NAACP Seattle/King County Calls for Independent Criminal Investigation of Iosia Faletogo Police Shooting
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 18th, 2019
CONTACT: Sadiqa Sakin, President, Seattle/King County NAACP
THE NAACP OF SEATTLE AND KING COUNTY CALLS FOR THE WASHINGTON ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE TO OVERSEE THE INDEPENDENT CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION OF THE POLICE SHOOTING OF MR. IOSIA FALETOGO.
[The NAACP further requests the Washington Attorney General’s Office lead criminal investigations into the officer involved shooting deaths of Charleena Lyles, Che Taylor, and Tommy Le at the hands of Law Enforcement in King County.]
Seattle, WA—[January 16th, 2019]- The Seattle King County Chapter of the NAACP, acting in its representative capacity as the guardian of Civil Rights, under President Sadiqa Sakin, calls for a fair, transparent and thorough criminal investigation of the police involved shooting death of Mr. Iosia Faletogo. Specifically, the NAACP requests an independent prosecutor and independent police agency handle the investigation to create dual level independence. The NAACP requests the Washington Attorney General’s Office (AGO), oversee the criminal investigation, instead of King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
The Attorney General’s Office is the appropriate prosecuting agency for police involved shootings. The voters of Washington State have spoken with the passage of I-940 by demanding a new process to provide independent investigations in police involved shootings. The AGO does not have a symbiotic relationship with the Seattle Police Department and the AGO has the capacity to conduct a thorough investigation. The KCPAO has also never exercised its authority to call for a criminal investigation of police-involved shootings in over a decade of being in office.
Justice requires an independent criminal investigation supervised by the Office of the Attorney General for the following reasons: 1) An inquest is not a criminal investigation. 2) There is an inherent conflict of interest when the investigating agency works closely with the agency under investigation. 3) SPD has already taken steps towards independence, supported by the Consent Decree. 4) Community trust is required to ensure officer and public safety.
First, the Inquest process falls short of delivering justice as it does not address civil or criminal liability. [“Inquest interrogatories do not deal with the questions of law, recommendations for future police or procedures, or whether anyone is civilly or criminally liable.”]. The inquest process is also misleading as the public expects a legitimate criminal investigation but does not receive one. The Inquest’s inability to answer the critical question of criminal liability creates a lengthy process with no substance which is no more useful than a coroner’s report.
Second, a conflict of interest exists between The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and the SPD. The KCPAO and the SPD have a symbiotic relationship managing criminal cases in King County. The KCPAO develops criminal cases with SPD officer assistance, calls on SPD for testimony, and strategizes with SPD on law enforcement practices. The intimacy of the relationship means there can be no objectivity. There are similar conflicts in all 38 other counties.
Allowing KCPAO to investigate SPD is in direct opposition to the standard applied to the public. If a civilian is investigated, their colleagues and associates are prohibited from participating in the investigation. This prohibition is outlined in both SPD and King County policies. Both entities recognize the importance of avoiding conflicts of interest, and even the “appearance” of such.
The SPD Manual, title 5, Employee conduct, 5.001 (18) specifies:
Employees Must Avoid Conflicts of Interest
Employees will not associate with persons or organizations where such association reasonably gives the appearance of conflict of interest.
Employees will not engage in enforcement, investigative, or administrative functions that create or give the appearance of conflicts of interest.
Employees will not investigate events where they are involved. This also applies where any person with whom the employee has a personal relationship is involved in the event.
Except in cases of emergency, officers will not arrest family members, business associates, or social acquaintances.
Similar King County policies exist.
Third, an oversight agency has requested an independent investigation and independence is vital in light of the 2011 DOJ findings. SPD’s Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) recommended an independent criminal investigation into Mr. Faletogo’s death be led by an agency other than SPD. Police Chief Best, exercising sound leadership and ensuring an increase in community trust, followed the recommendation of the OPA and requested the Washington State Patrol (WSP) handle the investigation.
The NAACP urges the KCPAO to avoid an inherent conflict of interest and follow Chief Best’s lead, in agreeing to allow the investigation go to an independent authority. Justice calls for true independence and community trust in its law enforcement is dependent on a credible and transparent process.