SEATTLE - It’s the first of it’s kind for Washington state.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced a task force focused on police accountability amid pressure from families who lost loved ones to police violence.
The goal of the task force is to help form legislation on independent investigations involving police use of force. Thursday, the task force met for the first time, with a focus on laying the groundwork for what the taskforce hopes to ultimately accomplish.
“We're gonna have to ask ourselves if we're gonna start being fair. That's all we want. We just want people to be fair,” says Andre Taylor, founder of the organization What Now!
Inslee emphasized the significance of having both law enforcement and people whose loved ones have been killed by police all on the same team. The goal is to provide insight on building a transparent and trustworthy system investigating use of force.
Taylor’s outlook and experience are significant to the task force; his brother was killed by Seattle Police in 2016. Andre has fought for change ever since and says it’s crucial for use of force incidents to be investigated by an independent agency, not for police to be policing their own.
“That’s like you asking me to go investigate something my brother did or my cousin did, so there's a conflict of interest," he says.
In the case of Manuel Ellis, who died in police custody, the governor’s office took away authority from the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department to investigate Tacoma Police for Ellis’s death and assigned the investigation to the state Attorney General’s office.
“It's a start, but there are many Manuel Ellis cases in Washington state and I’m sure there are families wondering if that’s going to happen for them as well," Taylor says.
Taylor says he believes all use of force incidents should be investigated by the state Attorney General’s office, but says much work would need to be done in order to make that happen.
“A lot of people want immediate gratification, but I know that that doesn’t exist and some of the anger comes from so much historic trauma that we want it right now ... I understand it. I want it right now also, but what are you doing to make that a reality?”
Taylor says he hopes the work of the task force will help Washington ultimately have the strongest police accountability laws in the nation. Inslee says he hopes the task force will help form a system of investigating law enforcement use of force that everyone agrees is complete, timely, and a fair system that will work for years to come.