File photo

File photo

Law enforcement oversight office seeks subpoena power

Organization has been unable to investigate King County Sheriff’s Office.

Civilian oversight of the King County Sheriff’s Office has not happened in the three years since voters approved the creation of the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight in 2015 because of a lack of access to law enforcement records and personnel.

Deborah Jacobs is the director of the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO) and asked the county’s charter review commission to recommend the office be granted subpoena power in the county’s charter. While a voter-approved measure in 2015 gave OLEO this power in county ordinance form, it is not solidified in the county code.

Because of this, the OLEO hasn’t tried to subpoena the King County Sheriff’s Office, a move which she is worried currently could be denied. Her office has not been able to conduct any investigations, even though Jacobs said there have been times when they were warranted.

“My office is asserting that we have subpoena power regardless of whether it’s in the charter. We would like the charter to be consistent with the ordinance,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs said statewide there is support for independent investigations of critical incidents involving law enforcement and that granting subpoena power would help facilitate their investigations.

“It’s consistent with the mood of the state on these issues,” she said.

Additionally, receiving records requests in a timely manner has been a struggle. Jacobs said part of this stems from the King County Sheriff’s Office having a large number of requests to process as well as a new administration. However, the OLEO is supposed to have a wide range of access to people, facilities and documents.

“We have a lot of problems and we’re trying (to work) with the Sheriff’s Office to develop better systems to ensure we have timely access to what we need,” Jacobs said.

Much of this has been held up in collective bargaining with the Sheriff’s Office’s officer’s guild, which has been in negotiation for years. The last contract with law enforcement personnel wrapped up at the end of 2016. Jacobs could not say when the process would be finished.

Several police oversight offices around the country already have subpoena power, including in Chicago, Oakland, New York and San Francisco.

King County’s charter review commission is also looking at making other recommendations to present to the King County Council as part of an update. Following that, the council decides which recommendations to put before voters. The commission has until May to solicit community feedback.

Other issues being examined include election reforms to voting in the county, such as moving to a ranked choice voting system. This system would allow voters to rank all of their candidates in order of preference and also whittles down the number of candidates based on choice. This form of runoff voting is already being used by a number of jurisdictions across the country and can increase representation for historically underrepresented communities, according to commission documents.

The commissioners could also recommend the county create public financing for political campaigns similar to Seattle’s Democracy Voucher program, which was approved in 2015. This program gives voters vouchers to donate to their preferred political candidate.

Additionally, the county council could be expanded and possibly provide more direct representation.

More in Northwest

July’s Monroe earthquake is informing plans for future danger

Gathered by lucky accident, data from the 4.6-magnitude quake could help assess bigger hazards.

The Cedar Hills Regional Landfill is the only active landfill in King County. It will operate until at least 2028. It has been in operation since the 1960s. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
Study on shipping or burning King County trash released

The report fleshes out the two main options for trash disposal over the next 50 years.

A new study argues that many luxury apartment units in Seattle are vacant, damaging the surrounding communities. (Screenshot on Google)
Luxury apartments: Who’s buying King County?

Wealthy investors jack up housing prices in Seattle and beyond.

Flying Fish: Lake Sammamish kokanee move to Orcas Island

It’s part of a program to preserve the unique freshwater salmon species.

The 2015 Wolverine Fire in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest near Lake Chelan. Photo courtesy of the Washington Department of Natural Resources.
The smoky summer that wasn’t

While Washington had a mild season, wildfires burned near the Arctic.

16 indicted for trafficking large amounts of heroin and methamphetamine in Seattle area

Ten locations searched; 17 people arrested following year-long investigation

King County is not on track to meet its greenhouse gas emissions goals, but emissions also have not been rising with population growth. File photo
King County isn’t on track to meet emissions goals

The goals were ambitious but progress has been slow.

King County wants to boost composting market

In 2018, around one-third of material sent to regional landfill could have been composted.

Habitat for the marbled murrelet in King County includes areas around the Middle and North Forks of the Snoqualmie River, as well as areas around the Skykomish and Upper Cedar rivers. File photo
Conservation plan for native seabird moves forward

Washington state regulations for the marbled murrelet have been in limbo since 1997.

More than 100 horses are being hoarded by a nonprofit in Puget Sound

Under guise of nonprofit caring for rescued horses, allegations of animal cruelty arose.

File photo
$30 car tab proposal returns to ballot in November

Tim Eyman-led initiative would restrict car tabs and transportation benefit districts in Washington.

Among 9 other candidates, Inslee gets his 6 minutes of fame

Here’s what the governor, a longshot presidential candidate, said in Miami Wednesday night.