Community members in Woodinville have a new opportunity to be a part of independent investigations into incidents of police killings.
Police accountability was a major theme of 2020, as millions marched across the country and world demanding policing reform as well as racial justice. The topic hit close to home in November, when police shot and killed a car prowling suspect during a shootout at Beaumont Apartments.
The state Law Enforcement Training and Community Safety Act, which came from a 2017 voter-approved initiative, requires community representatives to sit on an independent investigation team. The law went into effect in 2019, but Woodinville did not yet have a team assembled and had to “quickly locate volunteers” for the program, according to Kevin O’Neill, assistant to the city manager.
“Now that the investigation from that shooting is well underway the City is, for the first time, actively recruiting volunteers for any future investigations,” O’Neill said in an email.
The team is also required to have qualified and certified peace officer investigators and civilian crime scene specialists in addition to at least two non-law enforcement community representatives, according to a state Criminal Justice Training Commission fact sheet.
The community representatives do not weigh-in on the investigation’s outcome, O’Neill said, nor do they necessarily participate in the investigation. Their role is to act as a safeguard to ensure transparency and accountability in the process, he said.
The city manager, police chief and King County Sheriff’s Office will appoint up to 10 people to a roster, and those individuals may be called upon should an investigation be required, the city’s website states.
The members of the team will be required to undergo a background and conflict-of-interest check.
“We are looking for community minded volunteers who can effectively represent the people of Woodinville,” O’Neill said. “There are some exclusions to who can apply, but in general, the City is seeking those who are able and willing to participate in what can possibly be an emotional and difficult volunteer position.”
The community volunteers will participate in the interviewing and selection of the team investigators, have access to the completed investigation file, and review all proposed press releases, according to a city fact sheet.
For the city’s investigation team, volunteers must live within city limits, O’Neill said. Those who live in unincorporated areas may inquire with the King County Sheriff’s Office about joining a team that investigates any future incidents that may happen outside the city.