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SeaTac re-evaluating King County policing contract after sheriff's office changes

Changes to the King County Sheriff’s Office prompted SeaTac to explore other options for police services.
Credit: KING

SEATAC, Wash. — SeaTac City Council voted Tuesday to move forward with ending its police services contract with King County due to concerns over voter-approved changes to the sheriff’s office.

The bill directs SeaTac City Manager Carl Cole to give King County a 45-day notice that it intends to end their agreement and start looking at alternative police services. 

The city noted that there will be public involvement before it actually ends the contract, and the city could stay with the county's services if they are the best choice compared to alternatives.

"The City will soon begin conversations with the County and the Sheriff’s Office that, if fruitful, will result in only positive change related to policing in SeaTac," said Kyle Moore, the government relations and communications manager for the city manager's office. "The endgame is high-quality police services for the residents and businesses of SeaTac."

The move stems from two charter amendments that voters approved in November. The measures will make the King County sheriff an appointed position rather than elected one and allow the sheriff’s duties to be established by the King County Council.

RELATED: King County sheriff to be appointed not elected under approved measure

In a January memo, Cole said these amendments could cause a “significant change” in how police services are delivered. Although Cole said the county has indicated cities will be included in discussions about any action the council takes, details haven’t been provided.

“SeaTac's local control of policing priorities may be in jeopardy,” Cole wrote in the memo.

When SeaTac decided to contract with King County for police services 30 years ago, the city said it was attracted to “the ‘breadth and depth’ of benefits to cities,” including services in unincorporated areas. However, according to a city presentation, those benefits have “diminished significantly,” and it worried that any efforts to defund the unincorporated side of the sheriff’s office would be detrimental.

The city also noted it would likely take two years to implement a new option for police services. After giving the county a 45-day notice of its intention to end the contract, the city needs to give an 18-month notice before actually separating.

The King County sheriff hasn't been appointed since 1996 when voters decided to make it an elected position.

RELATED: Most Washington law enforcement agencies don’t use body or dash cameras, KING 5 investigation finds