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Metropolitan King County Council

Earning public trust, enhancing quality of life, protecting public health and safety
Metropolitan King County Council
516 Third Ave., Rm. 1200
Seattle, WA 98104
Phone: 206-296-1000
Toll Free: 800-325-6165
TTY/TDD: 206-296-1024
Fax: 206-296-0198

council@kingcounty.gov
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Sept. 17, 2012

County Council approves action plan for Sheriff’s Office accountability reforms

Sheriff to present regular updates to Council on progress of report recommendations

The Metropolitan King County Council today unanimously approved legislation adopting an action plan to address recent reports assessing how the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) internally reviews uses of force, allegations of misconduct, and citizen complaints. The action plan establishes specific timelines and benchmarks for KCSO to implement recommended reforms identified in the reports.

“Moving forward with reform is critical to improving accountability and addressing the issues identified in the reports,” said Councilmember Bob Ferguson, co-sponsor of the legislation and Chair of the Government Accountability, Oversight and Financial Performance Committee. “While the overwhelming majority of our law enforcement officers serve with distinction and act honorably, we must make sure the Sheriff’s Office’s internal review processes are meaningful and deserving of the public’s trust.”

“The action plan adopted today will have tangible effects in improving accountability and strengthening community trust,” said Councilmember Julia Patterson, who co-sponsored the legislation. “But our work is not done. Successful law enforcement oversight requires ongoing attention, and I look forward to continuing our work with the Sheriff’s Office on this issue.”

Under the approved action plan, the Sheriff will take specific actions and meet certain deadlines to implement the recommendations raised by the two reports. The plan calls for the Sheriff to report back to Council on specific measures of progress on meeting the recommended reforms. By increasing oversight, the plan enables the Council hold KCSO accountable for implementation of the reforms.

The action plan addresses two recent reports presented to the Council highlighting significant problems with KCSO’s Internal Investigation operations and accountability systems.

The first report was a performance audit presented to the Council in July by the King County Auditor. Conducted in conjunction with a well-respected national law enforcement consulting firm, the audit reviewed best practices for managing, investigating, and overseeing allegations of misconduct and citizen complaints. The audit identified supervision issues, deficiencies in policies and procedures, and shortcomings of KCSO’s accountability system. The report made 16 recommendations to improve internal investigations and law enforcement oversight.

The second report, a risk assessment, was presented last week by the King County Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO). Conducted by the non-profit Police Assessment Resource Center at OLEO’s request, the report evaluated the policies and oversight procedures for uses of force, deputy-involved shootings, personnel misconduct investigations, and other high risk areas. The report made 25 recommendations to put KCSO on a path to implementing national best practices in the law enforcement community.

The two reports were conducted with cooperation from KCSO. The Sheriff concurred or agreed in principle with all of the recommendations made in both reports.

“I am confident the findings of the audits will assist the King County Sheriff’s Office in their sworn commitment to raise the bar in how they provide public safety,” said Council Chair Larry Gossett. “The audits provide the necessary tools and oversight to do so. We expect our women and men in law enforcement to utilize best practices in a difficult and often dangerous job, to treat all those within King County with professionalism and respect, to exhibit the highest levels of integrity and accountability, and to be transparent to the public. This approach serves the best interests of our law enforcement professionals as well as the public we all serve.”

Today’s action builds on the Council’s efforts to increase KCSO accountability. In 2006, Councilmembers Ferguson and Patterson sponsored legislative reforms to establish independent civilian oversight of the Sheriff’s Office. 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.