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.
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