StoryMetropolitan King County Councilmembers Bob Ferguson and Julia Patterson issued the following statements regarding a performance audit released today of the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) Internal Investigations Unit and the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO). The Internal Investigations Unit is responsible for investigating citizen complaints and allegations of misconduct within the Sheriff’s Office, including use of force investigations.
“The audit reveals alarming shortcomings in the Sheriff’s Office internal investigation processes and accountability systems that are unacceptable. The public expects and deserves better,” said Ferguson. “Immediate action is needed so we can get the focus squarely back on the work of protecting public safety.”
“I am greatly disappointed by the results of today’s audit report, especially the finding that the Sheriff and the department’s Internal Investigation Unit cannot initiate an investigation without a formal complaint being filed by a citizen or commander,” Patterson said. “Our Internal Investigation Unit should be able to be proactive and investigate without being directed by a third party.”
Ferguson chairs the Council’s Government Accountability, Oversight and Financial Performance (GAOFP) Committee, which heard today’s briefing about the performance audit.
“This audit demonstrates why we made audits a critical part of our law enforcement oversight reforms—to provide an unvarnished, independent assessment of how citizen complaints and misconduct cases are being handled by the Sheriff’s Office,” said Ferguson.
Following the audit reports, Sheriff Steve Strachan presented a plan to the GAOFP committee for addressing each of the recommendations made in the audit about the Sheriff’s Office. The GAOFP committee plans to hold follow-up briefings in the coming weeks to track the progress of the Sheriff’s Office in implementing reforms.
“By creating the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight, working to maintain funding for law enforcement oversight, and calling for today’s audit, the Council has continuously made this issue a priority,” Patterson said. “I look forward to working with Sheriff Strachan and OLEO to ensure that the inadequacies that were exposed in today’s report are resolved as quickly as possible.”
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 the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight, an independent agency with responsibility for monitoring investigations of misconduct, helping to resolve cases, increasing public trust and transparency, and identifying system issues and reforms within the Sheriff’s Office.
The audit released today was called for by Ferguson and Patterson’s legislation. That legislation required an audit of the KCSO internal investigations operations and practices and OLEO as part of a permanent ongoing law enforcement audit process.
King County Sheriff's response