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Washington attorney general calls for mandatory reporting of police deadly force

Washington does not currently require law enforcement agencies to report or track deadly use-of-force incidents

OLYMPIA, Wash. — State Attorney General Bob Ferguson is calling for legislation that would require law enforcement agencies in Washington to track and report uses-of-force.

Ferguson’s office released a report Tuesday proposing that law enforcement agencies collect data, including the date and location of the incident, the type of force used, the demographics of the officer and citizen, and any weapons involved.

 “If you have a use of deadly force by law enforcement, they absolutely must report that,” Ferguson said. “I think it will help lead to greater transparency and more confidence in the system.”

Ferguson said the state would make the data available through a searchable public portal.

Currently, there is no law requiring the collection of use-of-force data in Washington, and Ferguson said only 10% of the state’s law enforcement agencies voluntarily offer the information.

Previous attempts at passing similar legislation have stalled, but Ferguson said he was hopeful that this time would be different.

“We’re in a different time than we have been in the past,” he said.

In the past month, there has been a national reckoning on race and police accountability in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.

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“It’s in front of everybody right now, and I believe there’s greater awareness to the public,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson said he was “optimistic” legislation would pass, but said his recommendations would have to be one piece of a larger effort geared toward law enforcement reform.

“I think what's going to be important is once this information becomes available, once it's mandatory to report it, that may engender a whole review of use-of-force in our state.”

Ferguson also addressed calls by the family of Manuel Ellis, the Tacoma man killed in police custody March 3, for the establishment of an independent agency to investigate police misconduct cases.

“If you’re going to do it that way, that entity needs an awful of resources,” he said. “I’m open to changes. I have an open mind about it, but it would take a significant investment.”

Ferguson said he is currently focused on ensuring that law enforcement agencies are in compliance with Initiative 940, the voter-approved measure that requires “completely independent” investigations into police uses-of-force.

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