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Police Accountability Activist Reflects On Recent State Legislative Victory

Elaine Thompson
In this March 2017 file photo, Andre Taylor speaks to reporters at the King County courthouse after prosecutors announced that they would not pursue criminal charges against the Seattle Police officers who shot his brother, Che Taylor, in 2016.

As the legislative session came to a close last week, state lawmakers passed a bill to make it easier to prosecute police officers who use deadly force and require more officer training.

The bill was an initiative to the legislature, Initiative 940. The last-minute compromise means voters won't see I-940 on the ballot in November.

Andre Taylor is one of the activists who spearheaded the initiative. He began working on police accountability issues in Washington after his brother, Che Taylor, was shot and killed by Seattle Police in 2016. 

Andre Taylor reflected on the victory with Seattle Times reporters Jim Brunner and Dan Beekman. The conversation above is an excerpt from The Overcast, the Seattle Times politics podcast recorded at KNKX.

Interview Highlights

On the 1986 law: "So the law before 1986 was that an officer could actually shoot a fleeing felon in the back. And so the Supreme Court said, 'You cannot do that,' which is why this law was changed in the first place to the 'malice' clause. So that was supposed to be an improvement. Now there's a de facto immunity that prevented anything outside of proven malice first. So whatever the conditions or circumstances around the case, you couldn't get to that."

On Che Taylor, his brother: "I've had people say, 'Why would you use your brother as the poster child when he has a criminal background that he's done 20 years in prison,' and yadda yadda yadda. And I wasn't thinking about a poster child for anything. It was my brother, and I loved him. And regardless of what he did, everybody has a right to justice. We can't just be going out there and saying because you have a criminal [record] -- I have a criminal record. I have a criminal past. And everybody that has a criminal past, automatically there's no question if you kill them?"

On what changed between the initiative and compromise bill: "One of the things that law enforcement, when they came to the table, was able to provide was some clarity on certain things like, 'An officer's paramount duty is to save lives.' So they asked us, well can we shift that? And we said why? They said because it gives an indication that our job is to help someone else before we help ourselves. In other words, their 'paramount' duty is to do that without any care to their own safety or whatever. We understood that. So we put their 'solemn' duty. Yeah, ok, we can work with that."

You can find The Overcast on iTunes, SoundCloud, Tunein, Stitcher and Google Play.

A Seattle native and former KNKX intern, Simone Alicea spent four years as a producer and reporter at KNKX. She earned her Bachelor's of Journalism from Northwestern University and covered breaking news for the Chicago Sun-Times. During her undergraduate career, she spent time in Cape Town, South Africa, covering metro news for the Cape Times.