OLYMPIA – A former judge and prosecuting attorney will soon lead a new state agency that will investigate police use of deadly force in Washington.
“This office is about getting to the truth about instances, it’s about providing justice to families and it’s about getting truly independent investigations so that all of us can have a highly credible, factual basis upon which to make decisions,” Gov. Jay Inslee said Wednesday.
Roger Rogoff, former King County Superior Court judge, will lead the Office of the Independent Investigations.
As part of a sweeping police reform legislative package passed in 2021, the new office was established by the Legislature as a limited-authority law enforcement agency within the Office of the Governor that will conduct unbiased investigations of police use of force. It’s the first agency of its kind in the country.
The governor appoints the director of the office based on candidates recommended by the Office of Independent Investigations Advisory Board, which consists of 11 members appointed by Inslee. The director oversees investigations and functions of the office, implements the requirements and protocols for investigations and regional investigation teams, hiring investigators and ensuring proper training, according to a nonpartisan legislative analysis.
“I intend to lead an agency that conducts excellent investigative work, free from influence, with the goal of ensuring justice by learning the truth behind these incidents,” Rogoff said in a statement.
Rogoff’s appointment is effective June 16. Most recently, he served as legal counsel for Microsoft but has also served as a judge in King County Superior Court, a senior deputy prosecuting attorney with the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, an assistant U.S. attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office and a criminal defense attorney.
He also worked on the Washington State Criminal Justice Task Force, reviewing the state’s sentencing laws, according to the governor’s office.
“I’m really, really happy we have a person of his quality taking on this first-of-a-nation task,” Inslee said.
According to the law passed in 2021, the office has jurisdiction to investigate any incident involving the use of deadly force by an officer after July 1 of this year. The office can also investigate prior incidents if new evidence is brought forth that was not included in the initial investigation.
The office is the lead investigative body for the incidents it selects. Investigations must include a review of the entire incident, including events immediately before the incident or those directly related to the incident, according to a non-partisan analysis of the bill.
If the office accepts a case, it must be concluded within 120 days.
The Office of Independent Investigations was established as part of a number of policing reforms passed in 2021, following the death of George Floyd. Along with limiting use of force, vehicular pursuits and military equipment, families of those killed by police pushed for an independent investigatory process, as oftentimes police departments investigate their own use of force and police officers don’t often face charges.
The Office of Independent Investigations bill passed along party lines in the Legislature in 2021.