A proposed amendment formalizing changes and clarifying language in King County’s troubled inquest process appeared headed for passage in Tuesday’s election, though the amendments will do little to untangle legal challenges that have paralyzed the process intended to bring accountability to police-involved deaths.
In Tuesday night’s vote count, Charter Amendment No. 1 led, 81 percent in favor with 19 percent opposed.
Charter Amendment No. 1 adds language that guarantees legal representation at inquests to the families of individuals killed by police, and clarifies that an inquest is required when an “action, decision, or possible failure to offer appropriate care by a member of a law enforcement agency might have contributed to a person’s death.”
The new language will address challenges to the inquest process made by the King County Sheriff’s Office and several South County municipalities, brought after County Executive Dow Constantine made significant changes to the inquest process in 2018. Those cities have questioned whether the county executive has the authority to make the changes.
There are currently six inquests pending — all involving deaths that occurred in 2017. Another 20 cases, dating from 2017 to 2019, have been referred for inquest by King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, and at least eight others since then are likely eligible.