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Inquests into officer-involve deaths in King County will resume under new process

Last year, Dow Constantine signed an executive order mandating changes to inquests into officer-involved deaths.

A new process that expands the scope of inquests into police use of deadly force is something King County Executive Dow Constantine hopes will improve transparency and increase the public's trust in law enforcement. 

Last year, Constantine signed an executive order mandating changes to the inquests. 

Inquests are fact-finding forums that investigate the circumstances surrounding law enforcement shooting deaths.

The order says pro tem judges will oversee the inquest instead of district court judges, families will be provided an attorney through the Department of Public Defense if they want representation, pro tem staff will assist the judge during proceedings instead of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, and the fact-finding scope will be expanded to include a panel that will hear testimony about training and policies and determine if the officer followed protocol.

The point of the new process isn't to put law enforcement officers on hold. It's about asking the right questions, Constantine said. It will help agencies understand if training and policies are being followed, and what improvements can be made. 

Inquests were put on hold in January after a district court judge declined to appoint a new judge to preside over the inquests. 

On May 20, the inquest process started regarding the fatal shooting of Damarius Butts. Butts was killed after a robbery and shootout with police. 

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