Last Friday, Rep. Debra Entenman (D-Kent) introduced legislation to mandate the independent investigation of deadly uses of force, custodial deaths, and other officer-involved incidents. The legislation was requested by Governor Jay Inslee and is based on recommendations made by the Governor’s Task Force on Independent Investigations of Police Use of Force. The Task Force was created in June following the disclosure that the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office had conducted the investigation into the death of Manuel Ellis despite the fact that one of their deputies was on scene. This was a clear violation of Initiative 940 which banned law enforcement agencies from investigating their own officers.
“Unnecessary police violence and a complete lack of accountability for that violence has eroded the community’s trust in law enforcement,” said Entenman. “When entire communities do not trust those with the state sanctioned power of life and death over them, public safety is imperiled. By creating a new independent agency to investigate police killings, we can begin to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the community.”
The Governor’s Task Force was composed of 23 members from communities across the state. The Task Force met 12 times over six months and recommended the creation of an independent agency tasked solely with investigating police uses of deadly force and other in custody deaths. HB 1267, co-sponsored by Rep. David Hackney (D-Seattle) and 33 other members, calls for the creation of that agency under the office of the Governor. The agency would create regional teams that could respond to a deadly use of force within one hour to secure the scene and process evidence. After a transition period, current and former law enforcement officers would be prohibited from serving with the agency so that if can remain free from bias.
“When police investigate their peers for wrongdoing, there’s an unfortunate mistrust from many community members,” said Hackney. “At times, the conclusion of these investigations leaves the victim or the victim’s family with significant questions about the incident. The Office of Internal Investigations will bring a neutral, objective perspective to the examination of police brutality, resulting in not just public confidence, but also, most importantly, accountability.”
HB 1267 will be heard in the House Public Safety Committee on Tuesday, January 26 at 8:00 AM. You can watch the hearing live at www.TVW.org.