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King County Leaders Call for Stronger Sheriff's Office Oversight

King County leaders say the civilian agency that monitors the Sheriff’s Office needs more authority to do its job. A public hearing Monday will look at a proposal for reforms. KUOW’s Liz Jones explains.


The role of the external oversight group is to review some of the more difficult and high-profile incidents within the Sheriff’s Department -- incidents that involve use of force or alleged officer misconduct.

But King County Council Chair Larry Phillips says the oversight group faces a lot of obstacles.

Phillips: “So many roadblocks that have stood in the way of the public really getting what I think they want and has signaled they deserve, which is transparent and effective oversight.”

Phillips says the pushback mainly comes from the labor group that represents deputies and sergeants.

A recent county audit report calls the current oversight system “weak” and says labor agreements undermine the civilian group’s ability to conduct investigations. The King County Sheriff's Office could not be reached for comment.

The audit report recommends a host of changes. That includes a possible charter amendment to give more power to the oversight agency.

Phillips says the amendment would basically authorize the council to set up a stronger system.  

The council is expected to vote on a measure Monday that would put this charter amendment on the fall ballot.

Year started with KUOW: 2006