CMs Balducci, Dembowski, Dunn, Kohl-Welles, Lambert, McDermott, Upthegrove, von Reichbauer and Zahilay.
I joined the meeting at the beginning at 1:15.
70 people had signed up to speak. The clerk and Chair Claudia Balducci methodically called each speaker - many did not respond. I was impressed by how polite and patient the clerk was, giving people time to respond after calling their names and coming back to names that had not responded the first time. I listened off and on for 5 hours.
The committee then ended up voting to put on the ballot the questions of whether the sheriff should be elected versus appointed and and whether the Council should have the power to define the sheriff’s duties. Councilmembers von Reichbauer, Lambert, and Dunn opposed both. As described by several Councilmembers, it was clearly a marked response to BLM calls for accountability.
Virtual Meeting Highlights:
(Note: League Observer joined the meeting at the beginning at 1:15 and listened on and off for 5 hours). The meeting began with structured public comment - 70 people had signed up. The Clerk of the Council and CM Claudia Balducci (Chair) methodically called each speaker. Many many did not respond. The clerk gave speakers time to respond after calling their names and coming back to names that had not responded the first time. Public comments were still going at 4pm.
Placing Issues on the Ballot
The Committee then ended up voting to put to the voters the issues of appointing verses electing the Sheriff and giving Council the power to define the Sheriff’s duties. CMs Von Reichbauer, Lambert and Dunn opposed. Several council members who voted in favor remarked they were responding to BLM calls for accountability.
King County Council Law & Justice Committee – 9/2/20 (2 of 2)
Members Present: Girmay Zahilay (Chair), Kathy Lambert (Vice Chair), CM Rod Dembowski, CM Jeanne Kohl-Welles, CM Reagan Dunn, CM Dave Upthegrove
Evaluation of King County Sheriff's Office: Policy, Practice, and Review Mechanisms for Officer Involved Shootings: Systemic Review of the Shooting of Tommy Le
Tommy Le’s family (mother, father, aunt): Want to bring justice and bring out the truth on their son’s passing, both emotional. Express their love for their son, and how difficult it has been since his passing. Thankful to OLEO for finally providing a report and looking into the death of Tommy Le, and providing accountability to the officer involved and shed light on the situation.
Deborah Jacobs (OLEO): Talk about 2019 report of systemic review by OLEO, reminder that this is the second report for Tommy Le because of the sheriff’s office display of a narrative, instead of simply displaying the facts. OLEO’s oversight ability on officer-involved shootings at threat, Sheriff’s office don’t want to allow OLEO to review these cases.
Michael Gennaco: Past legal career that involves excessive force and other 4th amendment violations. Internal review process should be all about preventing future similar events from happening.
New legislation allows for oversight, but the Sheriff's office is still responsible for reviewing these incidents in relation to their deputies and how the situation was handled. Inaccurate information given about Tommy Le, said he had a knife when it was actually a pen. Not much going on when trying to collect actual evidence, overfocus on the knife issue. Lack of professional questioning for the deputy involved, not asked critical questions. Also, there was a wait of 5 weeks before the review of the deputy
Because of these things, concluded there was inadequate review by the Sheriff’s office. They were not finding what actually happened. There was a lack of justification for the incident and lack of acknowledging critical facts (shot in the back multiple times, no threat/advancement on officers, other facts that may lead to needing deadly force). No reform came out of the incident: no learning and no structural reform. There were five suggestions given during review: 2 already mentioned, one being already “in the works.” Other 3 were never implemented.
While there is still a necessity for oversight to be present (review board as well), the ability to truly review a case still lies with the Sheriff’s Office internally and the ability to supply reform.
CM Zahilay: Questioned conflict of interest in the want for internal review by Mr. Gennaco. Didn’t seem like the process that was identified is not about bringing justice. Five weeks is way too much time (48-hour rule). What should deputies be asked after these incidents? Seems like no questions were asked about why deadly force was necessary. What happened in the 17 min. interview? Seems like a clear obstruction of justice by the KCSO.
Response by Mr. Gennaco: Requires transparency, participation by oversight, and strict reporting and accountability for the Sheriff's Office. Investigators should conduct a thorough investigation and should use tough questions, but there are no required questions to ask. There is a lack of critical facts included or even in the public reporting, no justification for the actions taken by the deputy or justification for the lack of investigation. Misleading narrative to the public.
CM Dembowski: Is the review open to the public? The criminal justice system open to the public. Transparency is needed. There is a lack of representation by the community, and the interest by the department to maintain the interests of their deputy especially with no public involvement. How much more work do we have to do here in regards to the review process?
Response by Mr. Gennaco: The review is not open to the public. Demands are greater on each person in law enforcement now during this time of social justice. Also most reviews fall short in the review process. Structure of the review/investigative process is ok (could be better), but the application of the structure is not good at all in these cases of deadly force. There is a long way to go for the Sheriff’s Office review.
Sheriff Johanknecht: There has not been enough time for the Office to thoroughly vet the report by Mr. Gennaco. There needs to be accountability and thorough review in these cases. Media decisions by the previous Sheriff in 2017 led to a breakdown in trust between the public and the KCSO. She's sorry that it happened. We are taking the suggestions and making changes through the review process, even if they weren’t explicitly stated in the brief/report. There are factual disputes over the event of that day, differences in opinion between the department and Gennaco's report. “Report by Mr. Gennaco shows a lack of interest by the Sheriff’s office for review, which isn’t true because "I do care.”
Changes/Improvements so far include:
- 2019 reform for review process
- Sheriff’s office separate in situations with independent investigation with criminal implications
- Agreement to upgrade and change tasers when needed (suggestion in the first review of Tommy Le’s death)
Communication in the Sheriff's Office after these incidents is important. Want to expand use of data to improve transparency. They needed to reform the media strategy for the office, change the practice on the policy.
CM Zahilay: Asked the Sheriff to confirm the review happened under her administration. Do you agree whether internal reviews are subjected to conflicts of interest? Should have an independent entity conducting reviews, not KCSO reviewing. There is an impact on the integrity of the process by even having KCSO there. Apparent attempt to silence and stop OLEO conducting systemic reviews. Do you have a position on systemic reviews?
Response by Sheriff: Review did happen under my administration. Don’t know if that grievance is doing anything to stop systemic reviews. Strongly disagree with the implication that members of the Sheriff’s Office are against systemic review, and believe they're trying to clarify instead of stopping all review that is similar.
CM Dembowski: Update on internal investigation of deputy’s comments in regards to the killing of a woman on I-5 with a vehicle.
Response by Sheriff: Don’t have the information but will follow up later on the timeline.
Proposed Ordinance approving and adopting the updated 2020-2025 King County Regional hazard Mitigation Plan, as approved by FEMA.
Summary: Proposal to adopt the 2020-2025 King County Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan (RHMP), which is Attachment A to the ordinance. The federal government requires local governments such as King County to create a local mitigation plan and update the plan every five years in order to be eligible for funding through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) and other mitigation grant programs. The Code of Federal Regulations contains specific requirements for plan elements. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has given pre-adoption approval for the 2020 RHMP. This plan, in addition to being the plan for unincorporated King County, would also serve as the base plan for other jurisdictions in King County. These jurisdictions would then develop their own annexes to the RHMP, with a focus on hazard mitigation in their own areas.
The 2020 update to the plan included multiple inter-jurisdictional workshops and public outreach events. The plan contains discussion of eight natural hazards and six human-caused hazards that threaten King County, identifies community goals, and develops mitigation strategies to advance those goals and reduce vulnerability to hazards. The plan also lays out a process for evaluating and prioritizing individual projects within the mitigation strategies. King County first adopted a hazard mitigation plan in 2004, with updates adopted in 2009 and 2015. The 2015 plan expired on April 30, 2020.
CM Lambert: We need to be more diligent in the future because we haven’t been in a similar experience before, make sure we are prepared.
Vote on Ordinance: Passed unanimously.
Proposed Motion acknowledging receipt of a report detailing changes to detention policies, procedures, and practices consistent with ordinance 18637.
Summary: In late 2017, the Council adopted Ordinance 18637 which placed significant new restrictions on the use of solitary confinement of youth in County detention facilities—both juvenile and adult facilities. The Council added a proviso that required that the Executive to transmit a report to the Council with a description of each policy, procedure and practice that has been changed as a result of the implementation of Ordinance 18637 and a description of any additional resources needed to facilitate provision of programming, treatment, and services for youth charged as adults who begin their detention in juvenile facilities, but are transferred to adult facilities at age 18—these individuals are known as “auto-decline” youth and within the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention as “Adult Age Outs” (AAO).
The proviso report outlines changes to detention policies, procedures and practices to show consistency with Ordinance 18637. The report also includes a description of each policy, procedure and practice changed as a result of the implementation of the requirements established in Ordinance 18637. These identified procedures include systems to track and document the new practices and to ensure compliance with established policies and procedures. It also includes a description of additional resources needed to facilitate the full provision of programming, treatment, and services for Adult Age Outs in adult facilities and who are subject to Ordinance 18637. Further, the report notes that the department continues to work collaboratively with its workforce and labor partners to refine procedures associated with the use of restrictive housing. Finally, the report indicates that the department continues to improve staff training aimed at building a more therapeutic and trauma-informed environment for youth in department care, but that it is the Executive’s assessment that providing similar programming and services to the adult age-out population currently housed in adult facilities would require substantial investments in new or expanded facilities and staffing. The report appears to meet the requirements of the proviso.
CM Dembowski: Documentation of when solitary confinement is used. How are they doing in documenting as required by the Ordinance previously?
Response by Clifton Curry, King County Legislative Analyst: Department has come a long way when documenting these scenarios, both juvenile and adult facilities.
Vote on Motion: Passed unanimously.
Proposed Motion acknowledging receipt of the first of two independent monitor reports on the implementation of Ordinance 18367 as they relate to confinement of juveniles in county detention facilities.
Summary: As part of its deliberations on the 2019-2020 Budget, the Council added a proviso that required that the Executive to continue its engagement of an independent monitor to review the impact of the changes to solitary confinement on the youth in detention. This proposed motion would accept the first of two required monitoring reports. These reports are a continuation of the independent monitoring related to the County’s implementation of Ordinance 18637 which placed significant new restrictions on the use of solitary confinement of youth. In this report, the monitors reviewed operations at both the Youth Services Center and the department’s adult facilities. This monitoring report covers the status of implementation of Ordinance 18637 during the period July to December 2019 and also follows up on two earlier reports by the former monitor on prior efforts by DAJD for the period of July to December 2018. The monitors reported on the use of restrictive housing for youth in both juvenile and adult facilities, reviewed operations, and made a variety of recommendations to improve processes and operations. The report also shows the planned work for the next review period. The report appears to meet the requirements of the proviso.
Presentation by Clifton Curry
CM Lambert: Would not show progress on under 18s when showing over 18s. Data inconsistency not allowing for direct comparisons (apples to apples vs apples to oranges metaphor used). Include real numbers in the bars instead of the percentages in the future. Clear data with consistency over the past years should include who would have been in detention facilities without these past changes implemented.
CM Dembowski: Can’t tell if the ordinance is working or not because of the amount of youth still in detention. Are we using this less frequently? Indictment on the County if the reason for youth solitary detention is because of a lack of staff. Thanked them for their thorough investigation and detailed report.
CM Upthegrove: Is there sufficient staff to have restorative work? Are hiring practices different now as expectations have changed?
Response by Curry: Believe there is enough staff for restorative work. Continue to prioritize additional training for staff. Hiring practices have changed, prior experience, clinical experience, and people who are invested in the wellbeing of youth.
Public input happened at the end of the meeting. CM Zahilay was respectful but pointed, making sure to stop people at time and providing clarity to procedure. Input focused on the Sheriff's Office use of deadly force, many speaking on the importance of the review by Mr. Gennaco and also the need for reform to the review process. Many speakers did not think the Sheriff’s office or any department should be involved in the review process. Others spoke about the previous inadequacy by departments in review in Tommy Le’s case and in others.
Summary of Councilmembers' Comments (across all topics)
All members were respectful of each other and the speakers who took their time to provide information on the topics at hand. All were courteous and attentive.
CM Zahilay: Very critical of the investigation into Tommy Le’s death. Ask about the incompetence of the review by the Sheriff's Office not properly investigating the incident of deadly force. Expressed gratitude to those who spoke and gave their time to the topics at hand.
CM Lambert: Spoke about updating of the Hazard Mitigation Plan as necessitated by FEMA because of our lack of experience with these possible hazards and not having proper or sufficient resources for response.
CM Dembowski: Spoke about the lack of public interaction in the process of review by the Sheriff’s Office. Wanted to focus on the humanity of the situation and the want for accountability so the KCSO doesn’t try to save face or work for their deputies’ interests.
CMs Kohl-Welles and Dunn: Attentive and respectful. Did not ask questions or comment much.
CM Upthegrove: Asked questions about the final motion in reference to youth detention. Questions helped probe more information involving the restorative work in these facilities.
Members Present: CMs Rod Dembowski (RD), Girmay Zahilay (GZ), Kathy Lambert (KL), Jeanne Kohl Welles (JKW), Dave Upthegrove (DU), Claudia Balducci (CB), Pete von Reichbauer (PVR), Joe McDermott (JM)
CM Regan Dunn
Vazaskia Crockrell (VC) moderated the meeting to discuss the proposed charter amendment. Charter Review Commissioner Kennan Williams (KW) provided information on recommendations.
Introduction to Discussion
VC invited people to submit questions/comments, invited people to the meeting tomorrow. She noted that King County and KC council has a strong commitment to equity and social justice. We are trying to be intentional about leading with racial and social justice. Acknowledged historical and current racial strife.
Commissioner KW (Charter Review Commission) will talk about the recommendation that will be presented tomorrow.
KW: The charter amendment would return to the Office of County Sheriff to an appointed office and
While the proposal was not unanimously supported, only two Commissioners did not support it. If adopted by the council, it will allow this charter amendment to move forward to the November ballot
The Charter Review Commission — Formed every 10 years by the county to review and make recommendations on the charter, our County’s constitution.
Unlike other counties, 90% of the population lives in incorporated cities.
Commissioners have to be nominated and appointed, 23 in total
they conduct research, input, public meetings. Six of nine Council districts have unincorporated districts in them.
VC: Opens the floor to councilmembers to speak.
Comments by Councilmembers
RD: This takes the politics out of policing. There was a whole movement in the 60s to professionalize government and that is what appeals to him. We would have a sheriff who would come from a pool of people beyond who is just willing to run for office. they wouldn’t have to be a registered voter in KC. Reduces chaos and politicking within the Sheriff’s Officez. We saw this within the last election.
Adding accountability. County Council added funding to the Sheriff’s Office to undertake additional de-escalation training; the Sheriff’s Office used the $ for training that they were already doing for tasing, and ultimately they never used the $. Need more oversight and ability to implement changes. Voters should decide if they want an appointed or elected a sheriff.
GZ: Agreed w/ Dembowski. Has been asked whether this would reduce accountability to the public. He thinks this does the opposite:
1. We will get a better candidate pool;
2. When you have an independently-elected sheriff it insulates you from accountability. There’s no real way to remove a sheriff;
3. An appointed position allows for bigger structural policy changes, KC Council can provide policy direction and oversight to office
KL: Her constituents do not want to have an appointed sheriff. She wants to hear more from the Charter Commission about benefits of an appointed sheriff. KL has questions for supporters:
JKW: Sponsor of this legislation. She personally likes our current Sheriff (notes this proposal has nothing to do with current Sheriff). Many people who contacted JKW sees this as antithetical to democracy, but she says that's counterintuitive:
PVR: He was involved in the original change, against the Sheriff’s Office being partisan. Voted originally for the Sheriff to be elected. Thinks our elected Sheriffs have been great and have a good relationship w/County Council. Warns that not all county execs have had a good relationship with the County Council. He wants to keep it elected and accountable to the public, not to a politician.
McDermott: The Sheriff’s Office does not participate in the equity directives of the county. An appointed Sheriff must align with county.
With the lack of this happening now, he does believe having an appointed Sheriff provides the executive and the council the ability to direct the Sheriff’s office to work with equity and social justice.
DU: This movement is about justice for BIPOC in South King County. Delivering justice means ensuring every member of our community feels safe. it means rooting out institutional racism. Solutions need to be shaped by those most impacted. Recommendations brought to him by BIPOC:
VC: There will be more opportunities for public input tomorrow, in the event the committee votes to pass this forward, this vote will go to the full Council on July 21 and there will be another opportunity for public comment.
KL: Needed date clarification. Wants to make sure schedule for July 21 is not overloaded with business so constituents can participate.
Q: When considering an appointed or elected sheriff — which model provides more transparency and accountability?
RD: arguments to be made for both, but he believes appointed provides more because:
Q: How will appointed sheriffs have more oversight?
RD: Here’s how it works with other appointed people: They report directly and are in the cabinet. We have hearings and meetings with department directors who are obligated to implement county policies. Elected sheriffs do not have to do this.
Q: Does this take away accountability from the people?
GZ: If you elect a sheriff you hold them accountable once every four years, so there’s a conflict of interest for elected officials. The big bold changes can be made by appointed sheriffs. An elected sheriff can make smaller changes, but the Council is better at directing policy.
KL: if we’re going to send somebody out to a DV call, how do we make sure that person is safe? KL wants to know what the Sheriff’s Office isn’t doing do implement ESJ? What is the documentation for that?
Q: Doesn’t an appointed sheriff create a sheriff who is more accountable to the council than the public?
JKW: Elected sheriffs are accountable to the people who write their campaign checks.
Q: Why do voters outside of the sheriff’s jurisdiction get to vote for King County Sheriff?
KL: Thinks it’s “very sad” that the people most impacted on a daily basis are the ones who get overruled, wants to see this changed.
GZ: People living in Seattle shouldn’t be voting for a KC Sheriff. He doesn’t know the procedural path for that.
CB: The Sheriff’s Office does provide regional services as well, marine services, helicopter services that do cover the whole county. There’s an interest, but not the same interest in who the sheriff is.
RD (@KL): The charter has the opportunity to shape the appointment process. Should the charter have language that would require as part of the process consultation with a group of unincorporated communities and contracted cities, and stakeholders; making sure residents or Council members are part of the process in the charter to make sure those interests are represented?
Q: What is the criteria looked for in an appointed sheriff
RD: Qualified, experienced, demonstrated a commitment to progressive policing, focused on and reducing use of force, someone who is capable of relating to the community and reflects the values of the county, someone who can rethink what policing and public safety mean.
GZ: It’s important that an appointed sheriff come from and prioritize unincorporated King County. We have to make sure their voices are heard. He would want to look for a sheriff who is going to be a partner to the Executive and Council to implement a better system of public safety, one that meets the challenges. We don’t need armed people going to every call. We promote public safety by tailoring our response to fit the call. We need a partner who will lead on this in anti-racism.
PVR: The current elected sheriff fulfills all of Dembowkski’s wants.
DU: Deliver justice for BIPOC communities. Make sure someone has the courage to stand up and support the movement to justice and not be and impediment or neutral.
KL: “I know a lot of officers who have never drawn their gun”. They had other tools that they used in those days. Having somebody armed isn’t the point. We have no idea what a call will turn into. You need to have the tools for the full range and the wisdom to know when to use them. Wants a collaboration between the sheriff and the community. Community needs to treat officers with respect, and vice versa.
Q: If KC does move forward, is the council prepared to accept full responsibility for their actions or inactions?
CB: She’s the only one on this call who has been appointed and elected. She’s not opposed to electing sheriffs. She has way more latitude to make changes as an elected official and a term limit, which allows an elected official the time to make changes. What we’re talking about is giving the voter which type of method they have. She tends to think given the very challenging issues of today, given the rightful drive towards reform, that this is a legit question to hand to the voters. Does this change move you in the right direction? There are lots of other changes. Just because you’re appointed doesn’t free you up because you're accountable to the person who put you there.
CMs Balducci, Dembowski, Gossett, Kohl-Welles, Lambert, Upthegrove and von Reichbauer
Absent: CMs Dunn and McDermot
CM Kohl-Welles reported from the Puget Sound Regional Council on the work to update the Vision 2040 plan to Vision 2050 regarding demographic and transportation changes since 2009. Sections on climate change, sustainability, social equity and health are being added to the plan. CM Gosset discussed the issue of annexation of unincorporated areas. Skyway, a large working class, mostly people of color community, is in unincorporated King County, even though it lies between Seattle and Renton. Skyway has voted twice against annexation. The council feels they cannot provide the government services which a city would provide this area and support annexation.
The Council approved a motion to organize the council committees and assigned a council member to each committee. These committees are organized to support the key priorities for 2019.
Priorities for 2019