King County Sheriff’s Office sees decline in complaints

Jun 17, 2024, 3:07 PM | Updated: 3:16 pm

Photo: A new report shows the King County Sheriff's Office has seen less complaints....

A new report shows the King County Sheriff's Office has seen less complaints. (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

The agency chartered to handle complaints made against the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) has seen a two-year decline in case filings, according to its just-released 2023 annual report.

The Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO) investigates misconduct and critical use of force complaints made by members of the public and sheriff’s staff.

The office saw 282 complaints in 2023, a decline of 16% compared to 2022 and a decline of 34% compared to 2021. It also reported that 78% of those complaints were made by community members and 22% came internally from within the KCSO.

Of those complaints, the OLEO certified 68 for investigation, representing an increase of 87% from 2022.

The OLEO represents all areas of King County except incorporated cities that don’t contract with the sheriff’s department for police services.

In 2023, a quarter of the sheriff’s office sworn employees (186 of 736) received at least one complaint from a community member. Of the sworn employees, 15% received one allegation, another 6% had two allegations made against them and 4% received three. Nine deputies received three or more allegations in both 2022 and 2023.

Other news: King County to replace correctional facility with modern jail, behavioral health center

Among investigations closed in 2023, over three-quarters (79%) of fully investigated external allegations ended with a sheriff’s office employee being exonerated or a conclusion that the allegations were unfounded.

In total, 12% of investigated allegations were sustained, including those sustained in expedited investigations and resulting in performance-related training being given to an employee, per the report.

The office finished 2023 with findings in 250 cases, including some cases that started in the previous year.

Of the sustained complaints, nine involved a deputy performing below standard, six were for discourtesy, two were for violations of directives and one was for abuse of authority. The OLEO did not find evidence to sustain 72 complaints of excessive force or 20 complaints of discrimination.

Only two deputies were suspended for their actions. Others received additional training and verbal counseling.

The King County Council is expected to formally accept the report during Tuesday’s weekly meeting.

Matt Markovich often covers the state legislature and public policy for KIRO Newsradio. You can read more of Matt’s stories here. Follow him on X, or email him here.

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King County Sheriff’s Office sees decline in complaints