The Office of Law Enforcement Oversight recently released its annual report regarding investigations of misconduct complaints made against employees of the King County Sheriff’s Office.
The report identified that during 2021, there were 428 complaints opened by the department, and because a complaint can include multiple allegations, there were over 800 total allegations. Of the total number of complaints, 60 percent were made by members of the community while the rest were made by employees in the department.
Roughly 17 percent of the complaints filed by community members were considered “non-investigatory matters” — meaning they were not “considered serious” enough to require a full investigation, nor they did not violate the KCSO’s policies. Only 8 percent of complaints made internally within the department were considered “non-investigatory matters.”
About 49 percent of internal complaints were considered “minor” enough to refer to a supervisor for discipline rather than a formal investigation. Only about 13 percent of community members’ complaints were resolved the same way, with about 70 percent of those complaints receiving an investigation.
The most common complaints made against officers with the department by members of the community include 74 allegations of “discourtesy,” which make up 19 percent of the external allegations; 72 allegations of “violation of directives,” which is defined as acts that violated the department’s policies, rules, or training; 58 allegations of “excessive force,” which made up 15 percent of external complaints; and 48 allegations of “abuse of authority,” which made up 12 percent of the complaints.
“Bias-based policing” made up 5 percent of complaints made by community members with 21 total allegations.
Of the 749 employees in the King County Sheriff’s Office in 2021, 29 percent of them received one or more allegations against them. Ninety-one employees had multiple allegations made against them, and 10 employees had received more than five allegations in 2021.
Nine percent of all the allegations made internally and externally were “sustained,” meaning they were found to be “supported by sufficient factual evidence” and a “violation of policy.”
The most sustained type of allegation was “conduct unbecoming,” with 27 percent of the allegations being found to be supported by sufficient evidence. Twenty-four percent of “subpar performance” allegations were sustained and 22 percent of “false statements” allegations were sustained.
Remarkably, “bias-based policing” allegations were among the only type of allegation in which none were sustained, meaning of the 32 alleged instances of “bias-based policing,” the department was unable to find “sufficient factual evidence” or a “violation of policy.”
By far, the most common type of allegation in which officers received disciplinary action was “violation of directives,” with more than twice as many instances of disciplinary action being taken for that kind of misconduct than any other type.
The King County Sheriff’s Office reported a 23 percent reduction in use of force incidents from 2020 to 2021 and an 88 percent reduction in critical use of force incidents, from 8 to 1 in the same time frame.
You can view the full report here.