FILE — Seattle cop homeless camp

Two people comfort each other as they stand near a police line where Seattle Parks and Recreation personnel were working to clear an encampment that was occupied by people lacking housing and their supporters, Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, at Cal Anderson Park in Seattle. 

(The Center Square) – The Washington Legislature has introduced a host of criminal justice bills this session in the wake of the nationwide outcry against police brutality and racism that began last summer.

Less than a year after protests against police brutality in the streets of Seattle and around the state following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, state lawmakers intend to make good on their promises of reining in police misconduct and reforming the state's legal system.

Though the deadline this session to pass bills not passed out of their committee of origin is long past, a bill can still see new life if deemed necessary to balance the state budget. 

Bills must pass out of a series of relevant committees before making it to the House and Senate Rules Committees where they can be put on the floor calendar for a vote. After passing the House and Senate, they must be reconciled into one bill to be signed into law by the governor.

Here are just a few bills this session that may make it to Gov. Jay Inlslee's desk.

Legal representation: 

House Bill 1140: The bill, supported largely by criminal justice advocates of color and divisive for police, would provide and guarantee juveniles access to an attorney when interacting with a police officer. It remains on its second reading in the House Rules Committee.

House Bill 1202: The legislation would lower the legal barrier for suing a police officer and their departments for excessive force and other misconduct whether they were acting in or outside their duties. The bill is on its second reading in the House Rules Committee.

House Bill 1219: By 2027, the bill would have all Washington counties appoint general legal counsel for children in dependency proceedings. It awaits action by the House Rules Committee. 

Right of assembly:

House Bill 1283: The legislation would ban gatherings of three or more people from brandishing or displaying guns or other weapons with the intent to intimidate others. The bill, written in response to incidents at the state capitol in Olympia, awaits action by the House Rules Committee.

Senate Bill 5059: The bill would raise the act of defacing or vandalizing a public monument as has been seen en masse in Seattle and Portland over the summer to a gross misdemeanor. The bill is on its second reading in the House Rules Committee.

Police oversight:

Senate Bill 5259: The bill would require the state attorney general's office to contract a higher education institution to set up a comprehensive database of use of force by law enforcement in April 2022. The bill passed the Senate on Monday.

House Bill 1262: HB 1262 would substitute or compliment polygraph tests for prospective officers with an "eye-based truth verification test" analyzing candidates' eye movements and fixations to assess honesty. It would also have candidates cover the cost of such tests up to $400. It remains on its second reading in the House Rules Committee.

House Bill 1203: Backed by Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County, the bill would have every city and county with more than 10 officers create a police oversight board by 2025 to receive complaints, conduct investigations of misconduct, and issue findings as well as recommendations. Boards would ban officers and their relatives from serving and their funding must equal 5% of local law enforcement spending. Passed out of committee last month, the bill now awaits action by the House Rules Committee.

Senate Bill 1088: The legislation would have the state create a public database compiling records of officer misconduct, which it would take into account when considering new hires and department transfers. The bill passed the House on Saturday and will move on to the Senate in the coming weeks.

Use of force:

House Bill 1310: The legislation would require use of force as a last resort for police officers and mandates training on deescalation tactics in place of physical responses. It currently sits in the House Rules Committee.

House Bill 1054: The bill would ban officers from using military-style weapons, tear gas, and neck restraints, among other equipment and tactics used by Washington police during last summer's protests against police brutality and racism. It passed the House over the weekend and awaits action in the Senate.

House Bill 1394: The bill would make it a class A felony to "maliciously" discharge a laser at a person with penalties including up to five years imprisonment. It has yet to see action in the House Public Safety Committee.


House Bill 1293: HB 1293 would require judges to revise or reduce charges against survivors of domestic violence convicted in crimes against their abuser or other people on the basis their mental health contributed to their behavior. It has yet to see action in the House Public Safety Commission.

Senate Bill 5180: The bill would permit the courts to vacate charges for survivors of sex trafficking who are not accused of a crime other than prostitution or have faced no felony charges three to 10 years prior to their current offense. The bill was sent to the Senate Public Safety Committee last week.

House Bill 1282: The bill would modify earned release time for prisoners to as much as one-third of the sentence for qualifying crimes and bans sentencing enhancements for possession of a firearm, deadly weapon, and impaired driving. It'd also apply changes prospectively and retroactively, and would require the Department of Corrections to recalculate earned release dates for those currently incarcerated. The bill made it to the Appropriations Committee.

Staff Reporter

Tim Gruver is a politics and public policy reporter. He is a University of Washington alum and the recipient of the 2017 Pioneer News Award for Reporting. His work has appeared in Politico, the Kitsap Daily News, and the Northwest Asian Weekly.