On Monday night, May 6, 2024, the King County Sheriff’s Office held a Community Meeting focused on Public Safety in Burien at the Highline Performing Arts Center.

Sponsored by Burien Police/King County Sheriff’s Office, the event included a panel discussion with Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall, Burien Police Chief Ted Boe and three other experts regarding responding to people struggling with mental health and addiction.

The meeting started around 5:35 p.m. and continued until 7 p.m., with a crowd of 100 or so in attendance.

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Panelists included:

  • Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall, King County Sheriff’s Office
  • Chief Ted Boe, Burien Police Department
  • Susie Kroll, Mental Health Professional (MHP) Co-Responder
  • Lisa Daugaard, Purpose. Dignity. Action. (PDA)
  • Aaron Burkhalter, Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD)

Questions from the audience were taken towards the end of the meeting, and overall attendees were fairly well behaved, with only a few spontaneous applause breaks and minor disruptions. At least twice though, the moderator had to remind the audience to remain civil, asking them to fill out index cards rather than shouting their questions. Numerous uniformed KCSO Officers were on hand to retrieve cards from the audience.

Meeting Highlights:

  • Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall opened the meeting with an explanation on why KCSO will not enforce Ordinance 832, despited previously enforcing the previous Ordinance 827. “So in the fall, the city and county were working together before the city adopted Ordinance 827 and that ordinance, we were enforcing. So what that ordinance was … if people were camping, by 6 a.m. they would have to pack up and they would vacate the downtown before, and by 7 p.m. if there was no place for them to be housed, they could set up a tent, so we were enforcing that every single day. We were also with social service providers getting folks resources. Then, in March, the city of Burien Police Department learned that the Council wanted to and did repeal Ordinance 827 and they replaced it with the new ordinance, which is the one that I take exception to, and that ordinance is 832 and in my opinion and the opinion of our County Legal Council there was a substantive difference between the two ordinances.”
  • Chief Ted Boe’s response to an audience member asking “who do you serve?” Boe said that he “serves the Sheriff, the city, the people of the city, his officers, his family, and his faith,” then added that he cannot serve any of those at the expense of another.
  • Sheriff Cole-Tindall’s response to the question “Why is Burien’s ordinance unconstitutional, and SeaTac’s is not”? “It’s not apples to apples, it’s apples to oranges. Let’s talk about how it’s apples to oranges. OK, so number one – SeaTac does not have a downtown core. SeaTac also doesn’t have the encampment that we have here. SeaTac doesn’t have a map that the Burien ordinance created; the map that wasn’t legislated and can be changed without notice to the community so somebody wouldn’t know day-to-day where they can legally appropriately set up their camp, their tent. So that is a key difference. Additionally, the city of SeaTac provides vouchers for housing and SeaTac has resources, a list of resources, and they’ve not made one arrest related to somebody who is an attempt. So they contact that person, they communicate with them and it’s addressed. It’s handled. So it is not apples to apples.”
  • During the Q&A, a few times after the moderator would read a question (like the one comparing Burien to SeaTac), the audience would erupt into applause, showing their approval of the topic.
  • Sheriff Cole-Tindall’s closing statement: “…we hope tonight would provide some information from the county. Now, like…you’re shaking your heads, you might not agree, but at least we had an opportunity to talk with the community, to share information from our perspective. And I think that, regardless, at the end of the day, we have to sit down – the city of Burien and the King County Sheriff’s Office, because that’s the only way we’re going to resolve this issue … I am willing to do that, but with a mediator – we need somebody who is a disinterested party – who can help bring the two sides to a resolution. At this point the city has not taken me up on my offer for that. So I just want to say we are interested in a resolution. Trust me, I mean, I don’t want this for your community. I don’t want this for my officers. I want a resolution.”

Below is full, raw footage of the event (including when we moved our camera closer), with audio sweetened as best we could (running time 1-hour, 23-minutes):

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Below are photos from the event, as shot by Scott Schaefer (click arrows or swipe on pics to view slideshow):

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  1. The questions that were submitted were vetted and chosen by the moderator, this made the discussion hand picked and not truly representative of the audience. They should have been randomly chosen and duplicates disregarded. The panelists spoke to long about specific questions which ate away at the opportunity to have more asked of them. It was disappointing to hear how the service providers dealt with problematic clients, they implied only a soft touch approach which just encouraged ongoing contact and issues unresolved.

  2. In trying to present our information quickly, we omitted the important note that the skilled care providers working with LEAD participants in Burien are from the REACH Program, which provides case management for LEAD in Burien. REACH LEAD case managers did the work reflected in the numbers of clients connected to behavioral health/recovery services, and in the success stories my colleague Aaron Burkhalter shared.

    1. Well, it seems that collaboration with LEAD/REACH was unsuccessful, failure to meet performance metrics is why REACH doesn’t work in Burien anymore and will be replaced with someone who will.

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