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King County sheriff is aiming to have department staffed at 100% in 3 years

Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall is the first person of color to hold her position with King County. #newdaynw

SEATTLE — King County Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall has spent the last few months settling into her new role and removing the interim label. She became the first person of color to lead the department when she was named sheriff in May. 

Cole-Tindall isn't originally from Washington, but moved to the area as a junior in high school while her father served in the Air Force.

She grew up watching her parents in public service careers and, after going through a divorce, she decided to pursue a career in law enforcement. 

Cole-Tindall looked at positions with the FBI and the Washington State Gambling Commission, but ultimately decided to stay local for her son, who was young at the time. 

She has worked in the sheriff's office for almost seven years in different roles and believes her non-traditional path makes her unique. 

"I have a much different perspective than someone who has been in the agency their entire career," Cole-Tindall told us. 

She said her triple threat experience working in labor, human relations, and law enforcement oversight with King County made her a unique candidate for the role.

"We need to have people in law enforcement that represent the people in the community," Cole-Tindall said. "By being the first person of color to lead the King County Sheriff's Office, I hope it shows other people of color that they could do this too."

Use of force in King County

Sheriff Cole-Tindall was disappointed in recent King County audit numbers showing racial disparities in both arrests and use of force by deputies. 

"We are taking those results very seriously," she said. 

The sheriff's office plans to perform its own analysis and make changes upon confirming the results.

RELATED: Q&A: King County Executive Dow Constantine on priorities for 2022

King County deputies use very little force, according to Cole-Tindall. Over a three-year period, numbers show her deputies used force 619 times out of more than one million cases. Only four of those 619 use-of-force incidents were deemed inappropriate. 

"I am proud of the work my folks do," Cole-Tindall said, "but if we do find problems, we will address them."

Her goals as sheriff

Cole-Tindall shared the three goals she plans to accomplish: improving transparency, changing morale in the department, and effective retention and recruitment. 

To improve transparency to the public, the sheriff's office will continue to provide a use of force and internal affairs dashboard on their website for the community to see. 

The sheriff's office also plans to create an advisory committee to provide feedback and ideas that will include members of the public. 

Making the King County Sheriff's Office a place current employees want to be, as well as a place people want to come is another main priority for Cole-Tindall.

Leadership is sending out a weekly newsletter about what they're working on and it's had a great impact on morale, she said.

Right now, there are a large number of vacancies in the sheriff's office. Cole-Tindall said she wants to rebuild and re-establish relationships with the community, council, and current employees.

With their strategic recruiting plan, the department is on target to hire additional people to fill vacant positions. She hopes staffing numbers will be back up to 100% within the next three years.

RELATED: Patti Cole-Tindall says it’s a ‘privilege’ to lead as new King County sheriff

Segment Producer Rebecca Perry. Watch New Day Northwest 11 a.m. weekdays on KING 5 and streaming live on KING5.com. Contact New Day.

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