Washington Governor Inslee pledges independent review of Manuel Ellis’ death

Olympia, WA (STL.News) State of Washington Governor Jay Inslee released the following statement, Friday, June 5, 2020:

“Today, I committed to Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards that the State of Washington will conduct an independent review of the investigation and any charging decisions related to the death of Manuel Ellis.

“I’ve been told the Pierce County Sheriff is close to completing the investigation his agency is doing on behalf of the city.  That report will be forwarded to the county prosecutor, who makes the decision whether to charge the officers involved.  We have no reason to doubt the work underway, and my decision does not in any way pre-judge an outcome, but the family of Mr. Ellis, the City of Tacoma and every Washington resident deserves the confidence that an extra level of scrutiny will bring.

“I have spoken with Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste and Attorney General Bob Ferguson.  The patrol will review the sheriff’s investigation of the death of Mr. Ellis to ensure that a full and fair investigation has been concluded.  After the prosecutor’s work is complete, I will formally grant the attorney general’s office the authority to review that work and determine whether any different charging decisions need to be made by the attorney general.

“We know that Manuel Ellis was one of far, far too many Black men who died while in police custody in America, including here in Washington state.  Washingtonians deserve every assurance that investigations and charging decisions related to police shootings and deaths of people in police custody are handled with urgency, independence and commitment to justice.  My staff and I have met in recent days with activists, protest leaders, families of victims of police killings, law enforcement officials and experts to begin the work of creating a permanent process to give independent review to these cases.

“I will continue this work and these conversations so the community and I can stand together and present state lawmakers with a package of legislation by no later than January.  Our work should include laws for independent investigations, requiring police to intervene and report if they witness unlawful use of force by a fellow officer and examining the use of force—including restraint techniques.

“We all want those cases to end.  But until then, when these stories become part of the bitter history of racism in this country, we must make sure that each and every case is given the highest level of scrutiny.”

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