Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced on Tuesday that he has selected an 11-member group to oversee the newly created state police department with powers to independently investigate lethal law enforcement cases.
Among the candidates selected by Inslee to serve on the advisory board of the new Office of Independent Investigations (OII) are Monica Alexander, newly appointed executive director of the Washington Commission on Criminal Justice Education, a retired captain and former spokesman for the Washington State Patrol; and Monisha Harrell, LGBTQ activist, chairman of the equal rights organization in Washington, campaign manager and niece of Seattle’s mayor-elect Bruce Harrell.
The OII Advisory Board is mandated to provide information and advice to the future Office Director regarding its establishment and operations. The office director has not yet been appointed. Inslee’s office said on Tuesday that a national search for candidates for the role is underway.
According to a statement posted by Inslee on the governor’s website, the office’s goal is “to provide communities, families, individuals and law enforcement agencies with the confidence that their cases are handled and dealt with impartially.”
Alexander, a member elected to represent the police profession, and Harrell, a member of the general public, were joined by nine other members appointed to represent various stakeholders from across Washington, such as police, prosecutors, lawyers, and citizens, including family members. killed by the police.
Others nominated to the board of directors include Brian Breggs, defense attorney and president of the Spokane City Council; Eric Drever, Tukwila Police Chief; Norma Gallegos, Leavenworth Immigration Coordinator; Anthony Golick, Clark County Attorney; and Philip Harju, tribal attorney of the Cowlitz Indian tribe.
Other elected members include Susie Kroll, a mental health expert from Monroe; Faapouaita Leapai, public figure from Burien; James Shrimpsher, Chief of Police of Algona and Vice President of the Washington Brotherhood Police Order; and Fred Thomas, whose unarmed son Leonard Thomas was killed by a Lakewood cop in 2013 while holding his son.…
The Statewide Police Accountability Office is the result of a State House of Representatives bill passed this year as part of a series of police reform bills passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Inslee. Inslee has also tried to set up an office based on the recommendations of a task force he convened last year after the deaths of two blacks at the hands of the police: Manuel Ellis in Tacoma and George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Initially sponsoring a proposal to create the office, Rep. Debra Entenman, DC, said that “the lack of accountability for this violence has eroded public confidence in law enforcement.”
One officer in Washington was charged with murder after voters approved Initiative 940, a police accountability reform measure that made it easier to prosecute officers for lethal use. A recent report found that 5 out of 18 investigations into the use of lethal force by the police met all the requirements for an independent investigation under a measure approved by Washington’s voters in 2018.
“This new independent office will provide real accountability when the police take their lives, with a focus on working with the families of those killed. Knowing that a thorough, impartial investigation has been carried out will help families and communities recover, ”Entenman said in a statement Tuesday.
The appointments of the members of the advisory board are effective immediately.