Detectives from Island County will be joining a team of Skagit County law enforcement officials that provides unbiased, experienced investigator to member agencies.
Island County Sheriff Rick Felici said both his department and the Oak Harbor police will provide detectives for the Skagit MultiAgency Response Team, which is made up of investigators from Mount Vernon police, Anacortes police, Burlington police, Sedro Woolley police, the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office and Washington State Patrol.
Felici said joining the team dovetails with the implementation of the Law Enforcement Training and Community Safety Act, which — among other things — requires independent investigations in officer-involved deadly force cases.
His department has long sought outside agencies to investigate cases when the department might have a conflict of interest. This included two officer-involved shootings in the last few years, which were investigated by SMART.
In fact, such response teams are relatively common. Snohomish County has one that goes by the same acronym.
Detectives in the Island County Sheriff’s Office have helped out other agencies in the past, but the change would be to formalize an interlock agreement.
“If we expect services, we should participate,” he said.
The criteria for independent investigations required by the new law are still being figured out but the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission. Felici said that, for example, the law requires civilians to be involved in the process, but it’s unclear how that would work.
The members of Skagit MultiAgency Response Team will attend training on a regular basis, Felici said.
Besides conflict cases, the team is also available to investigate large and complex cases that would strain an agency’s resources. The members, for example, investigated the Cascade Mall shooting in which an Oak Harbor man killed five people.