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Communications Protocol: Deaths in Police Custody

City Council Establishes Communications Protocol for Deaths in Tacoma Police Custody


June 30, 2020



Tanisha Jumper, Media and Communications, tjumper@cityoftacoma.org, (253) 591-5152
Maria Lee, Media and Communications, maria.lee@cityoftacoma.org, (253) 591-2054


City Council Establishes Communications Protocol for Deaths in Tacoma Police Custody


TACOMA, Wash. -- As part of ongoing efforts to enhance transparency and improve communications while developing a long-term approach to criminal justice reform, the City Council has passed Resolution 40621. This resolution establishes a communications protocol for deaths occurring in Tacoma police custody or as the result of the use of deadly force by Tacoma police. It directs the City Manager to:

  • Notify the Mayor and City Council of the death as soon as practicable;
  • Provide the Mayor and City Council with an account of events, the names of involved officers, and the race of the deceased individual as that information is made available;
  • If an independent investigation is required pursuant to state law, the City Manager will seek confirmation as soon as practicable from the independent investigation team that a family liaison has been assigned;
  • Provide the Mayor with contact information for the deceased individual’s next of kin as soon as possible once the next of kin has been notified of the death of their loved one; 
  • Confirm that a Community Trauma Response Team has been advised.

“Every loss of life is tragic, and the recognition of that loss should be acknowledged by the City of Tacoma,” said Mayor Victoria Woodards. "This resolution confirms my personal commitment to contact the family of any individual who dies in Tacoma police custody within 24 hours of receiving their contact information to express my condolences for the family’s loss."

The communications protocol established by Resolution 40621 is intended to be an interim process subject to review and refinement as the City of Tacoma formally pursues and establishes comprehensive transformation of systems impacted by racism, including criminal justice.

"Work to achieve comprehensive transformation of our systems impacted by racism will require all of us to come together," added Mayor Woodards. "It will involve the Citizen Police Advisory Committee, and it will incorporate feedback from Tacoma residents, the Project Peace Executive Board, key community stakeholders and leaders, those most impacted by systemic racism, and experts in criminal justice reform." 

The Equity and Empowerment framework adopted by the City Council in 2014 will help inform this work. Adoption of this framework made equity a consistent guiding principle across the City of Tacoma and calls out specific goals to guide operational and policy decisions, including a commitment to equity in policy making.

More information about use of deadly force by Tacoma police – for cases remaining open after June 17, 2020 – is available at cityoftacoma.org/useofforcecases