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Passion, Pain Drive Police Accountability Initiative in WA

The campaign for Initiative 940 has gathered more than 300,000 signatures. (De-Escalate Washington)
The campaign for Initiative 940 has gathered more than 300,000 signatures. (De-Escalate Washington)
December 13, 2017

SEATTLE – Andre Taylor moved back to his hometown the day after he heard his younger brother, Che Taylor, a 46-year-old African-American man, had been shot and killed by two white Seattle police officers.

Since that day in February 2016, Andre Taylor has been on a mission, becoming a leader in the effort to hold police officers accountable and protect communities of color.

When Taylor spoke to the Seattle chief of police a few days after his brother's killing, he says he was thinking about a path forward.

"I can't bring my brother back, but I can fight to make sure that other families are not affected by some of these same ills that we face today," he states.

Through Initiative 940, also known as De-Escalate Washington, Taylor and its supporters think they've found the right path.

I-940 would mandate de-escalation training for officers, and change wording in the state's deadly force law to ensure that police are accountable on the job.

With more than 300,000 signatures and two weeks left to circulate petitions, the initiative is likely heading for the 2018 legislative session for lawmakers' consideration.

Taylor also founded the organization Not This Time. That group has been at the forefront of finding justice for the families of people killed by police.

Taylor says it's also become a support group of sorts.

"This is a group you don't want to be a part of, but if you have to be a part of, then at least you can have somebody to come and help you, and support you, and somebody that knows exactly what you're going through, hold your hand through it, and help you grieve through that process,” he states. “At the end of the day, this initiative is about families."

Tim Reynon, a Puyallup Tribe member, joined the De-Escalate Washington campaign after fellow tribal member Jacqueline Salyers was killed by Tacoma police in January.

Reynon says confidence in law enforcement erodes after such incidents. It's led him and other tribal members to speak to their children about staying safe.

"They have 'the talk' and the talk here is, 'When you're confronted by a police officer, you do whatever is necessary to cooperate and make sure you make it home safely,'" he explains.

But Reynon emphasizes that he isn't talking about all police officers and doesn't want people to see this as an anti-police measure. He says the goal of I-940 is greater cooperation.

"We want to bring the communities and law enforcement, and our political leaders – the lawmakers – together, to put together the best solution to this issue," he stresses.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA