Newly appointed King County Sheriff calls her department a ‘paramilitary organization’

May 11, 2022, 5:12 PM | Updated: 5:21 pm
Interim Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall (King County)
(King County)

Interim sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall described her department as a “paramilitary organization” one week before her council hearing and confirmation vote to be sworn in as King County Sheriff.

“We are a paramilitary organization. We have accountability here at the sheriff’s office, and we will hold people accountable if we learned that they are actively working against the mission and goal of this agency,” Cole-Tindall told Gee and Ursula on KIRO Newsradio.

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Cole-Tindall doubled down on that description, describing her office the same way again in response to a question about internal accountability.

“By our leadership team and myself as the sheriff, demonstrating that behavior, I believe that that will reflect in how our employees act and react and how they show up. So we, as a paramilitary organization, hold people accountable for when they don’t do the things that we are supposed to do,” Cole-Tindall said.

Following a nationwide search and extensive interviews, King County Executive Dow Constantine announced his appointment of Patti Cole-Tindall to serve as King County Sheriff on May 3.

Cole-Tindall served as the County’s Director of Labor Relations, advising Constantine and the County Council on strategic planning, labor policy, and employment law. She held that position until 2015, when she joined the King County Sheriff’s Office in October 2015, serving as the Chief of Technical Services Division for almost five years before becoming Undersheriff in 2020.

When she was appointed to Interim Sheriff in November 2021, she didn’t consider becoming the King County Sherriff long term.

“Even at the press conference, when the executive [Constantine] named me as interim, I was asked that question. I said, ‘absolutely not,'” Cole-Tindall said. “I am not going to apply because I believe it would distract and take me away from the things that needed to be done that I felt needed to be done immediately with the agency.”

“People within the agency, people in the community, some of our labor unions, and some on the county council asked me, ‘won’t you reconsider?’ And, you know, I really in the beginning, even at that point, I was like, ‘no, no, no,'” she continued. “I never woke up and said, ‘hey, I want to be the sheriff.’ But as we continued this work, I really started to give it some serious thought. And I thought, well, why not me?”

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Cole-Tindall was appointed sheriff by Constantine, her former direct superior when she was the County’s Director of Labor Relations. She also donated to his campaigns from 2009 to 2015.

“Yes, I did contribute to Dow Constantine. I have not since I came to the sheriff’s office,” Cole-Tindall said. “But also, when I was here at the sheriff’s office, I did contribute to John Urquhart’s campaign for sheriff. I mean, it’s my decision as an individual. And I think most directors or people in high-level positions decide to support whoever their bosses, and when I worked for Dow directly, I did contribute.”

“I know there was some that thought; that’s why he made me sheriff. I’m thinking, ‘really?’ I mean, that’s farther from the case,” she continued. “I believe I was the best choice. But I did contribute. Yes.”

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Newly appointed King County Sheriff calls her department a ‘paramilitary organization’