Volunteer needed for police accountability response team

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The Blaine police department is searching for a Blaine resident to serve as a non-law enforcement city representative in potential police use-of-force investigations.

If a police officer uses force resulting in injury or death, state law requires an independent agency to investigate the incident. Whatcom County’s independent investigation team is called the Law Enforcement Mutual Aid Response Team (LEMART), which consists of detectives and investigators as well as community representatives from each police jurisdiction in the county.

Blaine police chief Donnell Tanksley said if a use-of-force incident occurred in Blaine, the investigation would be done by another police department or the county sheriff’s office. However, the city’s non-law enforcement representative would serve on the investigation team to provide accountability. Tanksley said the program’s goal is to increase transparency, trust and communication.

“LEMART representatives really get access to the play by play of the investigation,” Tanksley said.

The non-law enforcement representative will be involved in interviews, selection of LEMART law enforcement investigators and screening press releases prior to them being sent out. By law, they must pass a background check and attend police use-of-force training. The position is unpaid and at least two representatives will be assigned to each team.

Blaine police department has not received any applications thus far, but the sheriff’s office received an application from a Birch Bay resident, Tanksley said.

LEMART is required under House Bill 1064, which the state house and senate passed unanimously in 2019. The law is an update to Initiative 940, known as the Law Enforcement Training and Community Safety Act, which was approved by state voters in 2018.

To apply, residents must live within Blaine city limits and send an application to dtanksley@cityofblaine.com by Friday, March 5. The application must include a letter of interest and the applicant’s contact information. Tanksley and the LEMART executive board will select the representative. More information can be found at bit.ly/3sjkTaZ.

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