(1) The office of independent investigations is hereby established within the office of the governor for the purpose of conducting fair, thorough, transparent, and competent investigations as authorized under this chapter.
(2) The office of independent investigations is an investigative law enforcement agency, including for the purposes of the public records act, chapter 42.56
Finding—Intent—2021 c 318: "The legislature finds that there has been an outpouring of frustration, anger, and demand for change from many members of the public over the deaths of people of color resulting from encounters with police. The most recent deaths in the United States and within Washington are a call to lead our state to a new system for investigating deaths and other serious incidents involving law enforcement officers.
The legislature intends that the office of independent investigations be created to conduct investigations of use of force and other cases under its jurisdiction in a manner that is competent, unbiased, and thorough. The office will be transparent and accountable for its work. The office should ensure that it treats all people with dignity and respect. The director and staff must be qualified and trained to conduct the investigations, including training to understand the impact and effect of racism in the investigation and use of an antiracist lens to conduct their work.
It is intended that this office will assume responsibility for investigations of serious use of force incidents and refer the reports on the investigation to the prosecutorial entity to determine if the action was justified, or if there was criminal action such that criminal charges should be filed. This is the same criminal investigative inquiry that is currently conducted when there is an officer-involved incident. The legislature does not intend to create a new type of investigation or that the office should be involved in any administrative review of conduct or complaints to police agencies about officer conduct related to policy or procedure. The process created in this act is intended to change only who investigates the incident. It does not change the nature of the investigation and involves only an investigation to determine justification or whether criminal charges are appropriate." [ 2021 c 318 § 101