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In King County, our deaths will be reported accurately

The pen Tommy Le was carrying when he was killed by deputies. (via KIRO 7)

When 20-year-old Tommy Le was killed by a King County Sheriff’s deputy a year ago, it was initially reported Le was holding a knife at the time and deputies acted in self-defense.

It turns out Le was holding a pen. But it took more than a week for the sheriff’s office to correct the inaccurate reports, which were based on a statement that said the man was “holding a knife or some sort of sharp object.”

There was speculation that Le was holding a knife at some point in the day. But there is no doubt he did not have one when he was shot.

Then-King County Sheriff John Urquhart admitted to Le’s family that he wouldn’t have shot the 20-year-old, according to a civil rights lawsuit.

The fatal shooting led to a study of the department’s current policies and practices about public access to law enforcement information. Read the study here.

The Brechner Center for Freedom of Information came up with several recommendations for how the King County Sheriff’s Office handles the media and distribution of information in the future. It’s about time because the last time the department’s policy statement on news media relations was updated was in 1995.

The director of the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight explained why it’s important to increase transparency and correct inaccurate information.

“If we’re trying to build trust between community and the public, it’s better if any misinformation that comes from a police agency, like the Sheriff’s Office, be corrected by that same agency,” Deborah Jacobs told the King County Council’s Law and Justice Committee on Tuesday, KIRO 7 reports.

On Wednesday, June 13, the sheriff’s office, now under the command of Mitzi Johanknecht, released a statement saying “transparent and truthful communication is one of the Sheriff’s top priorities.”

Families can now rest easy knowing that if a loved one is killed, they won’t have to be the ones to correct media reports in the following days and weeks.

And for those who carry pens in public, rest assured, your death will be reported accurately.

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