Bill Creating Office of Independent Investigation for Police Deadly Uses of Force Passes Legislature

OLYMPIA – The Washington House of Representatives concurred with Senate amendments to House Bill 1267, which would establish an Office of Independent Investigation for police deadly uses of force, by a vote of 56-41. Sponsored by Rep. Debra Entenman (D-Kent), the bill was requested by Gov. 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 of 2020 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. The Governor’s Task Force was composed of 23 members from communities across the state included representatives from communities disproportionately impacted by police violence and active duty law enforcement officers.

“I want to thank all the members of the task force, the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability, community members, and the Governor’s office for their tireless work in getting this bill to the Governor’s desk,” said Entenman. “The new Office of Independent Investigation will help our state rebuild the trust between law enforcement and communities of color by ensuring that there is true accountability for unnecessary police violence. It is simple, we cannot have police investigating police.”

The newly formed Office of Independent Investigation will be housed in the Governor’s office. It will consist of regional teams that can respond to a deadly use of force within one hour to secure the scene and process evidence. Staff at the new agency will be trained in the history of racism in policing, tribal sovereignty, implicit and explicit bias, intercultural competency, a racial equity lens, anti-racism, and undoing institutional racism. The agency will also have a focus on communicating with the family of the person killed and the community.

“Creating an Office of Independent Investigation is a major step towards rebuilding trust between law enforcement and communities most impacted by police violence,” said Rep. David Hackney (D-Seattle), the original co-sponsor of the bill. “We have seen again and again that investigations of police deadly uses of force are not thorough or independent. We must have true accountability for unnecessary police violence if we want to create a public safety system that protects everyone. The Office of Independent Investigation will ensure comprehensive investigations conducted by highly trained investigators independent of law enforcement.”

The bill passed the Senate on April 9 with a vote of 27-22. It originally passed the House of Representatives on March 3 with a vote of 57-39. The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk for his signature.