Questions and answers about OII
If you have a question that you don't see answered here, email ContactUs@oii.wa.gov for help.
- Our agency investigates cases where police use deadly force. The state Legislature created OII in 2021 to investigate whenever a law enforcement officer uses deadly force resulting in death, substantial bodily harm, or great bodily harm. We can prioritize the cases we investigate based on available resources or other factors.
No. Our agency is only authorized to investigate criminal matters. OII does not conduct administrative reviews and does not have authority to investigate cases of alleged officer misconduct.
Unlike OII, independent investigation teams, or IITs, are made up of law enforcement officers. When activated, the officers participating in an IIT come from multiple police agencies in a given region to investigate incidents where officers use deadly force. By including representatives from multiple agencies, IITs can investigate cases without using staff from the agency involved in the incident. There are currently 17 IITs around Washington state.
By contrast, our investigative teams at OII do not include any current law enforcement officers.
Our agency is budgeted to have up to six regional offices. Currently, we have a single office in Olympia, but will ultimately set up as many as five additional offices around the state.
Each will house an OII investigative team responsible for responding to use of force incidents statewide. Based on the historical location of police use of deadly force cases that might fall within our jurisdiction, the locations currently under consideration for the remaining regional office locations include:
- Southwestern Washington (Clark County)
- Northwestern Washington (Skagit/Whatcom/Snohomish counties)
- Central Western Washington (King County)
- Central Washington (Yakima/Wenatchee/Tri-Cities)
- Eastern Washington (Spokane County)
The OII Advisory Board was established to advise the agency on policies and procedures. It does not have any role in day-to-day operations or on agency investigations. The 11-member board includes family affected by incidents of police use of deadly force, law enforcement, community members, a representative of a federally recognized Washington tribe, a mental health professional, a prosecutor, a defense attorney, and a member of the Criminal Justice Training Commission.
Our staff will include dedicated Family Liaisons to support families affected by incidents OII is investigating. Their role is to keep families informed about the OII investigation, help connect families to local services in their community, and act as a contact with OII throughout the investigation. Our current plans are to hire one family liaison per region.
Yes, we can investigate older cases, however, only if new evidence is produced that was not included in the original investigation.
We do not have the funds or authority to provide financial support to an affected family, however, the OII Family Liaison may be able to assist families with referrals to community resources and services.
The intent of the statute that created OII is for the agency to conduct the same criminal investigative inquiry that is currently conducted when there is a use of deadly force by an officer. The process created in RCW 43.102 changes only who investigates the incident. It does not change the nature of the investigation and involves only an investigation to determine justification or whether criminal charges are appropriate.
While OII investigations will not look that different from an IIT investigation, there are differences in OII operations. The agency has a civilian director with an increased focus on supporting affected families and staying connected with community organizations that are interested in law enforcement activities.
OII is hiring qualified former or current law enforcement for investigator positions.
In addition to other requirements, current law enforcement applicants and those who left law enforcement within 24 months must be approved by the OII Advisory Board.
Within five years of the date that OII begins investigating deadly force cases, the agency must create a plan for civilians who have never been law enforcement to become investigators. There is no current proposal and any plan must still ensure that OII investigations are competent and thorough. Existing OII investigators would not be terminated under any proposal.
When OII’s investigation is complete, a detailed summary of the course of the investigation and the information learned will be made public and available to the involved agency, the impacted person or their families, and the community. At that point, the summary and the case investigation file will be referred to the prosecutorial authority to determine if the action was justified, or if there was criminal action such that criminal charges should be filed. OII will not be making a charging recommendation.
OII is developing criteria outlining when the agency will assume jurisdiction. The criteria will not include the identity of the involved officer, agency or impacted person, or public interest in a particular incident. When complete, OII will post these protocols on our website.
OII will not assume responsibility for any other concurrent or underlying criminal investigation, although OII will be investigating the entire incident including, but not limited to, events immediately preceding the incident that may have contributed to, or influenced, the outcome of the incident under investigation. When finalized, OII will share its protocols before it begins accepting cases.
- Implicit and explicit bias
- Intercultural competency
- Undoing institutional racism
- The history of racism in policing
- Tribal sovereignty and the history of Native Americans within the justice system
- Using a racial equity lens to conduct the work.
We are partnered with the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC) to identify and provide necessary training for OII staff. We can also seek outside vendors for additional training.
Yes, OII will investigate if a tribal member is killed by a Washington peace officer or correctional officer, whether the incident happens on tribal or non-tribal land.
Generally, no, but this is a complicated area of the law and it depends on the specific circumstances. In general, OII’s authority is limited to Washington peace officers (for example deputies and police officers working for counties, cities, or in corrections) but it does not extend to tribal officers or federal officers.
However, there may be situations when a tribal officer acts as a general authority Washington peace officer, for example at the request or consent of a local sheriff or police chief as part of a mutual aid agreement or during a pursuit of a non-tribal member on non-tribal lands. OII continues to research this issue and develop protocols regarding this area of the law, which will be made available to the public when completed.
There are two main criteria for OII to review a prior investigation: That the use of force by the officer resulted in a fatality and that there is new evidence not included in the original investigation. A complete description of the process is on our Investigations webpage, including a link to our policy which provides examples of what might qualify as new evidence.
If OII declines to review a prior investigation because it does not meet our criteria, there is no appeals process, but we will fully explain our reasoning and make ourselves available to any involved family to answer questions.
The primary support OII can offer in these situations is communication and assistance connecting with local resources. OII is committed to connecting with the family of any tribal member killed by law enforcement as early in the process as possible. We are hiring several family liaisons to connect with all families in cases we are investigating to ensure ongoing communication between those families and OII investigative staff throughout the entire process. These liaisons will also work to connect families any community resources available to them including counseling, financial, and translation or interpretation services.
In addition, OII tribal liaisons will facilitate relationships and collaboration with tribes and tribal members across the state. These tribal liaisons will work with the family liaisons on individual cases to make sure we can best meet the family and community needs.