Rantz: Sheriff’s homeless betrayal is why Dow Constantine appointed her

Mar 10, 2024, 5:40 PM | Updated: Mar 11, 2024, 7:47 am

Photo: King County Executive Dow Constantine...

King County Executive Dow Constantine (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

There is little doubt King County Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall was acting politically when she directed her deputies to ignore an ordinance passed by the Burien City Council. But we shouldn’t be too shocked that the appointed sheriff is doing the bidding of her radical boss, King County Executive Dow Constantine. That’s precisely why he convinced progressives to take away the voters’ right to elect their sheriff.

The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH broke the news last week that Cole-Tindall secretly ordered her deputies not to enforce a ban on homeless encampments within 500 feet of schools, libraries, parks, and other areas with vulnerable populations in Burien. It’s the kind of public safety move you’d expect someone in law enforcement to support, but the sheriff’s loyalty is not to the public but to Constantine.

The ban only applies when there are shelter beds are available, aligning with a court’s decision currently being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Nevertheless, the sheriff claimed the Burien ordinance was unconstitutional, though no judge has claimed so. Cole-Tindall has as much knowledge of the law as she does how to be a deputy — she only recently completed law enforcement training so she could even stay sheriff.

King County Sheriff is a political operative for Constantine

Her agenda was clear when she complained in an email, obtained by The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH, that the ordinance was “criminalizing homelessness, which we refuse to do.” Cops don’t talk like that — partisan political operatives do. It’s a transparently vacuous political statement; a bumper sticker talking point screeched by partisan activists who fight to keep homeless people on the streets.

Cole-Tindall informed city leaders of her decision only after her email leaked, a sign that she hoped her move would escape public scrutiny. Constantine would take precisely this tactic, which is why she was hired.

Constantine told voters in 2020 that the county could get an outsider to run the department if they gave him the power. Elections virtually guaranteed the sheriff would be someone within the department, and, at the time, the public turned on local law enforcement that was demonized by Constantine and others on the Radical Left.

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The bait-and-switch

Constantine’s pitch was likely always intended to be a bait-and-switch.

The executive needed someone to do his bidding while offering him political cover. Constantine couldn’t choose a traditional law enforcement candidate because they’d not want a job where they can’t actually police. He needed someone he could use to dismantle and rebuild the department. And he found that willing someone in Cole-Tindall.

Burien city leaders make the mistake of pushing back against King County’s inaction on homelessness. The city’s mayor, Kevin Schilling, made the mistake of endorsing Constantine’s opponent in the last election. It became the perfect recipe for a separation of powers crisis. And it’s a dangerous one.

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Former King County Sheriff dings Constantine for political overreach

Former elected King County Sheriff John Urquhart is weighing in on the controversy. He told The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH that voters brought this on themselves. But he thinks Cole-Tindall is doing Constantine’s bidding.

“When King County voters decided they wanted an appointed sheriff rather than one elected by the people, they knew, or should have known, that the Sheriff’s ultimate boss would be the County Executive, not the voters,” Urquhart said. “The decision not to enforce a city’s ordinance certainly appears to be a decision dictated by Executive Constantine, with the caveat I don’t have insider information nor have I seen the legal advice Sheriff Cole-Tindall received regarding the constitutionality of it all.”

Urquhart also said the decision is problematic from a separation of powers perspective. Since when is it up to the Executive Branch to make constitutional determinations?

“[It] is highly unusual for the Executive Branch to make a decision on whether a law is constitutional or not. That is what so-called ‘constitutional sheriffs’ do, and those decisions are best left to the courts. It’s called Separation of Powers, and we have it for a reason,” he said.

He recommended Cole-Tindall release records of all the guidance she received in order to be transparent and put some of the rumors of Constantine’s involvement to rest.

The sheriff’s move creates a crisis

It’s not so much that Cole-Tindall is unwilling to enforce ordinances Constantine doesn’t like. That’s obviously a problem, of course. What other laws will she tell her deputies not to enforce in cities that shouldn’t be a part of Constantine’s fiefdom?

The real problem is that you now have a law enforcement agency run by Constantine. He’s got a reputation for being vindictive, petty, and hyperpartisan — willing to chase power by abandoning his principles (he was for a youth jail before he sold his office to Black Lives Matter activists). While Constantine’s office denied being involved in the decision, it’s hard to believe. In fact, if he wasn’t involved, he should fire Cole-Tindall now since voters can’t, now that the sheriff’s position isn’t elected.

And now he’s shown he’s willing to abuse his power over a law enforcement agency. What could possibly go wrong? What we saw in Burien is likely the start.

Listen to The Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow Jason on X, formerly known as TwitterInstagram, and  Facebook.

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Rantz: Sheriff’s homeless betrayal is why Dow Constantine appointed her