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Inslee appoints Beggs to police investigation advisory board

UPDATED: Tue., Nov. 16, 2021

Beggs  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
Beggs (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane City Council President Breean Beggs was tapped by Gov. Jay Inslee Monday to help build a new state office that will investigate uses of deadly force by police.

Inslee appointed Beggs to serve on an advisory board to the new Office of Independent Investigations, which was formed this year in response to the calls for police reform that erupted in 2020.

The advisory board will help the director create and establish the office, which will house regional teams tasked with investigating uses of deadly force by police. The concept of the office is to ensure truly independent investigations into police conduct and separate them from local influence.

“I have said for well over a dozen years now that the relationship between law enforcement and the communities that employ them is broken,” Beggs said.

When faith is restored in the independence of investigations into police conduct – both for police and the community – then “we’re going to be able to truly move forward and repair that relationship,” Beggs said.

Compared to the previous system, “this is going to make it way more independent,” Beggs said, with “an office that’s headquartered in a different part of the state.”

Beggs is one of 11 commissioners appointed to the advisory board on Monday.

As a private attorney and a City Council member, Beggs has a long public record of involvement in matters of police reform.

Following the death of Otto Zehm after he was beaten and hogtied by Spokane police in 2006, Beggs represented his family in civil litigation against the city. The case ended in 2012 with a $1.67 million out-of-court settlement.

As City Council president, Beggs introduced a suite of proposed police reforms in 2020, but ultimately backed down in favor of a “community conversation” on policing that is ongoing. He was part of a unanimous consensus on the City Council that rejected a proposed labor contract with the Spokane Police Guild in 2020. He criticized the deal for failing to meet the police accountability standards set in the city charter.

The state is conducting a nationwide search for the first director of the Office of Independent Investigation.

The legislation that created the Office of Independent Investigations was a response to changes recommended by the Governor’s Task Force on Independent Investigations of Police Use of Force.

“This new independent office will provide real accountability when police take a person’s life with a focus on working with the families of those killed. Knowing that a thorough, unbiased investigation has taken place will help families and communities heal,” state Rep. Debra Entenman, D-Kent, who sponsored the legislation creating the office, said in a statement.

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