Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced his picks Tuesday for an 11-member panel to oversee the state’s newly created police accountability office with powers to independently investigate cases of law enforcement’s use of deadly force.
Among Inslee’s choices to serve on the advisory board of the new Office of Independent Investigations (OII) are Monica Alexander, the newly appointed executive director of the Washington Criminal Justice Training Commission and retired captain and former spokesperson for the Washington State Patrol; and Monisha Harrell, LGBTQ activist, board chair of Equal Rights Washington and campaign manager and niece of Seattle Mayor-elect Bruce Harrell.
The OII advisory board is tasked with providing input and advice to the office’s eventual director about its establishment and operations. The office’s director has not yet been appointed. Inslee’s office said Tuesday that a national search is underway to identify candidates for the role.
The aim of the office is to “provide communities, families, individuals, and law enforcement with reassurance that their cases are being examined and reviewed in an unbiased way,” according to a statement from Inslee, posted on the governor’s website.
Alexander, a member chosen to represent the policing profession, and Harrell, a member representing the general public, are joined by nine other members appointed to represent various stakeholders from across Washington, such as police, prosecutors, defense attorneys and citizens, including those with family members killed by police.
The other appointees to the board include Breean Breggs, a defense attorney and Spokane City Council president; Eric Drever, Tukwila police chief; Norma Gallegos, an immigration services coordinator from Leavenworth; Anthony Golik, Clark County prosecutor; and Philip Harju, a former tribal attorney for the Cowlitz Indian Tribe.
Other selected members include Susie Kroll, a mental health expert from Monroe; Faapouaita Leapai, a general public member from Burien; James Schrimpsher, Algona police chief and vice president of the Washington Fraternal Order of Police; and Fred Thomas, whose unarmed son, Leonard Thomas, was killed by a Lakewood police officer in 2013 while holding his son.
The statewide police accountability office stems from a state House bill passed this year as part of a series of police reform bills approved by the Legislature and signed by Inslee. Inslee also sought the office’s establishment based on recommendations from a task force he convened last year in the aftermath of the deaths of two Black men at the hands of police: Manuel Ellis, in Tacoma, and George Floyd, in Minneapolis.
When initially sponsoring the proposal for the office, state Rep. Debra Entenman, D-Kent, said “a lack of accountability for that violence has eroded the community trust in law enforcement.”
In all, four officers in Washington have been charged with murder, manslaughter or both since voters approved Initiative 940, the police accountability reform measure that made it easier to prosecute officers for deadly force. A recent report found that 5 out of 18 investigations into police use of deadly force met all the requirements for an independent investigation called for by the measure, which Washington voters approved in 2018.
“This new independent office will provide real accountability when police take a person’s life with a focus on working with the families of those killed. Knowing that a thorough, unbiased investigation has taken place will help families and communities heal,” Entenman said in a statement Tuesday.
The advisory board members’ appointments are effective immediately.
Correction: The number of officers in Washington charged in deadly force cases was incorrect in an earlier version of this story and has been updated.