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Learning about OLEO

OLEO has oversight authority over the administrative investigation of complaints regarding alleged misconduct by any King County Sheriff’s Office employees. These investigations are conducted by the Sheriff’s Office Internal Investigations Unit. OLEO certifies whether the investigations were conducted thoroughly and objectively.

The Sheriff’s Office primarily provides police services in unincorporated areas of King County, King County airport, Metro, Sound Transit, and the partnering contract cities of:

  • Beaux Arts
  • Burien
  • Covington
  • Kenmore
  • Maple Valley
  • Muckleshoot Indian Tribe
  • Newcastle
  • North Bend
  • Sammamish
  • SeaTac
  • Shoreline
  • Skykomish
  • Woodinville

The Sheriff’s Office and OLEO serve all people who live or work in these areas, or use public transportation. Services such as helicopters and bomb disposal available to all King County residents.

Sheriff’s Office personnel include King County deputies, communications center staff, King County Superior Court marshals and certain building security screeners.

No, OLEO is an independent agency in the legislative branch of King County. Its director is appointed by the King County Council.

Learning more about the complaint process:

OLEO receives complaints concerning  Sheriff’s Office employees.  Examples include but are not limited to complaints of: 

  • Harassment
  • Use of unnecessary or excessive force
  • Use of language or conduct that is insulting, demeaning, or humiliating
  • Discriminatory treatment
  • Ethics, conflicts of interest, and appearance of conflicts of interest
  • Inappropriate use of authority

OLEO does not have authority to review the actions of any law enforcement agency other than the King County Sheriff’s Office.   

OLEO does not oversee Sheriff’s Office criminal investigations or those involving Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) matters such as workplace discrimination or retaliation.

For complaints filed directly with OLEO, OLEO transmits the complaint to the Sheriff’s Office Internal Investigation Unit (IIU) for processing.  IIU determines how complaints are handled, including complaints classification and whether a complaint warrants an investigation.

The Sheriff’s Office personnel investigating your complaint may ask you to give a statement in person or by telephone. With your permission, the statement may be recorded. You may be asked to describe what happened, to provide the name(s) and/or descriptions of the employee(s) involved, and to provide the names of any potential witnesses. In some cases, you may also be asked to allow photographs of any injuries or property damage and to consent to the release of medical records associated with your complaint.

If an investigation takes place, depending on the severity and complexity of the allegations, the complaint will be handled by either the Sheriff’s Office Internal Investigations Unit or a local commanding officer.

OLEO will monitor and track on-going administrative investigations conducted by IIU and may observe and participate in interviews conducted by the Sheriff’s Office.  Once a finding is made, OLEO will review the investigative steps and make a determination, in writing, whether in our opinion the investigation was thorough and objective. OLEO can request that further investigative work be conducted if it would be material to the outcome.

An administrative investigation determines if an employee has violated the Sheriff’s office policies and procedures.

Administrative investigations should not exceed 180 days unless an extension has been approved. An exception is when a complaint also involves alleged criminal conduct that is also being reviewed.

If your complaint was investigated, you will receive a letter from the Sheriff’s Office notifying you of the outcome when the investigation is complete. You will also receive a letter from OLEO indicating whether our office certified the investigation as thorough and objective.

Any complaining party not satisfied with the findings of the Sheriff’s Office may contact OLEO to discuss whether or not OLEO certified the investigation and what criteria was used for determining whether it was thorough and objective. Inquiries related directly to the investigation or case outcome should be addressed by the Sheriff's Office.

Learning more about the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process:

In order to go to ADR, the person making the complaint must be interested in pursuing it. The Sheriff's Office employee designated by the complaint must also agree in order for the mediation to proceed. Potential ADR cases are then reviewed and approved by the OLEO Director and the Commander of the Internal Investigations Unit.

The mediator is a neutral third party trained and experienced in helping people talk through and resolve their differences in constructive ways. OLEO has selected trained, professional mediators with significant conflict resolution backgrounds. The mediator will:

  • Explain the process and ground rules and answer any questions.
  • Listen to both sides of the story.
  • Ask questions to clarify what happened and help identify central issues.
  • Help keep the discussion focused, productive and non-threatening.
  • NOT take sides, place blame, or pass judgment.

Not necessarily. ADR can work even with people who are very upset. The mediator is trained to help people resolve conflict in constructive ways.

ADR is confidential; all participants sign a legally binding confidentiality agreement. The contents of an ADR session are not subject to subpoena or discovery, and courts have upheld the mediator-client privilege. The one exception is where mandatory reporting requirements apply for certain admissions of criminal acts by any party.
It is part of the mediator’s job to control a session from deteriorating to verbal attacks. While there may be some venting on both sides, verbal abuse or threatening conduct are not acceptable in ADR. The mediator may separate the parties, work with them individually, or elect to terminate the ADR.
No. You may not have done anything wrong. In any case, what you say is up to you. Some participants do apologize, but it is their choice.
Either party can leave the session at any time. No one is compelled to reach conclusions or agreements.