Southeastern Washington absent from Gov. Inslee’s police accountability advisory board

Southeastern Washington
Ted S. Warren

A woman walks past a mural honoring Manuel "Manny" Ellis, Thursday, May 27, 2021, in the Hilltop neighborhood of Tacoma, Wash., south of Seattle. Ellis died on March 3, 2020 after he was restrained by police officers. Earlier in the day Thursday, the Washington state attorney general filed criminal charges against three police officers in the death of Ellis, who told the Tacoma officers who were restraining him he couldn't breathe before he died.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Governor Jay Inslee declined to include a single law enforcement expert from Southeastern Washington when appointing 11 advisors to Washington state’s newly formed Office of Independent Investigations (OII) on Monday.

The Governor’s office released a list of 11 law enforcement experts to oversee independent, unbiased investigations regarding police use of deadly force in Washington state.

This group includes attorneys, criminal justice experts, police advocates, and even mental health experts—none of whom represent towns, cities or counties in Southeastern Washington.

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In fact, only one board member—a prosecuting attorney representative named Anthony Golik of Battle Ground, WA—represents Southern Washington at all. Everyone else who was selected to the board represents Central or Northern Washington.

One defense attorney named Breean Beggs will represent Spokane on the board. A Leavenworth community member named Norma Gallegos will also join the committee; along with a tribal member named Philip Harju representing Olympia, WA.

Out of 11 people advising the state’s independent investigations into police use of force, seven represent the Seattle/Tacoma region.

READ: Washington’s new police reform laws have good intentions and hazardous consequences

“The Office of Independent Investigations will help provide communities, families, individuals, and law enforcement with reassurance that their cases are being examined and reviewed in an unbiased way,” Gov. Inslee said. “While we cannot fully heal the wounds of the past, we can work to support those impacted going forward. I thank these members for stepping up and for contributing to make Washington a better state for everyone.”

The OII was requested by the governor based on recommendations from his task force last year. They pushed to hold the state’s police officers accountable in light of the highly-publicized deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Manny Ellis in Tacoma.

Each of these men died at the hands of police officers who were held accountable in a court of law for abusing the power of their profession.

State leaders are currently searching the nation for someone to fill the role of OII Director. That individual will then receive input and analysis submitted by the OII advisory board.

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