were never treated like humans. We were never treated with respect."
The bill also would allow victims of excessive force to sue police departments. It authorizes the attorney general to investigate and charge repeat offending officers, as well. Critics of the proposal say officers already are held to a high standard on the job, and this and other measures targeting police could undermine their ability to prevent violence from escalating.
The A-C-L-U of Washington is supporting police-reform measures alongside the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability. Enoka Herat with the A-C-L-U believes the lack of accountability sends a signal that officers are immune, sowing a sense of distrust in communities.
"If they are not being held accountable, then what ends up happening is that victims and families have to suffer, and we're trying to shift that and make it so that victims are compensated when they're harmed by our government actors."
Hunter has been leading calls to reform police since her brother was killed, and she's joined up with other victims' families to push for changes in Olympia.
It is not okay, and we stand together and say, 'We will not continue allowing this to happen,' no matter how long the fight."
H-B 1202 is in the House Rules Committee. Lawmakers also are considering legislation that would ban police from using chokeholds, require officers to intervene if a colleague is using excessive force, and allow the state to revoke or suspend an officer's license for misconduct.
Source: Washington News Service