In wake of an oversight report of the King County Sheriff’s Office, King County Councilmembers Bob Ferguson and Julia Patterson, today called for implementation of recommendations to increase accountability today of the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) following a briefing on a new, independent risk assessment presented by King County’s Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO).
The Sheriff's Office provides contract police services to Shoreline.
The report examined use of force policies and employee misconduct oversight in the Sheriff’s Office, and makes 25 recommendations for reforms.
“While the vast majority of our deputies serve with honor and distinction, we must be accountable to the public and make sure allegations of misconduct and uses of force are investigated thoroughly and objectively,” said Ferguson, who represents Shoreline on the Council. “This report raises important concerns about accountability and is clear evidence of the importance of having civilian oversight of the Sheriff’s Office.” “
It is essential that the citizens of King County feel protected and secure with their law enforcement,” said Patterson. “Today’s report emphasizes the changes that we need to make, from altering our use of force investigation processes to ensuring that OLEO is properly staffed with adequate resources.”
The issue of use of force and accountability is at the forefront in the Sheriff's race between former spokesman and deputy John Urquhart and current Sheriff Steve Strachan, who replaced Sue Rahr.
Urquhart states on his campaign Web site that, "Once elected, I will form a Use of Force Review Board, specifically to examine force issues where there is a serious injury to a citizen or deputy. The goal will be to examine the incident to see if the injuries were avoidable, either through a change in tactics (including de-escalation), whether additional training for the deputy, or a change in training at the Criminal Justice Training Center is needed."
Strachan says the Sheriff's Office has more work to do, but does not propose a review board: "To enhance accountability, we have invited audits and worked with the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight. We focus on utilizing implementation of best practices while responding to complaints and internal affairs investigations. We have more work to do. Unlike any old-school methods of trying to hide or gloss over problems, we now welcome input while always trying to improve."
Ferguson and Patterson have introduced legislation to ensure accountability reforms in the Sheriff’s Office. The legislation would adopt a Performance Audit Action Plan that includes deliverables and timetables for implementing recommendations of an earlier audit of the Sheriff’s Office. As part of their call for reforms, Ferguson and Patterson said they plan to include recommendations from today’s report in the final version of their legislation, which is anticipated to be before the full Council for possible consideration on Monday, September 17.
The risk assessment report presented in the Council’s Government Accountability, Oversight and Financial Performance Committee was conducted by the non-profit Police Assessment Resource Center (PARC) of Los Angeles at the request of OLEO. With the full cooperation of the Sheriff’s Office, PARC conducted an in-depth evaluation of the policies and oversight procedures for uses of force, deputy-involved shootings, personnel misconduct investigations, and other high risk areas. The report makes 25 recommendations related to:
- Changing use of force policies;
- Creating a new Use of Force Review Board;
- Changes to the membership and practices of internal review boards;
- New policies, procedures, and practices for investigating misconduct and deputy-involved shootings;
- Emphasizing alternatives to lethal uses of force; and
- Concurrent criminal and administrative investigations of serious uses of force incidents.
The report’s recommendations are intended to provide a practical guide to implementing best practices in the law enforcement community and to assure accountability.
“The PARC Report provides a blueprint for improvements in the King County Sheriff’s Office,” said Charles Gaither, Office of Law Enforcement Oversight Director. “I look forward to continuing to work with the Sheriff’s Office to ensure accountable policing and that best practices become a cornerstone of our law enforcement activities.”
In 2006, Councilmembers Ferguson and Patterson sponsored legislative reforms to establish independent civilian oversight of the Sheriff’s Office in response to questions about the effectiveness of the Sheriff’s systems for investigating allegations of misconduct and citizen complaints and disciplining deputies and other employees.
The reforms led to the creation of OLEO, an independent agency with responsibility for monitoring investigations of misconduct, helping to resolve cases, increasing public trust and transparency, and identifying systemic issues and opportunities for reforms within the Sheriff’s Office. PARC is a nationally recognized, non-profit organization that works in cooperation with police monitors, law enforcement executives, government officials, community groups, and other stakeholders to strengthen police oversight and advance effective, respectful, and publicly accountable policing.
Merrick Bobb, PARC President and author of the report, has served as the Police Monitor of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for the past 16 years, and is the Special Counsel to the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors.