King Co. Executive and Sheriff Begin Restructuring Sheriff’s Department, Want Ban on Collecting Racial Data Lifted
SEATTLE – After just two months of work, King County Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall is restructuring the department and adding two new divisions. She also joins King County Executive Dow Constantine’s call for the existing ban on collecting racial data on police checkpoints to be lifted in a bid to eradicate bias.
She said the changes she is making to the department will not require additional staff or money this year. The department is down to 118 officers and 40 professional staff. She said she will use the salary savings to recruit another type of community worker for the newly created community programs and services division.
“Alternatives, co-response models, reform or reinvention of public safety – this work will be housed in this division,” Cole-Tindall said.
The sheriff will also reinstate the Special Operations Division, a unit that was disbanded years ago due to budget cuts. This will be a consolidation of air, navy, bomb and other specialist units, such as the Special Emphasis team.
Cole-Tindall said each precinct has its own special accent team, but due to budget cuts there is only one operating out of the Burien Sheriff’s station.
She said the department won’t have a gang unit until the department fills some of the vacancies.
“She’s got a plan that really puts her on the right track,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said.
Cole-Tindall and Constantine are also calling for the ban on collecting racial data to be lifted. The announcement comes three weeks after the county auditor released a report that found “racial disparities in the number of arrests and uses of force, where the sheriff’s office collects data on race.”
“I was saddened and disappointed when I saw the results of the audit,” Cole-Tindall said.
She said the audit only looked at the raw data and not the circumstances of each encounter with an officer.
Current county law prevents the collection of racial data when an officer interviews an individual during an encounter, such as a traffic stop. It is only collected when a deputy makes an arrest or issues a summons.
Both Constantine and Cole-Tindall say they support lifting the ban to weed out biased policing.
“I think there are good reasons these days to collect racial data because we recognize more than ever that race is a very strong indicator of how you want to be treated by the police or other government agencies. “Constantine said.
Cole-Tindall plans to formally respond to the auditor’s findings in August and expects the new community programs and services division to be operational by the end of the year.