Editorials

Independent reviews important for credibility

No matter how many different agencies review the death of a man shot by police in Pasco after throwing rocks at them, some people will never be satisfied with the findings.

Early September, Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant concluded his review of the February death of Antonio Zambrano-Montes, finding the three officers involved were “acting in good faith and without malice.” They will not be charged with any crime associated with the shooting. This week, the Pasco Police Department announced a review by the Police Policy Studies Council of Spofford, N. H. determined that the officers’ use of deadly force was consistent with Pasco department policy.

Gov. Jay Inslee was quick to call for a review of Sant’s decision by the state Attorney General’s office. That doesn’t mean he doubts Sant’s findings, but with the high-profile nature of the case and the divide it has caused in the community, the governor may just want to give the community with another check of the facts to reassure us all that the review was thorough and impartial. Or it may end up with some different results.

Either way, more thorough study of the incident should be welcome by all, including Sant. More eyes seeing the evidence can only yield more credibility and should help those who feel Sant and others are too close to the case to be impartial know that the review and findings were not solely in the hands of local authorities.

In addition to our state’s attorney general study of the case, we’ll hear from other agencies as well. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington, the FBI and the federal Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division continue their examination and will decide if the officers violated any federal law.

Franklin County Coroner Dan Blasdel called for an inquest into the death immediately after the shooting. Though he hasn’t found a lot of support from the local criminal justice community, he plans to move forward and ask a civilian jury to determine the cause and manner of Zambrano-Montes’ death. A determination on whether the shooting was justified would come from that process as well.

We have applauded that effort. Inquests are rare, and this is certainly the type of case that deserves scrutiny from a range of authorities.

When Inslee announced the state’s involvement, Pasco and the Pasco Police Department embraced the news “as it will further increase confidence in the process.”

In the joint statement, they said, “We are all committed to building a safer, more inclusive and stronger community.”

We should take to heart and remember when we see officers on the street doing their jobs and risking their lives on a daily basis.

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