by Elizabeth Turnbull
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As the process of appointing a new King County sheriff progresses, local activists and leaders are looking to make sure that past issues do not repeat themselves.
Last year, local leaders and residents called for the resignation of former King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht, following comments she made after one of her deputies shot and killed a 20-year-old man named Tommy Le. The comments, which came in the form of an email a few hours after Le’s death, appeared to vindicate the officer’s actions.
After Johanknecht’s term ended in December of 2021, Executive Dow Constantine appointed Patti Cole-Tindall to act as the interim King County sheriff, where she will remain or be replaced by the other two candidates for the position — Charles Kimble, the police chief of Killeen, Texas, or Reginald Moorman, a major in the Atlanta Police Department.
In 2020, county residents voted for the sheriff to become an appointed, rather than elected, position, which some activists have argued would enable more accountability practices.
“The appointed process is more equitable than the elected process in this particular case,” Councilmember Girmay Zahilay, wrote the Emerald via email. “… An appointed sheriff is more accountable via the checks and balances of other government branches and can be told to communicate and engage with residents more frequently and authentically.”
Many local activists take issue with the position of sheriff itself — especially in the wake of racial justice protests and movements that have called for the defunding of police departments and law enforcement.
“Ideally, the candidate would entertain the possibility of working themselves out of a job in the future,” local activist Nikkita Oliver, told the Emerald when asked about a new sheriff. “… An ideal candidate for King County sheriff would have a demonstrated commitment to anti-racism before seeking employment as head of the County’s law enforcement agency, and should demonstrate serious engagement with the current societal discourse and local community work on police and prison abolition.”
Zahilay highlighted that the new sheriff should be engaging and focused on the community when leading its policing efforts.
“We need a sheriff who will be responsive, transparent, communicative, and collaborative. We need a sheriff who will build trust with the communities he or she is serving,” Zahilay said. “We also need a sheriff who will be a leader and a partner in ushering in the future of public safety — someone who will welcome and fight for the opportunity to create a public health and community-based approach to public safety.”
All three candidates for the position are Black and a County public safety advisory council report emphasized combatting racism within policing after “a systemic failure to the community, to law enforcement and others.”
Community members participated in online forums on April 18 and April 21 where they could submit questions. The official candidate will be nominated by King County Executive Dow Constantine in early May.
Elizabeth Turnbull is a journalist with reporting experience in the U.S. and the Middle East. She has a passion for covering human-centric issues and doing so consistently.
📸 Featured Image: In December 2021, King County Executive Dow Constantine appointed Patti Cole-Tindall (center) to act as the interim King County sheriff, where she will remain or be replaced by the other two candidates for the position — Charles Kimble (right), the police chief of Killeen, Texas, or Reginald Moorman (left), a major in the Atlanta Police Department. Photos courtesy of King County.
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