OLYMPIA — Two dozen community leaders, law enforcement representatives and others will work together to draft recommendations on how to better conduct independent investigations of use of force by law enforcement.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced Monday the creation of the task force in the wake of nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. In Washington, those concerns have been elevated by questions over the death of Manuel Ellis in March by Tacoma police.
The death of Ellis has raised questions about whether law enforcement personnel are following Initiative 940, a police-reform measure approved by state voters in 2018.
The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department had been tasked with independently reviewing whether Tacoma police were justified or were criminally liable in using lethal force against Ellis. But the department didn’t disclose that one of its deputies was involved in detaining Ellis until nearly the end of its three-month investigation.
The department didn’t appoint two citizens from outside law enforcement to give oversight to the investigation; didn’t give Ellis’s family a liaison to keep in touch with investigators; and didn’t provide public updates on the investigation’s progress, according to a review by The Times. Those are all required by I-940.
The task force announced Monday is part of a coordinated effort with state lawmakers to come up with new reforms around investigating police use of force, according to a news statement by Inslee’s office.
“This work will inform legislation and help chart a path towards addressing some of these systemic and extremely harmful practices and policies that have impacted communities of color for generations,” Inslee said in a news release.
As chair of the group De-Escalate Washington, Taylor played a prominent role in the approval of Initiative 940.
Among others on the task force are Livio De La Cruz of Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County, Tim Reynon of the Puyallup Tribal Council, Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Ritchey, Redmond Police Department Chief Darrell Lowe and representatives of several law enforcement unions.
The task force will hold its first meeting in July and will continue to meet into autumn.