King Co. Sheriff: Dept. is ready to implement recommended reforms

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by LINDA BYRON / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @LByronK5

KING5.com

Posted on September 11, 2012 at 6:10 PM

The King County Sheriff's Office is ready to move forward with most of the recommended reforms contained in a new audit, Sheriff Steve Strachan said Tuesday.

The review, conducted by the Los Angeles-based Police Assessment Resource Center and formally released Tuesday, concludes that KCSO routinely rules that officer-involved shootings are justified without conducting a serious review of the incidents. The review also found that the department was “seriously deficient” in its record keeping in use of force cases and that important documents were apparently lost or destroyed.

Of the 25 recommendations contained in the audit, Strachan said he had reservations about just two -- a recommendation that a KCSO deputy interview suspects in use of force incidents and include the interviews in use of force review documents, and another recommendation that the Internal Investigative Unit "handle all complaints of KCSO employees."

Strachan said his concern having IIU handle every complaint is tied to resources and budget; KCSO does not have sufficient personnel to handle the additional workload, he said.

As for the remaining 23 reforms, Strachan said two have already been implemented, but 9 others will need to be negotiated with the union representing KCSO deputies.

[Read the full report from the Police Assessment Resource Center.]

Asked if he planned to encourage the union to accept the changes, Strachan said: "You keep asking me if I'm going to fight the union. I'm going to advocate strongly."

Strachan discussed the audit at a briefing attended by Charles Gaither, director of the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO); and Councilmember Bob Ferguson, who chairs the council committee that oversees KCSO. All three said the new audit did not amount to a "slam" on KCSO.

Ferguson and Councilmember Julia Patterson introduced legislation today in the Law, Justice and Human Services Committee committee  to require KCSO to implement suggested reforms included in a separate audit conducted by Hillard Heintze LLC, a law-enforcement consulting firm. That audit, the first of what will be an annual review of KCSO, was commissioned by the county council and presented in July.

Ferguson said Tuesday that he plans to review the new audit's recommendations with an eye toward including some or all of them in his legislation before it goes to the full council.  He hopes to have the legislation ready by Monday but said it might take a week.

The new audit was commissioned by OLEO, which was established to fix problems uncovered six years ago in the sheriff's office. There were numerous delays in funding OLEO and hiring a director, so it has only been up and running since late last year.  OLEO will officially present the audit to the King County Council Tuesday morning, including 25 recommended changes.

One of the recommendations is to beef up staffing in OLEO, which auditors found to be “understaffed to an astonishing degree.”

Problems with KCSO's handling of use of force incidents were the subject of a KING 5 Investigators series -- "Bully with a badge."

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