The King County Sheriff’s Office will make changes to its use of force policy and pay a motorcyclist $65,000 after a deputy pulled a gun during a traffic stop.
Attorneys for motorcyclist Alex Randall announced the settlement Monday.
In August 2017, King County Detective Rich Rowe, who was in plainclothes and driving an unmarked car, pulled Randall over for alleged speeding. Video showed Rowe didn’t immediately identify himself as law enforcement and held a gun close to his chest pointed at Randall.
“This was a terrifying incident for me, and I hope that this settlement will prevent this from happening to anyone else,” Randall said in a statement. “I’m glad something good has come from what happened to me, and I look forward to continuing to volunteer my efforts to improve community relations with our police.”
The sheriff’s office will implement an interim policy by the end of the week clarifying that aiming a weapon is a use of force, and that action should be reported to the sheriff’s office. A permanent policy will be instituted that recognizes that, at a minimum, aiming a weapon “constitutes a use of force that must be lawfully justified and must be reported for review by supervisory personnel,” according to a release from Randall’s attorney Christopher Carney.
Rowe was suspended in April for five days without pay. The suspension was half of what an internal investigation recommended for Rowe’s actions. King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht said Rowe violated the department’s policy on courtesy and conduct unbecoming a deputy, but she didn’t believe he used excessive force.
Randall sued the sheriff’s office in August claiming Rowe’s use of force was excessive. He also requested a change in the department’s use of force policy to bring it in line with other police departments, such as Seattle, San Francisco, and Portland.
The change in King County’s use of force policy follows a ninth circuit court of appeals decision in March involving another King County deputy who allegedly aimed a gun at a suspect during a felony arrest in 2011. The court ruled in that case that it was excessive force. The deputy was exonerated in that case, because there was no legal precedence.