A new type of audit
The Office of the Washington State Auditor conducts audits of investigations into police use of deadly force. We do this to ensure compliance with accountability rules established by voter-approved Initiative 940 and the Legislature.
In December 2023, our Office released a report summarizing common areas of noncompliance and recommendations from the first year of these audits. Read the report here: Use of Deadly Force Investigation Audits: Themes from the First Year
Key components of an investigation
These investigations, conducted by an independent investigation team known as an IIT, may include multiple steps. They include: gathering evidence; reviewing results of an autopsy; and reviewing results of crime lab reports. Completing investigations may be delayed because of backlogs at crime labs.
What our audits will examine
We will evaluate four aspects of each investigation: Was it credible? Was it independent? Was it transparent? Was it communicated to the public and affected people? To determine this, we will compare the steps taken by the involved law enforcement agencies and the IITs to the standards set by the state Criminal Justice Training Commission.
Independent Investigation Requirements:
- State Rules – Effective January 2020 – January 2022 (PDF) »
- State Rules – Effective January 2022 – Present (PDF) »
- Investigation Best Practices – Effective September 2020 – September 2023
- Investigation Best Practices – Effective September 2023 – Present
Our work will not determine whether the officers were justified in using force, nor whether prosecutors made the right choice to charge or not charge officers with a crime.
When law enforcement personnel use deadly force, a series of outside reviews takes place. This infographic describes the steps leading to an audit.
A note on City of Seattle use of force incidents
The law requiring independent investigations excludes any law enforcement agencies under federal consent decree or court orders. For this reason, we will not be auditing use of deadly force investigations involving the City of Seattle Police Department.