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Cop on I-940 passing: Officers will be served on a platter for prosecution

Early voting results indicate that I-940 is leading by a margin of 59 percent to 41 percent. With police precincts already dealing with recruitment and retainment issues, Seattle Officer Mike Solan is concerned that now this will only get worse, as well as risk the safety of officers and the community they’re trying to protect.

“We appreciate everyone who supports police officers across this state, and we feel like 940 will cause major public safety concerns in our communities,” said Solan, president of the Council of Metropolitan Police and Sheriffs and the campaign manager for the Coalition for a Safer Washington. “The proponents of 940 want to see political prosecutions of police officers.”

Currently, an officer cannot be convicted of a crime for using deadly force if it was done in good faith, and without “evil intent.” With I-940 passing, it would become much easier to prosecute cops for use of deadly force, allowing juries to decide whether the cop acted in good faith and what the reasonable response would be.

Solan believes the likely passing is a result of special interest money on the opposing side, with billionaires pumping thousands into the campaign.

“The reality is that cops just don’t have that kind of funding,” he said. “Though we led a respectable fight, the bottom line is that we couldn’t beat that narrative they were pushing out, even if it was based on false pretenses.”

RELATED: Early results show police reform legislation I-940 leading

Known as the law enforcement training and community safety act, the initiative would require training in de-escalation tactics and mental health, as well as create the aforementioned independent investigation into the use of deadly force.

With the loss, Solan is hoping to get a fix in Olympia with a two-thirds vote to amend 940, and potentially reach some sort of compromise with all the involved stakeholders. He also sees the initiative as fundamentally, legally flawed and may opt for a legal challenge.

What I-940 will mean for officers

But if there isn’t a compromise or an amendment of any sort, what will I-940 mean for police officers?

“The community suffers. This initiative was authored in a manner that has no clue as to what it takes to properly protect citizens of this state,” Solan said. “It means officers will hesitate, it means officers are going to need to have political and legal survival. They don’t want to be stripped of their liberty for making that human, split-second decision, they don’t want to be second-guessed.”

“But that’s going to be a reality if this thing goes south. That officer is going to be served up on a platter for political prosecution.”

Solan says the passing will worsen officer recruitment, and push those already on the fence to perhaps consider another line of work.

“People in law enforcement are wondering, ‘Is this job worth my liberty, worth being stripped of my family, and being financially ruined?'”

Of concern especially is what he sees as the political targeting of police officers in multiple forms, which will have a ripple effect on safety across the state and make it harder and harder for officers to do their jobs.

“The authors of 940 are the same people behind the King County inquest process change, the same people trying to block the Seattle Police Officers Guild contract, and the same people behind budget for justice, which is trying to strip probation funds from the Seattle Municipal Court, completely nullifying probation in general,” Solan said.

“It shows you that these people have an endgame that not only impacts the Seattle area, but across the region and the state. And these people are unelected, and yet the amount of influence they have with public officials is profound. It’s a serious concern.”

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