Racial disparities in King County Sheriff’s use of force, more data needed says Sheriff

Jun 16, 2022, 5:52 PM | Updated: Jun 30, 2022, 10:14 am
King County interim Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall...
Patti Cole-Tindall speaks after her appointment to serve as King County's interim sheriff. (Hanna Scott, KIRO Newsradio)
(Hanna Scott, KIRO Newsradio)

King County audit released Tuesday revealed racial disparities in arrests and uses of force, a lack of comprehensive data to analyze the role of race in officer relations, and highlighted several steps the King County Sheriff’s Office can take to improve its equity and transparency.

Black people make up 7% of King County but account for 25% of the arrest in the county, according to the report.

“This means black people are 350% more likely to be arrested by the King County Sheriff’s Office on a per capita basis,” Gee Scott, co-host of the Gee and Ursula Show on KIRO Newsradio, said on air.

“The auditor took the raw data, but in their audit, they do say they did not look at the individual situation,” said King County Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall on the Gee and Ursula Show. “So we don’t know what the underlying facts were, and what led to the arrest or to the use of force. And I am committed to doing a thorough analysis to figure out what were those underlying facts.”

White Officers were also more than twice as likely to use force than officers of other ethnicities according to the report.

Cole-Tindall does believe that Seattle’s law enforcement can improve, and acknowledging the racial disparities is the first step to addressing this issue.

“I think it is important we need to start collecting the race data,” Cole-Tindall said. “But the other thing I didn’t mention earlier is there’s a county ordinance that prevents us from collecting race data, so that would need to be corrected.”

Cole-Tindall is referring to the King County Ordinance KCC 2.15.010.G. The King County Sheriff’s Office collects racial data on only about 4% of its service calls, according to the audit.

Hispanic residents of King County are 50% more likely to have force used on them, while Black people are 29% more likely to have force used on them. Meanwhile, white people are 35% less likely to experience use of force, according to the report.

“I did not thoroughly understand the methodology used by the auditor, we met with them a number of times,” Cole-Tindall said in response to the statistics. “And that’s why we need to do our own analysis that can complement what they have done. So I’m not suggesting that their numbers are incorrect. I’m saying that this picture is incomplete.”

Cole-Tindall also stressed that she believes her deputies don’t stop people based on their skin color, ethnicity, or socio-economic background.

The audit also referenced the number of times forced was used; 619 times over a three-year period.

“We use force very, very rarely,” Cole-Tindall said. “We use force six-hundredths of a percent. Under a percent in those one million calls for service.”

Cole-Tindall had no comment on the statistics presented in the report describing that white officers use force twice as often as officers of other ethnicities but wants to investigate the numbers further and find solutions accordingly.

“I want to know if these numbers are actually solid and the statistics like the one you just said that our white officers use force more frequently than our officers that are Asian and Black,” Cole-Tindall said. “And then let’s figure it out. We already have the anti-bias training. We already have some other ESJ training, but what else can we do to impact that outcome?”

Alongside the audit, The Office of Law Enforcement Oversight released its annual report last week regarding investigations of misconduct complaints made against employees of the King County Sheriff’s Office.

The report identified that, in 2021, there were 428 complaints opened by the department, totaling more than 800 allegations. 60% of the complaints were made by members of the community while the rest were made by employees in the department.

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

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Racial disparities in King County Sheriff’s use of force, more data needed says Sheriff