OLYMPIA — Friday, July 1, the Washington Attorney General’s Office issued a model use-of-force policy as a resource for Washington law enforcement agencies.
The Legislature directed the Attorney General’s Office to issue the model policy by July 1. By Dec. 1, Washington law enforcement agencies must adopt a consistent model policy or adopt their own policy consistent with the law’s standards.
The policy is intended to promote safety for peace officers and the public by ensuring that officers use reasonable care when determining whether to use physical force or deadly force and when using that force.
To that end, officers are required to use all available and appropriate de-escalation tactics prior to using physical force when possible, use the least amount of physical force necessary to overcome resistance under the circumstances, and terminate the physical force as soon as the necessity for it ends. In developing the policy, the Attorney General’s Office solicited, received, and utilized feedback from state and local law enforcement agencies and leaders, the Criminal Justice Training Commission, and a large group of community organizations from across the state.
“This model policy is an important resource for law enforcement agencies,” Ferguson said. “Officers perform a difficult, important job: helping keep the public safe. The improper use of force erodes community trust and reduces community safety. Adoption of this policy, and subsequent compliance with this policy, will help officers preserve and protect human life, and uphold the dignity of every person in our state.”
Additionally, today the Attorney General’s Office issued Best Practices documents for two use-of-force-related topics: Reporting, Investigating and Review of Force as well as Crowd Management.
Use-of-force policies are rules governing when law enforcement may use physical force as well as the type and amount of force used. The proper use of force is essential for ensuring impartial policing and for building trust in the community. Agencies generally enforce their use-of-force policies through administrative discipline. Officers who violated their agency’s use-of-force policy are subject to administrative penalties.
In 2021, the Legislature passed several bills addressing officers’ use of force, including House Bill 1310. One provision of that law required the Attorney General’s Office to develop model use-of-force policies by July 1, 2022. By Dec. 1, agencies must adopt the model policy or a policy consistent with the model policy, or provide notice to the Attorney General’s Office stating the reason for any departure from the model policy and an explanation for how the agency’s policies are consistent with HB 1310.
By Dec. 31, the Attorney General’s Office must publish on its website whether agencies adopted use-of-force policies consistent with the model policy, or whether they departed from the model policies and their reasons for departure. The website must also include copies of agencies’ policies.
Consistent with the legislative directive, the model use-of-force policy applies to all peace officers in Washington, but does not apply to corrections officers — aside from those working in the community — or other employees of jails, correctional or detention facilities.