The below is a joint press release issued by the cities of Auburn, Federal Way, Kent, and Renton. Though the Auburn Examiner has knowledge of this matter, there has been no independent verification of the contents of this press release. We encourage our readers to personally verify any information they find may be overly biased or questionable.
The Auburn Examiner will continue to review all legal documents to provide coverage independent of the press releases issued in this matter.
South King County, WA – The Cities of Auburn, Federal Way, Kent, and Renton are moving forward with legal action against King County. The Cities believe that King County Executive Dow Constantine has overstepped the authority granted to him by state law by attempting to create new rules for the King County Coroner’s Inquest process. Constantine has created a contest between the deceased’s family and the police officers involved rather than focusing on fact-finding.
The purpose of the inquest process is to obtain an objective, nonpartisan, non-politically motivated, and independent opinion as to the cause of death and the circumstances surrounding the death.
The new rules implemented by the County Executive violate Washington Supreme Court precedent on impartiality and appearance of fairness.
“It is unfortunate that Executive Constantine has chosen to portray the intent of our cities in this light. In truth, we believe that his executive overreach jeopardizes a full and transparent process for the public, cities and families involved and as such, we will fight its implementation,” said Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus.
“We believe police accountability is more important now than ever, but the inquest process is an imperfect tool for this, and the new rules are unfair. We believe it is unconstitutional,” Mayor Jim Ferrell of Federal Way added. “Our four King County cities represent 400,000 people in King County – one-third of the entire county population. We have every right to have these matters addressed in a court of law,” he said.
“King County’s use of the process has evolved into a confrontational hearing, like a civil or criminal trial, aimed at criticizing or defending a police officer’s decision to use force using partisan hired experts,” Mayor Ferrell concluded.
“The purpose of an inquest is to provide accountability and answers. If we are going to be transparent with all parties, we need fair, impartial, factual investigations to occur. This isn’t something to take lightly or play games with. The County Executive has pushed the envelope too far in trying to politicize a tragic situation. If a member of our community dies as a result of an interaction with law enforcement, I don’t want politics – I want answers. The only way to get those answers is from a fair investigation and process,” said Kent Mayor Dana Ralph.
The Mayors are urging the County Executive to restore an inquest process that is fair, transparent, just and legally acceptable within his authority.