Charleena Lyles
Charleena Lyles Courtesy of Family

Following the death of Charleena Lyles, the pregnant mother of four who was shot and killed by two Seattle police officers on Sunday, Councilmember Kshama Sawant created a petition yesterday seeking an independent, community-based investigation of the incident.

The petition reads, “We, the undersigned, have no confidence that an internal police investigation will find justice for Charleena.” It demands the mayor and Seattle City Council appoint an independent, community-based committee with “full access to case evidence, witnesses, and department policies.”

The petition seeks to challenge the investigative process of officer involved shootings, which rarely lead to a conviction of the officer.

According to a 2016 study conducted by police accountability organization called Campaign Zero, “of at least 4,024 people killed by police since 2013, only 85 of these cases have led to an officer being charged with a crime. Only 6 cases have led to convictions – fewer than 0.2% of known police killings.”

Sawant didn’t respond to inquiries about the petition, which doesn’t address how many signatures are needed, the intended goal of the petition or its deadline.

SPD’s investigation into the killing of Charleena Lyles has already begun. Following an officer involved shooting in Seattle, the SPD Force Investigative Team (FIT) begins analyzing the incident and looking for officer noncompliance with SPD policies, such as biased policing, use-of-force and de-escalation polices.

This initial investigation can take approximately 60-90 days, depending on the complexity of the case. After that, FIT’s findings are passed to the Force Review Board (FRB) which then determines if there was officer misconduct. (A spokesperson was unable to specify the amount of time the decision sits in front of the board.)

If the board determines that there was officer misconduct, they then pass the investigation onto the Office of Professional Accountability (OPA). According to OPA administrative specialist Beverly Kikuta, OPA is an independent office within SPD, and its director, deputy director and auditor are all civilians.

If OPA determines the complaint is sustained, they then launch a 180-day investigation.

“It takes kind of a while and there are extensions that can always be granted,” Kikuta said.