Olympia, WA – Washington Governor Jay Inslee wants to create a state office specifically convened for investigating police use-of-force incidents.
Inslee proposed establishing the Office of Independent investigations at the behest of a task force he established in the wake of the in-custody deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Manuel Ellis in Tacoma, according to a policy brief released by his office.
“After the deaths of George Floyd and Manuel Ellis earlier this year, the governor created a task force to recommend how the state can be more accountable and improve the way it investigates police use of excessive force,” Inslee’s office said. “These recommendations would ensure that such investigations are fair, thorough and independent.”
The task force “held strong views” regarding police use-of-force investigations, and determined that Washington must establish “a new, independent agency” to look into such cases, according to Inslee’s office.
“Members also agreed that this office must be rooted in an understanding of the country’s deeply embedded institutional racism, the history of racism in policing, and how bias disproportionally impacts and harms people of color,” the governor’s office said.
The task force further urged Inslee to make sure the new office investigates police use-of-force cases “with transparency, accountability, and an anti-racist lens,” according to the policy brief.
Inslee said he will ask for legislation during the 2021 session in order to establish the Office of Independent Investigations within the executive branch of the state’s government, as well as $26 million from the general fund to operate it.
The proposed investigative office is part of the governor’s $365 million “equity policy package” plan, which also includes a fund for illegal immigrants, a new Equity Office, and establishing Juneteenth as a legal holiday, among other budget items, according to a press release.
“We have seen Black, Indigenous and other people of color disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 because of longstanding racial gaps all of which have as a root cause — racism,” Inslee declared. “Now is the time to implement real change that will have a positive impact on the lives of those most impacted by this crisis.”
“I firmly believe Washington will be an anti-racist state, and I will be taking actions that hold our state to that commitment,” he added. “We need our policies and budget to reflect our dedication toward disrupting the harmful systemic cycle of racism and inequity.”