With an overwhelming bipartisan 46-2 vote, the state Legislature today took a final vote on 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.
Sen. T’wina Nobles, D-Fircrest, sponsored the bill, Senate bill 5259. 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 passed the Senate in March on a 46-2 vote. It passed the House on April 6 on a 97-1 vote, but with amendments. The Senate’s vote today confirmed those amendments. The measure will now go to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature.
“I appreciate the dedication of the broad coalition who helped get this bill through the legislature,” Ferguson said. “Legislators on both sides of the aisle collaborated with law enforcement and community groups to create this necessary legislation. This common sense, bipartisan reform is long overdue.”
“Washington State has no single source where the public can get information about uses of force, let alone other types of interactions between community and law enforcement,” Nobles said. “Specifically, communities of color face disproportionately negative outcomes from interactions with law enforcement; however, without data, it is impossible to comprehensively track and address. The data captured by Senate Bill 5259 will enable better allocation of resources, and more effective assessment of current police reform strategies. What’s more, by collecting and reporting such data, we have a critical opportunity to build community trust through transparency.”
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. Law enforcement unions and groups, like the Fraternal Order of Police, Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs and Trooper’s Association, supported the bill throughout the legislative session along with community organizations like the Coalition for Police Accountability, Equal Rights Washington and the Latino Civic Alliance.
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;
- A Washington state institution of higher education to receive use of force data;
- An easily searchable, public facing website to display that data; and
- An objective summary report that will go to the Legislature on a semi-annual basis.