In a recent memo, the King County Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO) issued a series of recommendations to the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) regarding updates to its use of force policies.

KCSO contracts its police services to the City of Burien, as well as 15 other jurisdictions.

The memo – dated Jan. 12, 2024 – highlights both reissued and new recommendations based on OLEO’s continuous review of KCSO’s policies.

“It has been approximately a year since OLEO sent our preliminary recommendations to the Sheriff’s Office,” said Tamer Abouzeid, OLEO Director. “The Sheriff’s Office has already implemented some of our recommendations, and we are encouraging them to implement more, both in the interest of full compliance with the Attorney General’s Model Policies, as well as to better promote accountability and safety.”

Reissued recommendations include adopting the AGO’s model policy language on physical force to more accurately communicate the standards of necessity, reasonableness, and proportionality, and limiting discretionary uses of force in otherwise non-violent situations. New recommendations include clarifying definitions and bringing them in line with the AG’s model policies.

The report said that while KCSO made strides in implementing some of OLEO’s recommendations, there remains room for improvement, particularly in adopting language from the Washington State Attorney General’s Office (AGO) model policy. One significant recommendation is the removal of the section on Graham factors – defined as “severity of the crime at issue; whether the suspect posed an immediate threat; and whether the suspect was actively resisting or trying to evade arrest by flight” – from the use of force policy, replacing it with language emphasizing standards of necessity, proportionality, and reasonableness.

Additionally, OLEO advises KCSO to adopt the AGO model policy’s language on “Identification, Warning & Opportunity to Comply Prior to the Use of Physical Force.” This suggestion aims to ensure clarity and consistency in law enforcement practices, particularly regarding interactions with individuals prior to the use of force.

In November, 2023, KCSO made further updates to its policies, including language on the use of less-lethal weapons. However, OLEO suggests reverting certain language changes to ensure consistency with state law and the AGO model policy.

These recommendations come amid ongoing efforts to enhance transparency, accountability, and community trust within law enforcement agencies. By aligning with best practices and responding to oversight recommendations, KCSO aims to uphold its commitment to serving and protecting the community effectively.

Read the OLEO’s memo here.

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