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Creating police reform without the ‘us versus them’ mentality

A protester moves a recycling container next to a sign listing demands after Seattle Department of Transportation workers removed concrete barricades at the CHOP zone in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

A King County detective, a 40-year veteran of the department, is under fire for offensive memes posted on his Facebook page, including one that said, “All Lives Splatter” and depicted people being run over by a car. It obviously brings up the question of police oversight and reform, which is part of a bigger conversation happening not just here in King County, but nationally.

In fact, on Monday at noon, there’s a Facebook town hall style event from the King County Council specifically on this issue. King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski joined the Jason Rantz Show to discuss what police oversight should look like while avoiding an us versus them mentality.

“County employees and sheriff’s deputies are entitled to have their personal free speech protected. In fact, that’s written into our county charter. We don’t interfere with that,” he said.

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“But the issue here, I think, with those posts that raise so much concern beyond just the distaste and the horribleness of it was whether it impacts county policy and sheriff’s policy and going to do the job, and the trust of the public and the performance of the job.”

What is the bar when you’re looking at something like this for content that should get you fired versus a reprimand or something less severe than a dismissal?

“Well, that’s going to be up to the sheriff and in the legislative branch. … This is exclusively within the sheriff’s province, and she does the disciplining of her officers,” he said.

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“I have a view, but I don’t want to cloud the process with that view, going after one particular employee. I don’t want to corrupt or influence, improperly, any investigation like that.”

Dembowski says he doesn’t want an us versus them mentality to exist with law enforcement, and believes the best reform involves a more open system of accountability.

“Everyone who is a professional is subject to some sort of oversight and check. Today, our system in the county where it’s an internal investigations unit, I think doesn’t build or engender the trust that we should have with the public for law enforcement when something goes wrong,” he said. “And it’s not a ‘get ya’ thing; I get a little frustrated with the piling on of police, and it’s like an us versus them thing; it’s not.”

“What I’d like to see is an office of law enforcement oversight that has subpoena power that the voters have suggested it should have, and can conduct an independent investigation,” he added. “You can’t do that today. That’s kind of a big picture structure that I think we should have.”

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3 – 6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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