Man files grievance with sheriff’s office, cites racial discrimination

A man who frequently works on Vashon has filed a grievance with the King County Sheriff’s Office, saying he feels he was a victim of racial profiling by Vashon deputies last month.

Kenneth Richard, an employee with a Seattle company that contracts with the post office, filed the complaint on May 23 following an incident at Jensen Point. Two days earlier, when two deputies responded to a call regarding his presence at the park, he said he believes they acted inappropriately because he is African American.

Sgt. Cindi West, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office, said the department is investigating the report and will not be able to comment until the investigation is complete. The process could take up to 180 days, West said, but she expects it will likely be completed within a shorter time frame.

Richard’s side of the incident was shared widely on Facebook, first by the owner of the Burton shop Lost and Found, Bonnie Auer, who talked with Richard shortly after his encounter with the deputies. Several people commented on the post and expressed dismay that racial discrimination such as he described could happen on the island.

In a recent interview, Richard, 49, explained that he works as a driver for a contract company and frequently brings the island’s morning mail from Seattle and then returns to the city in the evening with outgoing mail. This leaves him with a split shift and several hours free on the island. Typically, he said, he takes his truck to Jensen Point and because he is also a student, he does school work there in his off-hours.

On May 21, he said, he was dozing in his truck when he was awakened by an officer rapping on the window and informing him that there had been a call to authorities because of concern about his presence there. In particular, he said, one of the deputies told him that some of the girls on the crew team practicing there were intimidated by his presence.

In addition to the officers’ manner, which Richard termed aggressive, he said they asked several times if he had a gun in the truck and told him not to return to the park.

A deputy involved in the incident said he also couldn’t comment because of the active investigation.

Days after the Jensen Point incident, Richard said, a police car pulled up closely behind his truck at the post office downtown and appeared to be running his plates. He was not in the truck at the time, he said, and is now going to the library to do his school work.

Richard sent a complaint via email to the sheriff’s department two days after the Jensen Point incident, he said, and by that afternoon a sergeant from the department was on Vashon and interviewing him on tape to get a statement for his grievance.

West said she hoped the community would have patience while the investigation is under way and said she would inform The Beachcomber when the results of the investigation are in.

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