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caption: Rick Williams, brother of John T. Williams, who was shot and killed by a Seattle Police officer in 2010, after he testified at a House committee hearing in Olympia, Wash. in 2016, for a bill that would make it easier to charge police officers with crimes.
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Rick Williams, brother of John T. Williams, who was shot and killed by a Seattle Police officer in 2010, after he testified at a House committee hearing in Olympia, Wash. in 2016, for a bill that would make it easier to charge police officers with crimes.
Credit: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Is the King County police inquest process enough?

A newly-formed committee will examine how the King County inquest process reviews officer-involved shooting and fatalities.

King County Executive Dow Constantine appointed the committee, and said he’s interested in potential changes that could make inquests more transparent, fair and meaningful.

During an inquest, jurors answers dozens of questions about the circumstances of the person’s death. But Deborah Jacobs, director of the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight, said inquests are rarely satisfying, either for family members or the public.

"Even with the understanding of its purpose, which is a limited purpose to have a public hearing of facts under oath, people want more. It doesn’t really get to the conversation people are wanting to have,” Jacobs said. What the public wants to know, Jacobs said, is what could have been done differently to prevent the death.

Jacobs credited Constantine with opening up an important discussion that will include voices from families who’ve lost loved ones. But she also thinks it’s important for the committee to hear from officers who’ve been called to the stand. “Did they get anything out of it? It’s not for them, it’s for the public. Yet it’s to the public’s benefit if it’s a mutually-satisfying process,”Jacobs said.

The new committee includes legal professionals, law enforcement officers, and Rick Williams, brother of John T. Williams, a Native American woodcarver shot and killed by a Seattle police officer in 2010.

Constantine wants a report back by March. That’s one month before an inquest into the June, 2017 shooting death of black, pregnant mother Charleena Lyles is set to begin.