A contentious bill that passed the state Senate late Thursday could transform Washington’s police oversight agency into a formidable instrument for police accountability. While other reform efforts in Olympia focus on high-profile police tactics, such as prohibiting chokeholds and neck restraints, this bill takes aim at a more obscure but powerful aspect of police policy: decertification. Under the bill, the Washington state Criminal Justice Training Commission, or CJTC, would greatly expand its capability to investigate police misconduct and revoke or suspend a police officer’s license.
The state agency’s ability to decertify — to take away a troubled officer’s gun and badge for good — has been hamstrung for years, a Seattle Times investigation last year found. The circumstances for decertification are so narrow, and the agency’s enforcement arm so understaffed, that the state hardly ever takes action. Washington has never decertified an officer for using excessive force. The bill would overhaul the state’s decertification law, which hasn’t been significantly changed since it was passed in 2001. It now heads to the state House for consideration. (AP)