Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

Model Policy

The law requires the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) to develop a model policy on law enforcement use of force and de-escalation tactics consistent with new standards adopted into law. 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.

Model Use of Force Policy:

Best Practices

The AGO also developed Best Practices on key force-related topics:

Best Practices for Use of Force Reporting, Investigation and Review

Best Practices for Use of Force in Crowd Management Incidents

References

Process of Developing the Model Policy

The AGO developed the statewide Model Use of Force Policy following extensive engagement with community stakeholders and law enforcement officers. The AGO reviewed use-of-force policies that have been implemented locally and nationally. Members of the public were invited to provide feedback on a draft of the policy by submitting comments through an online portal or by phone.

Next Steps

By December 1, 2022, Washington law requires all law enforcement agencies to either:

  1. Adopt a use-of-force policy that is consistent with the AGO model policy, and submit that policy to the AGO; or
  2. Submit the agency’s inconsistent use-of-force policy to the AGO along with:
    1. The reasons for departing from the AGO model policy, and
    2. An explanation for how the agency’s policy is consistent with RCW 10.120.020.

The law does not provide the Attorney General’s Office with any authority to compel agencies to adopt a use-of-force policy consistent with the AGO model policy. It is clear the Legislature intended the AGO’s role to be one of facilitating transparency. By December 31, 2022, consistent with the law’s requirements, the AGO will publish to its website a page that includes links to following information in a manner that is accessible to the public:

  1. The AGO model policy;
  2. All law enforcement use-of-force policies, including the agency’s attestations as to whether its policy is consistent with the AGO model policy; and
  3. If necessary, the agency’s explanation for not adopting consistent use-of-force policies, and how its policy complies with the law.

Our priority is that all agencies submit this information to the AGO by December 1, 2022 as required by the statute. We plan to facilitate this process by providing a form that every individual agency can fill out with the relevant information. That form will be sent to law enforcement agencies and uploaded to this website when it is ready, which will be no later than September 1.

For the information that is published on the AGO website by December 31, 2022, the AGO will rely on the agency’s good-faith attestation as to whether its policy is consistent with the AGO model policy, and trust this analysis will be conducted by the head of the agency in consultation with its legal counsel.

The law does not define “consistent” in this context. Agencies should rely on the commonly understood definition. In terms of guidance, the AGO offers the following: a policy need not be identical to the AGO model policy to be consistent with it; however, it should be substantially similar and free from significant deviations.