Trio of measures overhauling King County Sheriff’s Office passing by wide margins

Nov 4, 2020, 11:44 AM

King County Sheriff, charter amendments...

Changes could be coming to how the King County Sheriff is chosen. (King County Sheriff's Office)

(King County Sheriff's Office)

A trio of hotly-debated charter amendments in King County appear to be on their way to passing, spelling large-scale changes for how the Sheriff’s Office operates.

Changes could be coming to how King County chooses its sheriff

Charter Amendments 4, 5, and 6 were put to King County voters this year, in the midst of widespread calls for police reform in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. If enacted, they would do the following:

  • Charter Amendment 4: Allows King County’s Office of Law Enforcement Oversight to subpoena witnesses and evidence to investigate law enforcement
  • Charter Amendment 5: Changes the sheriff from an elected position to a position appointed by the King County Executive, and confirmed by the County Council
  • Charter Amendment 6: Gives King County Council authority to specify the duties of the sheriff, rather than through state law

As of publishing, all three amendments are passing by wide margins, currently sitting at 82.8% to 17.2%, 56.6% to 43.4%, and 63.1% to 36.9% respectively.

King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht had previously claimed the amendments would functionally “dismantle” her office. King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay, though, believes they are crucial to fulfilling the promise of police reform called for by protesters over the summer.

“What people have been asking us to do is create something that looks more like a menu of public health and community-based alternatives,” Zahilay told KUOW in late October.

This comes despite a significant influx of money campaigning against the amendments from the American Police Officers Guild, the Seattle Police Officers Guild, and other police union officials. Those contributions totaled over $200,000, a stark contrast to the $6,000 spent by a separate campaign in support of the amendments.

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Trio of measures overhauling King County Sheriff’s Office passing by wide margins