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Source: King County Exec. Constantine retaliated against sheriff’s detective

Sources allege King County Executive Dow Constantine is retaliating against a member of his Executive Protection Unit because he believes this detective talked to KIRO Radio.

In May, KIRO Radio reported that an anonymous source alleged Constantine uses his specially-trained detectives as drivers, instead of protection. According to that source, “he uses them as an Uber and at times, not always, but at times, I think that’s true.”

The source spoke on a condition of anonymity because they say Constantine has a history of retaliation.

Another source alleges Constantine had his deputy executive meet with the sergeant of his protection unit after he became aware that KIRO Radio requested emails involving a veteran detective. Allegedly, this was an attempt to remove the detective from his protection unit for being a leak. This detective, who had previously been critical of the executive’s use of the protection unit, was not the anonymous source. Constantine has denied this allegation.

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Since the story was published in May, every time this particular detective is scheduled, Constantine has called off the EPU for the day. Sources say this has happened at least five times.

Additional emails requested by KIRO Radio confirm that the detective has felt retaliated against. He wrote to the team in June, “Just tell them I’m driving and they’ll cancel it, lol. I’m 4 for 4 so far.” He included a meme that essentially asked what he’d done to deserve the cancellations.

According to these emails, the detective was scheduled to work on Constantine’s protective unit on the Fourth of July and the detective responded, “If they find out it’s me they’ll call me off.”

Sources say that Executive Constantine, despite previously asking for EPU coverage on the Fourth, did exactly that — he called off the EPU for the 35th annual Naturalization Ceremony at the Seattle Center after he found out that the detective would be on duty. The King County executive’s assistant deputy called the Seattle Mayor’s Office and told Senior Deputy Mayor Fong that Constantine would be at the event, but without his protection and asked if Seattle police would be there for security.

The mayor’s office confirmed that Constantine’s office did ask about Seattle police security on that day. A representative of the mayor’s office said that there was no request for executive protection, only a question about Seattle police presence. They also said that Seattle police officials did reach out to the executive’s EPU prior to the event.

“To answer your question, we provided general security services to all event attendees,” Sergeant Sean Whitcomb with the Seattle Police Department said in a statement. “Since Executive Constantine attended the event, he received general SPD security as well. Executive Constantine did not receive SPD Executive Protection.”

King County Sheriff Johanknecht

The EPU is staffed by the King County Sheriff’s Office.  Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht said, “You’d have to ask the executive about that,” when asked about the frequent rescheduling of the detective in question.

Sheriff Johanknecht said she wasn’t made aware of the request until after the event, when KIRO Radio requested more information.

“I don’t know what was said and if you ask the executive or his staff I think you’ll get the best answer,” she said, referring to the phone call the executive’s office made to the mayor’s office.

The sheriff said that she has not spoken with Executive Constantine about coverage for the Fourth of July, and further, that the executive is aware of fair labor practices.

“I don’t know what his thoughts were,” she said. “I don’t know what conversations were had. But I do know that the executive knows about labor agreements and that he wouldn’t do anything to have an unfair labor practice brought against him. So I think if somebody on his staff had communication with Seattle I don’t know the context of those and so I can’t speculate, but I know that he understands labor.”

Johanknecht said that depending on how that phone conversation went between the executive’s aide and whoever they spoke with at the mayor’s office would determine whether that request would be considered “skimming” – when an outside party is brought in to do the work of another.

“It could be,” she said. “But again, neither you nor I know exactly what was said on the phone conversation.”

“There’s been times when he’s waived off detailed protection because he’s going to go do something else with his family or what have you,” Johanknecht said. “It’s complicated. And I would imagine having full time protection at times you don’t get to move as fast as you’re used to moving.”

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But sources say Constantine rarely shies away from having full time protection and in fact, more often than not, the EPU works overtime. They say, lately, he only seems to call it off when he finds out this particular detective will be on duty.

The sheriff confirmed that Constantine isn’t assigned security like the President of the United States. The executive gets to pick and choose when he wants it and sends over a schedule to the EPU and they accommodate.

Sheriff Johanknecht elected not to weigh in on whether or not the executive should have had protection at the Naturalization Event by his EPU. She did say it is important for officials to have security.

“There are events that we’re at and things are going on around us and there are a lot of people around us,” the sheriff said. “And in the day and age of today’s politics, and the divisiveness of it, unfortunately you don’t know and you want to be safe.”

As a result of KIRO Radio’s story in May, the sheriff gave a directive to her chief to put together a new standard operating procedure for the EPU. The new procedure is expected to be ready soon.

“This provides an opportunity for us to say, ‘Here’s what executive protection should look like. This is what we’re training and this is our standard.’ So we need to be able to provide protection. It’s not just a driving service,” the sheriff said, adding that in order to effectively protect and serve, detectives protecting the executive need to be nearby and not down the street in the car.

And if the executive doesn’t abide by the new rules?

“As you know, and you’ve heard us talk about this before in general, I have no control over what the executive does or doesn’t do,” the sheriff said. “I do believe we’ll come to an agreement on what the best practices are.”

As to the alleged retaliation against the detective, Johanknecht says she’s made it clear that she wants her people to know that she has their backs, even if it means going against the King County executive.

“I have told detectives I will meet with them offsite,” she said. “I will meet with them via a phone call. I will go outside the county to meet with anybody on that team who feels that they’re being treated wrongly; that they’re being retaliated against by anyone and that we’ll have it investigated.”

Johanknecht also said she could send the allegations to an outside agency for investigation. The sheriff also says the only thing she is asked by the members of the EPU is to be given the opportunity.

KIRO Radio has reached out to the executive’s office for a comment. There has been no response by the publishing of this article.

A request has also been submitted to the King County Police Officers Guild to determine whether the King County executive calling off his EPU and asking SPD to provide security would be considered a contract violation.

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