Oppose King County Charter Amendments 5 & 6

The Sheriff should remain accountable to the people of King County, not the county council.

  • Wednesday, October 28, 2020 6:46pm
  • Opinion

The murder of George Floyd has raised an important discussion around law enforcement reform. Lasting reform can only be achieved when communities, law enforcement and elected leaders all sit down and work to understand the issues, build trust and chart a course forward – together.

We elected a Sheriff who has enacted real reforms:

  • compliance with 8 Can’t-Wait audit, updated policies within a week of receiving report
  • Use of Force Dashboard
  • moved Internal Investigations Unit out of chain of command

An elected Sheriff serves as a check and balance; the county council sets the budget. Amendment 5 would give the county council and Executive total control over law enforcement, and create the risk of political agendas driving public safety decisions. An elected Sheriff has no political agenda, only an agenda of public safety.

In 1996, people in White Center, Skyway, Burien and South Seattle voted decisively in favor of having an elected Sheriff, over concerns about political influence and corruption. We should not silence these voices. Our voices can have a powerful impact to cast a deciding vote for a candidate who will foster reform, while keeping the public safe. Seattle Medium, the largest African American owned and operated newspaper in the Pacific Northwest, writing about issues important to African American and minority communities, recommended voting against Amendments 5 and 6.

One piece of misinformation being spread is that an elected Sheriff must come from the Sheriff’s Office or other local police agency. In fact, any person eligible to vote in King County can run for Sheriff and must obtain basic law enforcement training within one year of assuming office. (RCW 36.28.025) The people of King County also have the power to recall a Sheriff. It isn’t a mythical process – recalls are in progress right now for Thurston and Snohomish county Sheriffs.

What makes the King County Council more qualified than the voters to select a Sheriff? The council has a very poor track record selecting the last two Directors of the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight, whose contracts were ended after multiple employee complaints. The cities of Woodinville, Enumclaw, Covington, Maple Valley and Carnation have passed resolutions against these amendments, to highlight the risks to their residents.

Amendment 6 poses very real risks to residents because it allows the King County Council to descope and deviate the sheriff’s duties from what is written in state law.

Charter Amendment 6 was not recommended by or voted on by the Charter Commission.

Amendment 6 could impact Major Crimes Unit, Guardian helicopters, Marine Rescue, TAC-30 (SWAT) and Search and Rescue. As a search and rescue volunteer, I have responded many times to help residents on Vashon, and I know how important all of these services are to the people of Vashon and Maury Islands.

The Sheriff should remain accountable to the people of King County, not the county council.

Vote NO on Amendments 5 & 6. For more information, visit keepoursheriffelected.org.

— Glenn Wallace

Committee Chair

Keep Our Sheriff Elected

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