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Sunday, April 27, 2008

King County Sheriff Ignores Complaints

Some of you may remember this story about a woman who's house was searched against her will without a warrant, who was detained and intimidated in the back of a police cruiser while partially dressed for refusing to let the search continue, and then had her home ransacked by a SWAT team who was looking for her boyfriend who wasn't even there... all because the police claimed she was a victim of domestic violence despite her insistence that she wasn't and had no apparent injuries.

Well, the story still isn't over for her unfortunately. It seems as though she's tried multiple times to file complaints against the officers who violated her rights that night and the King County Sheriff's office refuses to even record the complaint, let alone investigate it. She even attempted to file a complaint through the Seattle Police Department's OPA, who forwarded the complaint to the KCSD, where it was promptly ignored as well. We advised her to file a complaint through the King County Ombudsman, but she hasn't heard any response from that office either.

Furthermore, she's been stuck with the bills for fixing the damage the police did to her home when they repeatedly searched for her boyfriend who wasn't even there. The sheriff's deputies reportedly knocked several holes in her ceiling looking for crawl-spaces and busted a door as well. Despite her attempts to file complaints, the county refuses to respond.

Oh, but it doesn't end there. Not only did the police detain her for refusing to let them search her home without a warrant and refusing to say she had been abused when it was clear she hadn't... She was sent to a nearby hospital against her will so they could examine her to make sure she wasn't hurt. While the hospital released her after a few hours when finding no injuries, she's now stuck with the ambulance and hospital bills as well!

...and the county refuses to even hear her complaint, let alone reimburse her for the damage and unwanted bills they inflicted on her that night.

Of course, if you hadn't guessed by now, the King County Sheriff's office does not have any civilian oversight, all complaints are handled by sheriff's deputies... and we all know how much cops care about investigating misconduct performed by fellow officers.

She is still in the process of trying to find a lawyer to help after she'd tried repeatedly to handle this through the official channels. We wish her the best of luck! Hopefully, the county will learn that investigating complaints and being accountable for damage done by police misconduct is cheaper than dealing with lawsuits that victims have to file when they are given no other option.

2 comments:

SusanK said...

If the Sheriff is elected then that is "civilian oversight" to a greater degree than any appointed law enforcement officer (like a city police chief).
Plus, the beauty of an elected sheriff is that ANYONE can run!

Packratt said...

Susan,

Thank you for the comment.

I could agree that an elected sheriff, as opposed to an appointed chief of police, could be considered as a form of civilian oversight... so long as a few conditions were met.

First, there has to be transparency, not only must the public be informed of misconduct complaint histories and findings, but the sheriff herself must also be aware of misconduct complaints. In this case, neither she nor we have been made aware of a misconduct complaint because the deputies are refusing to field and record the complaint.

Second, the sheriff must be empowered to do something about confirmed cases of misconduct. In response to several high profile reports of corruption problems in the King County Sheriff's office (http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/conductunbecoming/)the sheriff has made it clear that she has limited power to discipline her officers, primarily because she is not part of the bargaining process between the county and the police guild. (http://www.seattleweekly.com/news/blogs/dailyweekly/2008/03/charter_review_sheriff_stays_s.php)

So, it's sort of clear that, in King County at least, the "civilian oversight" conditions of the sheriff being an elected official are not met.

Thanks again for the comment, I appreciate it!

 
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