In response to calls from the community over the past week, this afternoon Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes announced that he is withdrawing a legal challenge to recent changes made to the inquest process in King County.
Back in February I wrote about the issues being raised by the city, among them that the new rules exceed the allowed topics for inquests to investigate under Washington State law.
In a press release announcing the decision to withdraw the suit, Holmes said:
“After hearing from community voices and our Seattle City Councilmembers, and after conferring with our police chief, I intend to withdraw the City of Seattle from the lawsuit challenging the revised King County inquest process. While the new inquest procedures are vague and leave much room for interpretation and inconsistency between inquest hearings, I heard the community’s call loud and clear.”
Holmes also echoed a message that Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has made over the past few days: that there should be an independent, statewide office to investigate fatalities at the hands of law enforcement officers. Currently state law sets the broad parameters for holding inquests but leaves it up to counties to determine the process that is followed in conducting an inquest.
“Washington state needs a consistent statewide inquest process that is designed to provide a thorough and systematic review of officer-involved fatalities in our modern day society. In light of recent events, I believe the state legislature, not a lawsuit, is the best place to create this new system, and I hope that my fellow elected officials will join me in calling for comprehensive statewide inquest reform and an update to Washington’s 150+ year-old statute by the legislature in its next session. Every county in the state should have a modern inquest process that all members of the community consider to be transparent, accountable, fair, and legitimate.”
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