Report: Poor oversight of use of force by King County deputies

Sep 11, 2012

King County needs to hit the reset button on how it deals with the use of force by its sheriff’s deputies, according to an independent report presented to County Council members.

A group of independent experts concluded that the way the Sheriff's office handles shootings and other use of force by deputies falls way short of best practices. They say the office’s Shooting Review Board doesn’t look deeply enough into the cases and fails to justify its conclusions. The report recommends ditching the board and replacing it with a new body that would oversee all use of force, including things like tasers. The new board should include a citizen member but no sheriff’s deputies.

“I can tell you that I am onboard,” said Sheriff Steve Strachan.

Strachan told members of the Government Accountability, Oversight and Financial Performance Committee that the report backs up moves he’s already making to take a broader view of each incident.

“Owning all parts of the process that led up to it: discipline, training, equipment, supervision, and being very constructively critical of ourselves in those incidents is the essence of what these changes mean to us,” he said.

Strachan is running for sheriff this year. The report is based on records that mostly predate his appointment to the office.

The Police Assessment Resource Center’s report overlaps with an audit presented in July, which found fault with the way misconduct complaints are investigated. Many of the suggested changes would require buy-in from the King County Police Officers Guild. A representative of the union couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.