Report details King County Sheriff’s Office misconduct complaints

King County’s Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO) has released their annual report on the King County Sheriff’s Office’s use of force incidents and investigations of complaints and misconduct during the year of 2022.

According to the report, OLEO reviewed every misconduct complaint against the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO), whether it came in through the Internal Investigations Unit or OLEO, to ensure it was properly classified, and to see how each complaint was processed.

According to the report, there were 334 total complaints made against Sheriff’s Office employees during 2022, a 22 percent decrease from the year before. A reported 29 percent of complaints were made internally by employees within KCSO, while 79 percent, or 238 total complaints, were made externally by community members.

Some of the most common types of external allegations for which inquiries were opened during 2022 include 73 allegations of “excessive force,” up from 58 in 2021, 72 allegations of “discourtesy,” down from 74 in 2021, and 51 allegations of “subpar performance,” up from 27 in 2021.

One of the most common types of allegations in 2021 was “violation of directives,” with 72 inquiries opened, which fell to 32 in 2022.

In 2022, there were 33 inquires opened into allegations of “abuse of authority,” 23 opened into allegations of “false statements,” 17 opened into allegations of “criminal conduct,” 17 opened into allegations of “discrimination, incivility, and bigotry,” and 9 opened into allegations of “bias-based policing.”

According to the OLEO report, 29 percent of the KCSO’s employees, or 193 total, received one or more allegations against them. Thirty-eight employees received two allegations, 24 received two to four allegations, and 10 employees received five to seven allegations.

Deputies with three or more allegations account for approximately 5 percent of the sworn force, but approximately 40 percent of all allegations, while deputies with five or more allegations account for less than 2 percent of the sworn force and over 15 percent of all allegations.

In 2022, nearly three quarters, or 70 percent, of all allegations ended with a Sheriff’s Office employee being exonerated or a conclusion that the allegation was unfounded, while 12 percent of allegations were sustained.

The OLEO report defined “sustained” as being “supported by [sufficient] factual evidence and was a violation of policy.”

The most commonly sustained allegation was “conduct unbecoming,” with 37 percent of allegations sustained, up from 27 percent in 2021. The least commonly sustained type of allegation was “excessive force,” in which zero percent of allegations were sustained.

According to the report, 2022 saw an increase in reportable use of force and critical incidents compared to 2021, with 201 total incidents in 2022 and 150 in 2021.

In 2022, there were three “critical” use of force incidents, while there was only one in 2021.

According to the OLEO, in the first police shooting of 2022, the Sheriff’s Office’s tactical team were executing an arrest warrant for someone charged with felony assault with a firearm. Sheriff’s Office deputies, who were driving unmarked vehicles equipped with emergency lights and sirens, attempted to stop and arrest the person. However, the person fled in his vehicle. Deputies pursued the vehicle and eventually stopped it. According to the independent investigative agency conducting the criminal investigation, Sheriff’s Office deputies encountered a “lethal threat” and fatally shot the person while attempting to take him into custody.

OLEO attended the scene, and the criminal and administrative investigations are pending.

In the second police shooting of 2022, Sheriff’s Office deputies were dispatched to a domestic disturbance call after receiving reports of arguing and gunshots. Upon arrival, neither party involved in the disturbance were at the scene. Deputies searched the area and located a person matching the description of one of the individuals involved. Deputies contacted the person and fatally shot him; exactly what “precipitated” the shooting has not been released by the independent criminal investigative team, and OLEO is reportedly prohibited from releasing information on a pending case.

OLEO attended the scene, and the criminal and administrative investigations are pending.

In the last critical incident of 2022, Sheriff’s Office deputies encountered a stolen vehicle with two people inside. The two people fled on foot. Deputies found one person and after arresting him without using force, the person had trouble breathing and became unresponsive. Deputies called for aid and provided various types of aid until medical personnel arrived. He did not survive.

OLEO attended the scene, and the criminal and administrative investigations are pending.

For more information on the OLEO’s annual report for 2022, visit this link.