King County Council approves blueprint for civilian oversight of law enforcement

The Metropolitan King County Council adopted legislation expanding the authorities and functions of the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO) on Monday.

  • Tuesday, April 18, 2017 6:50am
  • News

The following is a release from King County:

The Metropolitan King County Council adopted legislation expanding the authorities and functions of the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO) on Monday. In 2015, King County voters overwhelmingly supported making civilian oversight an independent, charter-based agency of the County with investigatory powers of the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO)

“I am hopeful that we will make further progress toward making OLEO the most effective police oversight in the US,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett, prime sponsor of the legislation. “Oversight is vital and an independent, civilian directed panel if there are complaints is a strong step toward ensuring that people will continue to have confidence that their concerns about those enforcing the law will be investigate fairly.”

“Independent civilian police oversight is critical to addressing inequities and injustices in our criminal justice system,” said Council Vice Chair Rod Dembowski. “I am heartened by the broad support for today’s legislation and am proud to have co-sponsored it with Councilmember Gossett, and worked hard to pass it.”

The ordinance is subject to collective bargaining with police labor unions and cannot be fully implemented unless it aligns with collective bargaining.

“Today the Council took an important first step in setting the vision for strong oversight in King County, and we appreciate their leadership in achieving it,” said David Baker, Mayor of Kenmore and co-chair of OLEO’s Citizen’s Committee on Independent Oversight. “The next phase of critical leadership will be to ensure that the County’s collective bargaining agreements fulfill the ordinance as intended and expected by the voters of King County.”

The charter amendment increased OLEO’s scope of authority to directly investigate misconduct, complementing its existing authorities to monitor internal investigations, conduct systemic reviews and audits and engage in community outreach.

Under the adopted legislation, OLEO will also increase its effectiveness by being able to review the overall complaint handling process from intake through findings and conclusions. In addition to being able to certify the thoroughness and objectivity of an internal investigation, the office will be able to issue recommendations at key points in the complaint handling process, and when circumstances warrant it, directly investigate complaints.

Finally, the legislation establishes a forward-looking policy for the Sheriff to partner with and consult OLEO on the establishment and updating of policies and procedures prior to implementation. The goal is for OLEO and the Sheriff to work both separately and in a respectful partnership to strengthen and build on the integrity and service of KCSO employees who serve and protect the people of King County.

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