In Three Decades, No WA Officer Convicted In A Deadly Force Case

Killings by police in the line of duty have surged in Washington state over the past decade, but only one police officer has been criminally charged with the illegal use of deadly force on the job, the Seattle Times reports. That case is the only one to be brought in the three decades since Washington enacted the nation's most restrictive law on holding officers accountable for the unjustified use of deadly force. In 1986, the legislature decided police officers shouldn't be prosecuted for killing someone in the line of duty as long as they acted in good faith and without malice, or what the law calls “evil intent.” King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg says, “This almost perfect defense to a mistaken use of force has kept police officers out of court as defendants.”

The Times analyzed 213 fatal police encounters from 2005 to 2014. Although the vast majority of the cases were deemed legally justified, others were controversial. With the malice and good faith requirements, it was nearly impossible for prosecutors to bring criminal charges even if they concluded that an officer committed a wrongful killing. The Times also determined that a 10 percent of the 213 deaths were African Americans, far above their 3.6 percent share of the population. The one officer who faced criminal charges was acquitted.

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