In general, local governments have broad discretion as to how they deliver police services, and the size and structure of local law enforcement agencies varies. In counties, law enforcement and public safety services fall to local county sheriff's offices. Many cities and towns have established their own municipal police departments. Other cities and towns contract with another local jurisdiction to provide police services.
Some local governments have additionally established oversight, advisory, or review bodies made up partially or entirely of civilian community members for the purpose of overseeing and advising on the activities of the local law enforcement agency. The structure of these bodies differs among jurisdictions, with some bodies operating within, or in collaboration with, the local law enforcement agency, and others operating wholly independently from the agency. Examples of the activities of these bodies include, but are not limited to: investigating allegations of police misconduct and making recommendations for responsive actions; reviewing the findings of agency internal investigations; investigating citizen complaints or reviewing the agency's resolution of citizen complaints; and making recommendations for changes to law enforcement policy and practice.
All local jurisdictions must establish a community oversight board by January 1, 2025. Local jurisdictions include all cities, towns, and counties with a law enforcement agency that has 10 or more officers and serves directly under the authority of the jurisdiction, rather than by contract or agreement with another jurisdiction.
All community oversight boards must have certain powers and duties with respect to the law enforcement agency serving under the authority of the local jurisdiction, including:
Each local jurisdiction must establish the policies and procedures for its community oversight board including, at a minimum, policies and procedures for: the number of board members; composition and appointment of membership; meetings and hearings; communication with the public and receipt of complaints; access to files, records, and other information, and requirements for maintaining any confidentiality of those documents; and the performance of the board's duties and other functions. Boards must maintain multiple methods for submitting and reviewing the status of complaints, including both online and in-person methods. The board may retain legal counsel, paid by the local jurisdiction, to represent it in all cases, hearings, controversies, or matters involving its interests. The board's annual budget must be equal to or greater than 5 percent of the total funds allocated in the local jurisdiction for law enforcement purposes.
A portion of a community oversight board's positions must be filled by members of the public through a public posting and application process. A community oversight board must, whenever possible, reflect the diversity of the community in which it is located and include members of families affected by law enforcement violence, justice-involved individuals, and representatives of civil rights advocacy organizations. Certain persons are ineligible to serve on a community oversight board, including: law enforcement officers and employees; immediate family members of law enforcement officers; and persons who receive payment pursuant to contract with, or work for an entity that receives payment pursuant to contract with, the law enforcement agency that the community oversight board oversees.
The requirements for the powers, duties, and structure of community oversight boards apply to any newly created board. Local jurisdictions with a similar oversight body in place at the time the bill takes effect must bring the body into compliance with the community oversight board framework by January 1, 2022, except to the extent that full compliance would violate a federal consent decree or other mandate. "Similar oversight bodies" include any law enforcement oversight or advisory bodies that are external to the law enforcement agency being overseen, and may include, but are not limited to, police ombudsman offices and citizen advisory, review, and oversight boards.
Local jurisdictions must report their compliance with the community oversight board requirements to the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) by the full compliance date of January 1, 2025. The WASPC must compile the information into a report to the Legislature by March 1, 2025.