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Rules for de-escalation training for Washington law enforcement to be adopted this week

Seattle police officers observe the crowd during May Day 2018.
Parker Miles Blohm
Seattle police officers observe the crowd during May Day 2018.

This week, Washington’s Criminal Justice Training Commission will vote on rules for de-escalation training for law enforcement in the state. Under voter-approved Initiative 940, passed last year, all law enforcement must receive new training in violence de-escalation, mental health and first aid for victims.

The commissioners that oversee training of police have been meeting since the beginning of this year to craft the rules, which they will vote on Thursday. They’ve heard from community members who have talked about what they want the training to cover.

At a meeting in Spokane on May 23, people testifying talked about the importance of including discussions of implicit and explicit bias against communities of color. They also said police should be taught about institutional racism, and how that plays out in policing today.

Bob Alexander had a request of the commission. “I think it’s very important that a person of color is included in the training,” he said.

Alexander said that's because "the law was passed mostly because of the way African Americans were being harmed by police."

Kurtis Robinson, president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP, expressed disappointment that the commission wasn't requiring community groups to have an ongoing role in training oversight.

"For us, this points to the still-evident resistance to true, in-depth change in some of these areas and these areas that impact most of those you’re supposed to serve," said Robinson.

The de-escalation rules will be voted on by the Washington Criminal Justice Training Commission on Thursday. Once the rules for de-escalation training are approved, the commission will begin work on guidelines for police to provide first aid to victims, and for independent investigations of deadly force. Those rules are due on Dec. 6.

At the May 23 meeting, Sue Rahr, commission executive director, said the commission will launch a new website July 1. She apologized to the public for the current site, which she said was "horrible" and difficult to navigate for people wanting to give input on the training rules. 

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.