Washington would take a major step to address a lack of data that has hampered law enforcement efforts to reduce violent deaths across the state, if legislation heard today is passed.

Sen. Yasmin Trudeau (D-Tacoma) filed a bill that would dramatically improve data collection on violent deaths statewide by creating a new Violence and Death Investigation Resource Center and a Criminal Justice Integrated Data System.

SB 5776 would establish a Death Investigation Resource Center, to be housed in the state Department of Health and run by a forensic pathologist. The Center would coordinate the work of local medical examiners and coroners around the state. In addition to establishing best practices and providing resources such as training, it would collect data that would allow a systematic and coherent statewide approach to trends in causes of death—both violent and nonviolent—in order to inform prevention efforts.

“Good policy has to be built on good data,” said Trudeau, vice chair of the Senate Law & Justice Committee and former policy director for the Washington State Attorney General’s Office. “For too long, our state has simply not had the information we need to effectively treat violent death as the public health problem it is. These bills will change that.”

The bill would also create a centralized repository of data on domestic violence and violent death, housed at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center. Centralizing this data, currently held by justice agencies around the state, including courts, law enforcement, corrections, and prosecutors, would create linkages between legal and public health agencies that will enable a public health response to violence.

“We know that domestic violence is a bellwether for violent crime of all kinds,” said Sen. Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond), chair of the Senate Law & Justice Committee. “We know from individual county data that as much as a quarter of homicide and attempted homicide offenders have a prior domestic violence conviction. This bill would allow us to track this kind of predictive data on a state level.”

This bill would build on the progress made in the 2021 session through HB 1326 to formalize and professionalize death investigations in medical examiners’ and coroners’ offices around the state.

After its hearing in the Senate Law & Justice Committee today, SB 5776 has until Feb. 3 to be passed from committee.