Seattle Police may be exempt from law requiring independent investigations
A new state law requiring independent investigations into police shootings is unlikely to help Iosia Faletogo’s family get the investigation they’re hoping for.
Faletogo was killed by Seattle police on New Year’s Eve after he ran from police during a traffic stop. Police say Faletogo had a loaded gun that turned out to be stolen.
Faletogo’s is the first case to test Initiative 940, which went into effect last month.
The initiative calls for, among other things, independent outside investigations into police use of deadly force. But Seattle is likely to be an exception because the department is operating under a federal consent decree, which supersedes state law.
State legislators have been working to clarify the law, which also requires increased de-escalation and mental health training for officers and changes the parameters for police officers to be charged for on-duty deaths.
Roger Goodman, chairman of the House Public Safety Committee, calls it an historic agreement between police and the community.
“The bill to improve the initiative is so important it’s going to be heard on the very first day, in the very first hearing,” Goodman said.
Goodman added that he hopes to have the bill over to the Senate by the end of next week, so it can be quickly moved to Governor Jay Inslee’s desk. He’s expected to sign it.
From there the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission will write rules and policies.
Goodman said legislators are also including an amendment that would allow for exceptions when departments are under federal oversight, like Seattle.
“If we’re to speak legalistically, there still is an inconsistency between I-940, which requires independent investigations, and the situation in Seattle, where a federal court has ordered that investigations include the Seattle Police Department,” Goodman said.
Currently, investigations include the Seattle Police Department with oversight from the Department of Inspector General.
I-940 aims to ensure rigorous investigations of police shootings after the consent decree ends.
Currently the federal monitor has said that the Seattle Police Department has been fully compliant with the consent decree.
If all goes well, federal oversight of SPD could end in 2020.