Families directly affected by police-involved shootings stood together Thursday on the steps of Seattle City Hall to support an initiative to boost de-escalation training for law enforcement statewide.
“This family of victims keeps growing and growing and growing,” said Lisa Earl, whose pregnant daughter, Puyallup tribal member Jacqueline Salyers, was fatally shot by Tacoma police in 2016. “I don’t want this circle to build. This is not the kind of circle you want to be in.”
De-Escalate Washington, a coalition dedicated to reform state-wide policing standards, launched the signature gathering campaign for Initiative 940 Thursday morning. The initiative calls for policy reform so that all law enforcement officers in the state of Washington receive continuous violence de-escalation training.
I-940 aims to increase law enforcement officers’ conflict resolution skills without the use of physical or deadly force. Training requirements would be set in consultation with law enforcement agencies and community stakeholders.
The initiative also would outline standards for “good faith” justifications in cases of deadly force. A core aspect of I-940 is the requirement to render first aid, as speakers at the gathering emphasized.
Earl and others took turns telling their stories and experiences, while allies gathered behind the families, some holding signs or wearing shirts with the images of those deceased.
Tim Reynon, vice-chair of De-Escalate WA and member of the Puyallup tribe, says the campaign is about making communities safer.
“I have a personal stake in this issue as the father of three young Native American boys. Native Americans make up a very small part of our population, yet there are the group that is most likely to be killed by police officers. I want to make our community safer for my kids and for all of our children.”
Marilyn Covarrubias, mother of Daniel Covarrubias who was killed by Lakewood Police in 2015, says the time to act is now.
“We are more awake to the problems of today than ever and now pushing back. … Washington must be the example for our country.”
So far this year, more than 500 people nationwide have been killed by the police, according to a tally by the Washington Post. Two of them occurred locally just last month — Charleena Lyles, who was pregnant, in Seattle and Tommy Le in Burien.
De-Escalate WA policy chair Leslie Cushman said I-940 also directly calls for the involvement of communities who often are excluded from policy decisions and recognizes the historic relationship between race and policing and bias in policing.
“As you read the initiative, think about real people who have real encounters with police,” Cushman said
“Every part of the initiative reflects what we have learned over the last few years,” Cushman added. “This initiative will change police practices, it will change communities, and it will save lives.”
Washington already mandates eight hours of Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) for police officers, but Andre Taylor, brother of Che Taylor and organizer of Not This Time said it’s not enough. Officers need continual training so that de-escalation strategies become second nature.
De-Escalate WA needs 350,000 signatures by the end of 2017 to have a space on the ballot in November 2018.