Report shows biased policing from Pierce County Sheriff’s Department

Nov 15, 2021, 6:14 AM | Updated: 6:19 am
Pierce County investigation into Sheriff...
(Pierce County Sheriff's Department, Facebook)
(Pierce County Sheriff's Department, Facebook)

A newly-released report revealed that instances in 2020 where deputies with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department used force on suspects disproportionately targeted Black residents. County Executive Bruce Dammeier spoke to KIRO Radio’s Gee & Ursula Show to break down the numbers, and go over what his office plans to do next.

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In total, the study found that the sheriff’s department was five times as likely to use force on Black residents as they were white residents. Despite the fact that Black people make up roughly 7% of the county’s population, that demographic accounted for over 23% of incidents where deputies used force. Conversely, white residents — who make up 72% of the local population — experienced use of force just over 64% of the time.

Those were numbers that Dammeier found extremely troubling.

“The information in this report, some of it was very concerning to me on behalf of our county,” he noted. “It’s not anything you would ever want to see in your community.”

Providing further analysis was the county’s Assistant Budget Director Julie Demuth, who emphasized that the numbers are clear regarding the appearance of bias in these use of force incidents.

“We’ve reviewed the data in depth,” Demuth described. “We’ve run multiple scenarios of the data using various measures of force, and most importantly, different measures of a baseline. Every way that we analyze the data shows the same pattern of disproportionality — we are very confident that the results of the report indicate disproportionality, and that there’s really no other way to interpret the data.”

Dammeier hopes to address this problem through a county-level criminal justice workgroup, comprised of representatives from his office, the county prosecutor’s office, the public defender office, and the sheriff’s department. That workgroup was also responsible for compiling the study in the first place.

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Moving forward, the group has been asked to come forward with a recommendation on next steps.

“What is the appropriate way that we use the tools to really effectively assess the use of force?” Dammeier described.

In the near term, he says the sheriff’s department plans to institute “special additional review any time physical force is used on any minors.” The hope is to also expand the use of body-worn cameras and dash cameras to keep an “independent record” of incidents as they occur.

You can listen to the full interview with Dammeier and Demuth at this link.

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Report shows biased policing from Pierce County Sheriff’s Department