LOCAL NEWS

Dow Constantine accused of using elite detectives as personal chauffeurs

May 29, 2019, 11:54 AM | Updated: 5:17 pm
Dow Constantine...
(AP Photo/Richard Drew)
(AP Photo/Richard Drew)

King County Executive Dow Constantine is facing allegations that he has been abusing the privilege of his personal protection unit, even trying to retaliate against a detective he suspected spoke to the media about those allegations.

When you’re in a high-profile position like the county executive, it’s not unusual to get threats against you or your family. That’s why veteran, specially-trained detectives from the King County Sheriff’s Office are assigned to what’s known as the Executive Protection Unit.

But, detectives assigned to that unit say they’re being used less for their intended purpose as security, and more as personal chauffeurs. Complaints go back years.

“He ought to be following the rules, which means you don’t ditch your protection, which he does,” a source close to the Executive Protection Unit told KIRO Radio on the condition of anonymity. “You don’t use the protection to drive your family around when you’re not there, which he does, and you treat the detectives with some sort of respect.”

That source noted detectives in the EPU have, at times, been used to drive Constantine around to sporting events, concerts, restaurants, bars, and even his bi-weekly hair appointments.

While transportation is one facet of the EPU’s job, the other — and arguably more important — part involves being in his immediate vicinity at all times to provide protection. But according to our source, these detectives are left in the car by Constantine while he goes about his business.

“Oftentimes Dow wants his people outside, down the street, in their car, and he’s even been known to duck out the back door and go to a different restaurant or to a different bar,” our source described.

Security or personal drivers

A second anonymous source claimed that not long after Constantine became the King County Executive, it became clear to his protection detail that nearly five nights a week, Constantine would expect to be driven to a bar, and code it on the schedule as a “meeting.” A detective would then wait outside while the Executive would drink with a member of his staff.

Several emails obtained through a public disclosure request, and others provided through an anonymous source, support these allegations. A 2017 email revealed that in one instance, a detective waited for the Executive outside a bar, and then received a text hours later from Constantine, who had left the bar but forgot to tell the detective still waiting outside.

Another email from 2018 describes how a detective on the clock drove Constantine and staffers to the airport to board a flight to Wenatchee, and was then told to drive to Wenatchee himself, pick them up, and drive them back to Seattle. Rather than taking a direct route back to Seattle, though, the detective was then instructed to reroute to Skykomish to stop at a bar.

All this has prompted numerous complaints within the department, with detectives assigned to the unit pointing out in internal emails that they should be operating as trained security, not personal drivers.

These complaints have allegedly been circulating for several years, but according to sources, no one wants to call out Constantine for fear of retaliation.

Retaliation

When KIRO Radio began researching this story, a King County employee claims that Constantine had one of his staffers meet with the sergeant in charge of the EPU, in an attempt to remove a detective from the team. The alleged reason? After an initial public disclosure request for emails, Constantine’s office suspected that a specific detective was leaking information to KIRO Radio. He wasn’t.

Both the sergeant in charge of the unit and Constantine’s office have denied that ever occurred.

Constantine declined a request for an interview, although a representative from his office did state that the Executive had “not heard that any member of the EPU had raised issues,” and that they would expect anyone with concerns to bring them “up through the appropriate chain of command.”

However, a 2016 email exchange appears to contradict that statement. In the exchange, a former EPU sergeant wrote to an employee in Constantine’s office, saying that the EPU was being tasked to work events that did not require security, and without proper notice ahead of time.

Currently, we are scrambling to accommodate DC [Constantine] in his events tomorrow afternoon and evening, even though at this point there does not seem to be a security aspect for these activities (at least known at this time…).

I know that we have spoken of this before, but is there a way that we can lock down DC [Constantine] a bit more on his activities? Clearly understanding that DC [Constantine] does things a bit differently than the previous occupants, this can wreak havoc on our small unit.

Further on in the email exchange, the former sergeant noted that these have been concerns dating back years, and that “non-scheduled activities … arise fairly regularly.”

“Nothing in the email sent is anything that we have not spoken about over the last four years on repeated occasions, and falls in line with what other protection details are experiencing,” he continued.

Both sources agree that Constantine deserves and needs protection, but should not be abusing it the way they allege he has.

Cost of transportation

These hours add up, too. Last year, King County paid over $73,000 just in Executive Protection overtime alone.

That doesn’t include the 24/7 protection paid to a private security firm after non-violent protesters showed up in front of Constantine’s house one night in April 2018 and posted fliers.

A source said the sheriff’s office declared there was no longer a threat, and therefore would not continue to shell out thousands of dollars a week to protect Constantine’s house round the clock. Per that source, this prompted Constantine to dip into the King County Facilities Management Division to pay over $200,000 to a private security firm, until December 2018.

King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht declined a request for an interview, but provided the following statement:

There is no doubt that Executive Constantine needs a security detail while in public.

I support the work our detectives do in providing this critical service.

However, no complaint has ever been forwarded to me through their chain of command or brought to me directly.

I have already begun the process of determining next steps.

MyNorthwest’s Nick Bowman contributed to this report.

Local News

Photo from KIRO 7...
KIRO 7 News Staff

Drive-thru food distribution event in Lakewood helps feed over 700 military families

Several community organizations came together Saturday morning to help feed Washington’s military families.
11 hours ago
Photo from Seattle Police Department...
MyNorthwest Staff

MyNorthwest’s daily crime report: Two shootings in Tacoma, DUI in University Place

MyNorthwest reports on weekend crime in the Puget Sound region on the morning of June 27: Two shootings in Tacoma, in a home and a rave, a dinner party turned real-life murder mystery, and a DUI in University Place.
11 hours ago
Pike...
Associated Press

Seattle starts work on bridge from market to waterfront

Seattle has started work on a new pedestrian bridge that will connect Pike Place Market to the downtown waterfront.
11 hours ago
Charleena Lyles...
Hanna Scott

Lyles inquest resumes following a week of graphic, emotional testimony

The first week of testimony in the inquest into the Seattle Police shooting death of Charleena Lyles included two days of graphic, emotional testimony from the lead investigator, first responders, and neighbors.
11 hours ago
FILE - Joe Kennedy, a former assistant football coach at Bremerton High School in Bremerton, Wash.,...
Associated Press

Supreme Court sides with coach who sought to pray after game

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court sided Monday with a high school football coach from Washington state who sought to kneel and pray on the field after games, a decision that could strengthen the acceptability of some religious practices in other public school settings. The court ruled 6-3 for the coach with the court’s conservative […]
11 hours ago
Tacoma, Shooting...
KIRO 7 News Staff

At least 8 injured in shooting outside rave in Tacoma

At least eight people were injured in a shooting outside a private rave event in Tacoma on early Sunday morning.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Dow Constantine accused of using elite detectives as personal chauffeurs