(This is a letter sent to the Editor of the Seattle Times, two days after the Hillard Heintze independent assessment report, “The King County Sheriff’s Office: Policies and Procedures for Internal Affairs Investigations,” was released by the King County Auditor’s Office to the general public. For a full copy of the report, click here.)

It’s not enough to put good cops – even the most exceptional – on the street.  Without independent oversight and public transparency, it’s only a matter of time before the few but insidious exceptions to good policing take root and systematically begin undermining the organization’s culture – and the community’s trust.  Examples fill your pages and our files.  Some jurisdictions act before an egregious event occurs.  The vast majority do not.

  • In 2009, the King County Council created the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight.
  • This year, the King County Auditor’s Office initiated an independent assessment of the King County Sheriff’s Office’s internal investigation of complaints against its personnel.
  • We were tasked with the assignment.  On Tuesday, the Auditor’s Office released the findings – and Sheriff Steve Strachan wholeheartedly endorsed every one of the 18 assessment recommendations.

Don’t underestimate how difficult it can be for policing agencies to undergo independent scrutiny at this level of rigor. We believe it’s essential – given the erosion of public trust in the integrity of some policing institutions nationwide – that your readership credit these King County leaders with acting in the public’s interests. We commend their public commitment to reform and adopting national best practices in law enforcement.

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