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County Council appoints first director of the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight


Office will provide enhanced oversight over King County Sheriff’s Department


The Metropolitan King County Council gave its unanimous approval today to the selection of Charles Gaither as director of the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO). Gaither will lead the new independent agency responsible for ensuring the integrity of the King County Sheriff’s complaint and investigation process, including the resolution of complaints.

With Gaither’s appointment, the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight begins its work, fulfilling years of effort to establish better oversight led by Councilmembers Bob Ferguson and Julia Patterson.

“Today’s appointment of Mr. Gaither is a major milestone towards realizing the important reform of implementing civilian oversight of the Sheriff’s Office,” said Councilmember Ferguson, chair of the Council’s Law, Justice, Health and Human Services Committee and sponsor of Mr. Gaither’s appointment. “Mr. Gaither’s extensive experience will be invaluable to increasing transparency in the complaint process and further building public trust between law enforcement and the community.”

“The people of King County will be well served by Mr. Gaither’s extensive background in law enforcement and police operations,” said Councilmember Patterson, who co-sponsored the legislation to create the OLEO. “I applaud the work of the search committee for their diligence in selecting a candidate who will ensure the Sheriff’s complaint and investigation process is thorough and fair.”

“I am pleased the Council confirmed Charles Gaither as the first Director of the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight,” said Larry Gossett, Chair of the Metropolitan King County Council and member of the Selection Committee. “Mr. Gaither is the perfect person to build the foundation for law enforcement oversight in King County. His extensive law enforcement and oversight experience make him uniquely qualified to serve the residents of King County and the deputies in the King County Sherriff’s Office. He understands not only the difficulties involved in being a law enforcement officer but also the damage that can be done in the community when officers abuse their authority. I look forward to working with him in the future.”

Gaither brings more than 15 years of law enforcement experience to the position. He is currently the Policy and Investigations Manager and Special Investigator with the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners, Office of the Inspector General (OIG). In this position, he reviews investigations involving officer-involved shootings, in-custody deaths, and law enforcement related injuries. Gaither also conducts performance audits of police operations involving anti-terrorism, biased policing, and allegations of police misconduct.

Gaither has deep roots in King County. He is a graduate of Seattle University School of Law, worked in the Seattle City Attorney’s office, was a Trustee in the Young Lawyers Division of the King County Bar Association, and served as a law clerk with the local firm of Riddell Williams P.S.

“I wish to thank the King County Council for entrusting me to head the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight and for assuring accountability of county policing,” said Gaither. “As countless members of the community, the Council and the Sheriff’s Office have labored for the formation of this office, I will work diligently to assure the public’s trust of law enforcement operations in King County. I am humbled by this opportunity and look forward to assuming my new role as head of this important agency.”

“The people of King County will benefit from the experience and leadership that Mr. Gaither brings to the position,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “We look forward to the transparency and professionalism that is integral to the trust our residents have in law enforcement officials. I thank the search committee for their work, and I wish him the best of luck in the new position.”

The appointment of Gaither comes after a nationwide search for candidates. A search committee that included representatives from the County Council, the County Executive, the Puget Sound Police Manager's Association, and the King County Police Officers’ Guild screened candidates and recommended three finalists to the County Executive. The Executive selected Gaither from among the finalists and nominated him as OLEO director for final approval by the Council.

King County Sheriff Sue Rahr noted that the appointment completes a key recommendation of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sheriff’s Office Accountability. “I am pleased that we have a great partner going forward in continuing to build trust, respect, and open collaboration with the public we serve.”

Councilmembers Ferguson and Patterson led the effort to create the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight, which was approved by the County Council. The office will be responsible for receiving complaints of alleged officer misconduct, actively monitoring the Sheriff’s internal investigations unit, and assessing its thoroughness and objectivity. The office will present an annual report about the complaint investigation process that will include recommendations for improvement.

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