On Monday afternoon, by an overwhelmingly bipartisan 46-2 vote, state senators passed a bill Attorney General Bob Ferguson requested to create a database of police use-of-force incidents so the public, policymakers, researchers and law enforcement can access the data. Currently in Washington state, there is no central repository for use-of-force data.
State Sen. T’wina Nobles, D-Fircrest, sponsored the bill. Rep. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, has a similar bill in the state House of Representatives. The legislation builds on a report to the Legislature that Ferguson released in June 2020 recommending that the state create a centralized, publicly accessible website with information about these incidents.
The bill requires agencies to collect and report key data regarding the incident, including the demographic characteristics of the officers and the members of the public. The database of information the bill creates will contain clear, comprehensive and contextual information to help the public better visualize interactions using force between law enforcement and the public. A centralized, online and publicly accessible database will assist law enforcement, academics and policymakers.
The database will help enact equitable policies, begin to build trust through transparency and measure the effectiveness of policing reform strategies.
“The public expects and deserves access to this information,” Ferguson said. “A broad coalition is supporting this legislation. This common-sense, bipartisan reform is long overdue.”
“We have an opportunity to increase transparency and build trust by providing public access to information about the use of force,” Sen. Nobles said. “This can help us develop vital collaborative solutions to reduce crime and assess the effectiveness of training and of the many reforms that the Legislature has been working on this session.”
If signed into law, the bill would require:
- Law enforcement agencies to report data resulting from an officer’s use of force against a member of the public on a quarterly basis;
- A Washington state institution of higher education to receive use of force data;
- An easily searchable, public facing website to display that data, updated on a quarterly basis; and
- An objective summary report that will go to the Legislature on an annual basis.