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King County calls for de-escalation training for all deputies

King County sheriff's deputies
Flickr Photo/N i c o l a (CC BY 2.0)/
Some, but not all, King County sheriff's deputies have done crisis intervention training.

King County officials are calling on the sheriff's office to improve its de-escalation protocols. This week, the King County Council passed a measure requesting that the sheriff's office make updates to both policies and training when it comes to use of force.

The King County Council measure asks that all deputies be trained in de-escalation, crisis scenarios and policing without bias.

Councilmember Joe McDermott sponsored the legislation.

McDermott: "This motion addresses the tragic circumstances we've seen when law enforcement encounters people in crisis in our community."

The county already set aside $400,000 for crisis training in 2017-18, but Sheriff John Urquhart has said that's not enough. Now, the council is asking Urquhart what it will take to get all officers trained. 

McDermott said after the fatal officer involved shootings in the past year this is a county priority.

Muckleshoot member Renee Davis was fatally shot by deputies last year, and there's a formal inquest into the shooting. In June, a deputy fatally shot 20-year-old Tommy Le, and his family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

McDermott said the King County Council does not write sheriff's department policies, but they are willing to help fund crisis intervention trainings.

McDermott: "When a deputy encounters somebody they have very little information, if any, about what crisis they're in — whether it's mental health, whether it's addiction, whether it's other stresses in their life. But I want the sheriff's deputies to have the best training, to have the best response possible."

Sheriff Urquhart said he, too, wants deputies to have 40 hours of crisis training, in addition to implicit bias training. A sheriff's spokesperson said the department is pleased with the council's motion and plans to do a three-day de-escalation workshop with deputies next month.