Tag Archives: King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht

‘You Don’t Make a Lot of Friends’: The Uphill Battle for Oversight in King County

by Carolyn Bick


This is the third in a series of articles examining the pushback and internal pressure former Office of Law Enforcement (OLEO) director Deborah Jacobs appears to have faced during her tenure at OLEO. This pushback appears to have mainly stemmed from within the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO), the very law enforcement entity OLEO is tasked with overseeing, as well as the King County Police Officer’s Guild (KCPOG), some of whose members belong to the KCSO. Multiple sources have alleged that certain members of the KCSO and the KCPOG mounted an internal campaign against Jacobs and said that the main goal of the campaign was Jacobs’ ouster. The King County Council decided not to renew Jacobs’ contract, after an independent investigation found that Jacobs had violated King County discrimination codes. Jacobs has since filed a tort claim against King County. You can read part one of this series here and part two of this series here.

Author’s Note: Several sources requested anonymity over concerns of retaliation or professional repercussions. These sources are noted as such throughout the piece. Their real names have not been used.

“Designed to Frustrate the Work of OLEO” 

When Deborah Jacobs was hired as the King County Office of Law Enforcement Oversight’s director in mid-June of 2016, “she took her job seriously,” one of the Emerald’s anonymous sources, Dan, said. But the critical eye the office cast over law enforcement at the King County Sheriff’s Office meant that Jacobs made few friends, he said.

“[OLEO] actually started going through the cases, the investigations, and then asking — as is their right — for follow-ups,” Dan said. “Like, ‘You did not do a good job on this interview. Why did you not ask these questions?’ And if there is nothing cops hate more, it’s being told they don’t know how to do their jobs.”

Dan said that this “also started to sort of change the temperature when it comes to her. Because it was happening a lot. There were a number of people [at the KCSO] that OLEO had deemed were not thorough and complete” in their investigations or processes.

“Then, you start getting into the pride issue, and ‘Who are you to know what police work is?’ And all that BS,” Dan continued. He told the Emerald that he believes that there was a way for Jacobs to have approached this work in a way that would not have “gotten a knee-jerk reaction … but it just didn’t happen. 

Continue reading ‘You Don’t Make a Lot of Friends’: The Uphill Battle for Oversight in King County

‘The Beginning of The End’: The Uphill Battle for Oversight in King County

by Carolyn Bick


This is the second in a series of articles examining the pushback and internal pressure former Office of Law Enforcement (OLEO) director Deborah Jacobs appears to have faced during her tenure at OLEO. This pushback appears to have mainly stemmed from within the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO), the very law enforcement entity OLEO is tasked with overseeing, as well as the King County Police Officer’s Guild (KCPOG), some of whose members belong to the KCSO. Multiple sources have alleged that certain members of the KCSO and the KCPOG mounted an internal campaign against Jacobs and said that the main goal of the campaign was Jacobs’ ouster.  The King County Council decided not to renew Jacobs’ contract, after an independent investigation found that Jacobs had violated King County discrimination codes. Jacobs has since filed a tort claim against King County. You can read part one of this series here.

Author’s Note: Several sources requested anonymity over concerns of retaliation or professional repercussions. These sources are noted as such throughout the piece. Their real names have not been used.

The Night Tommy Died

Still blurry with sleep, Jacobs walked up to a crime scene cordoned off with shiny yellow police tape. It was June 14, 2017, and then-KCSO Deputy Cesar Molina had just shot 20-year-old Vietnamese American student Tommy Le twice in the back and once in the back of the hand. Le died of the wounds to his back shortly after. When Jacobs arrived on the scene, it was after midnight. By that time, Le was already dead.

Before Jacobs had even been notified of the shooting, KCSO had already set up the scene’s temporary command center. Among those present at the command center were then-Major Mitzi Johanknecht — she was the Precinct 4 commander in Burien at the time — and then-Captain Scott Somers. Former Sheriff John Urquhart arrived later at the scene but told the Emerald in a May 10, 2021, interview that he did not stay long.

Somers would later instruct the scene’s responding sergeant, then-Sgt. Ryan Abbott, to treat one of the witness deputies as an involved deputy. This meant that the witness deputy would not be compelled to give a statement the night of the shooting. The Emerald wrote about this decision and the red flags it raised in a later investigation into the events that night and into the way the KCSO handled its own internal investigation of the shooting.

“This was just a complete PR bungle,” Dan, one of the sources who spoke with the Emerald on condition of anonymity, said in an April 2, 2021, interview. “They knew that Tommy Le had a pen within seconds. And yet they withheld that information. … They did that on purpose. And away we go. [The KCSO] are running downhill with one mistake on top of another, and it just doesn’t pass the smell test.”

Continue reading ‘The Beginning of The End’: The Uphill Battle for Oversight in King County

‘The Knives Come Out’: The Uphill Battle for Oversight in King County

by Carolyn Bick 


This is the first in a series of articles examining the pushback and internal pressure former Office of Law Enforcement (OLEO) director Deborah Jacobs appears to have faced during her tenure at OLEO. This pushback appears to have mainly stemmed from within the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO), the very law enforcement entity OLEO is tasked with overseeing, as well as the King County Police Officer’s Guild (KCPOG), some of whose members belong to the KCSO. Multiple sources have alleged that certain members of the KCSO and the KCPOG mounted an internal campaign against Jacobs and said that the main goal of the campaign was Jacobs’ ouster. The King County Council decided not to renew Jacobs’ contract, after an independent investigation found that Jacobs had violated King County discrimination codes. Jacobs has since filed a tort claim against King County.

Sitting at the table with other King County officials, Deborah Jacobs watched then-Sheriff John Urquhart gesture towards his side as he answered questions in a private 2017 meeting at the Asian Counseling and Referral Services’ headquarters, just before a public one for the community at the same location, regarding Tommy Le’s death, only weeks after it happened. Urquhart was talking about where King County Sheriff’s Office then-Deputy Cesar Molina had shot Le.

It’s unclear whether Urquhart knew at that point that Molina had shot Le in the back. But Jacobs knew. And it was then, said Jacobs — the director of the King County Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO) at the time — she realized that she might very well lose her job: She said that she did not want to hide the fact that Molina had shot Le anywhere other than in the back but that she was bound by internal politics and policies that forbade her from speaking about the shooting in public. 

Deborah Jacobs would eventually lose her job when, in 2020, the King County Council voted not to renew her contract. But while she served as OLEO director, she appears to have faced a years-long internal campaign against her by the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) and the King County Police Officer’s Guild (KCPOG), whose ultimate goal was her ouster. Furthermore, Jacobs would also spend much of her tenure at OLEO caught in a contentious collective bargaining agreement negotiation with KCPOG and the KCSO that would prove to hinder her ability to do her job as she saw fit. 

Continue reading ‘The Knives Come Out’: The Uphill Battle for Oversight in King County

BREAKING: King County Executive Dow Constantine Has ‘Urged’ Sheriff Johanknecht to Retire ‘Immediately’

by Carolyn Bick


King County Executive Dow Constantine has added his voice to those calling for King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht to resign, following an internal email the sheriff sent to King County Sheriff’s Office employees in late March. Constantine joins community groups and several elected officials.

Continue reading BREAKING: King County Executive Dow Constantine Has ‘Urged’ Sheriff Johanknecht to Retire ‘Immediately’