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Rantz: I-940 is absolutely anti-cop

Seattle police investigate following an officer-involved shooting in the Ravenna neighborhood Monday morning, Feb. 19, 2018. (KIRO 7)

Soon, you’ll be asked to pick sides. Will you side with police and an understanding that what they do is incredibly difficult and heroic, or will you side with activists who view cops negatively and believe what they do is racist and bad for communities?

Families fighting for change in Washington law

I’ll be siding with cops and voting against Initiative 940.

The initiative, which will likely go to voters, is championed by a group called De-Escalate Washington and would make it easier to prosecute cops for alleged misuse of deadly force.

Unfortunately, the culture around policing in this state and country has become so politicized the only way to talk about an initiative like this is to frame it around whether or not you think cops are good or evil.

As The Seattle Times puts it, “Right now, an officer can’t be convicted of a crime for using deadly force if he or she acted in good faith and without malice, or what the law calls ‘evil intent.'”

The claim is that the initiative makes it nearly impossible for prosecutors to bring criminal charges against an officer. The Times points to a report done in 2015, where it reported between 2005 and 2015, 213 people were killed by police, and only one was charged. And the inference is, of course, that the number is too low — that of 213 killed over the course of 10 years (21 a year), it’s troubling that only one officer was charged.

Now, if you don’t automatically assume guilt, you should ask of the 213 killed, how many of the officers should have been charged? Proponents of I-940 seem to infer that a majority of them should have been. Certainly, more than one.

But when you look into the data, it’s not so cut and dry, especially because the vast majority of those shot and killed had weapons on them; only 16 percent didn’t. So when you get the context, the narrative changes a bit, doesn’t it?

Is it too hard to charge an officer? Maybe. But I’d rather it be too hard to go after a bad cop than too easy to go after a good one. There are way more good cops than bad cops. I’m certainly willing to figure out a more just way to punish the bad apples — they deserve severe punishment. But I-940 does not offer a just solution.

Police officer training

Some claim this bill is simply about training. Cynthia Softli, president of the Black Law Enforcement Association of Washington, claimed “this is not about police bashing … this is about training.”

On the contrary. If this proposal goes into law, the threshold in charging a cop would consider: “what a ‘reasonable officer’ might have done under the circumstances. It would also take into account an officer’s intentions to determine if she or he acted in good faith.”

The latter part sounds like what we have now, but who defines what’s reasonable? An anti-cop Seattle jury? If you want to pass a bill about training, then do that without making it easier to charge officers. That’s what this is about.

Andre Taylor, the brother of Che Taylor, chairs the group that wants this bill. Che Taylor was a felon, who committed rape, robbery and assault — and was shot by officers after he tried to pull a gun on them. As a result of this shooting, at least in part, Andre Taylor said, “Officers are trained to shoot and kill, especially if it’s a black male and they have no regard for life.”

Should we make it easier for those officers to be charged with murder because the brother of a criminal thinks cops are bad? The officers, by the way, were cleared of wrongdoing.

Charleena Lyles was shot by cops after she lured them into her apartment with a phony robbery call, waited until they were close before pulling a knife on them with, presumably, the intent to kill or seriously injure. Consequently, the officers shot and killed her. After the incident, Seattle City Councilmembers attended a town hall where many in the community made absolutely unhinged statements.

“And these cops are dirty, they’re treacherous and they’re killers,” said one woman in attendance. “And they’re joining the police force to kill our people and I’m tired of it.”

Should we make it easier for people like that to throw an innocent officer in jail? And, again, the officers were cleared of any wrongdoing.

We have the audacity to ask heroes to run towards danger, when we run away from it, then tell them we’ll make it easier to throw you in jail if an anti-cop jury didn’t find your conduct reasonable? Are you okay with that?

I’m not, which is why, if I’m given the chance, I’ll vote no on I-940.

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