Ask no questions
A King County Superior Court judge scrapped the county’s revised policies around inquests into killings by police officers on Aug. 21. The county’s policy was meant to provide more transparency in the process for families of the deceased.
Four south King County cities — Auburn, Kent, Federal Way and Renton — joined a lawsuit with the city of Seattle to review whether or not King County Executive Dow Constantine exceeded his authority when he announced the new process in May 2019. It was the first time the inquest process had been revisited in nearly 15 years.
That overhaul would have meant families could get an attorney assigned through the Department of Public Defense as well as a chance to tell their stories and speak in defense of their relatives during the inquest. A team of administrative judges would have held the proceedings, which were essentially fact-finding missions.
Police officers still would not have to appear, because the inquest is not a trial.
Other pending inquests, including the 2017 death of Charleena Lyles, are now on hold.
The decision comes amid a national uprising against police killings of unarmed Black people, sparked by the brutal video of George Floyd’s deaths at the hands of members of the Minneapolis Police Department.
Black-led organizations in Washington state announced a new coalition Aug. 24 to fight police violence: Washington for Black Lives (W4BL). The group is calling for more investment in Black and Brown communities, defunding of police and prisons and demilitarizing local and state police.
W4BL was formed by member organizations of the Washington Census Alliance, which aimed to encourage people to participate in the U.S. decennial census in order to get more financial resources for their communities. They announced a new initiative called “ReturnToZero,” taking aim at the relationship between police unions and the politicians to whom they make political donations.
The goal is to pressure elected officials into giving those donations to the Black community, either through Black-led organizations or bail funds.
“Over the last six years, police unions have made donations to Washington state political campaigns totaling over $720,000,” W4BL wrote in a press release. “The ReturnToZero campaign is an effort to address how police unions wield political influence in discussions of public safety.”
Seattle and the surrounding cities receive most of the attention, but there are groups doing the work across the state, said Monisha Harrell, chair of Equal Rights Washington, in the press release.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC.
Read more in the Aug. 26 - Sept. 1, 2020 issue.