This November, King County voters will be asked to decide whether their sheriff should be elected by the people or appointed by politicians. I strongly urge voters to vote no on Charter Amendment 5, and protect their right to choose who serves them as the King County Sheriff.
In 1996, the people of King County voted to reinstate the elected Office of the Sheriff. Before that, there had not been an elected sheriff since 1968. Those 28 years were the only time since 1852 that there had not been an elected Sheriff in King County. For 140 out of 168 years King County voters have overwhelmingly protected their right to choose the chief law enforcement officer in their county.
In these tumultuous times, it is more important than ever that you retain the power, authority and a direct voice over who is in charge of your safety and security. If Charter Amendment 5 is passed, your voices will be silenced.
What is the difference between an elected and appointed Sheriff? Your elected sheriff is an independent law enforcement professional who represents your voice. They are accountable to the voters, not a committee of politicians with agendas that may outweigh saving your life, the lives of loved ones, or your home or business. An elected sheriff does not need permission from politicians to speak to the communities that depend on them for protection and safety. An elected sheriff is a sheriff for all people, all communities and all citizens of King County. The sheriff is directly accountable to the public to ensure that officers are qualified, trained, prepared, equipped and held to the highest standards of accountability.
Does it really matter? The answer is yes. Around 1990, our King County politicians ordered the then-appointed sheriff to stop looking for the Green River Killer. The brutal murders of countless young women and the years of pain in our community had been reduced to a budget item on a spread sheet. Human beings, daughters, mere teenage girls who had gone missing and died horrible deaths were set aside as if they never mattered.
That could have been the end of it all. It was only because the voters brought back an elected sheriff that we were able to ignore the political pressure, act independently and continue the hunt for the Green River Killer. The elected sheriff also had the autonomy to reach out to U.S. Reps. Adam Smith and Jennifer Dunn, as well as U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, for federal assistance to bring the fledgling DNA technology to bear and solve, not only one but many cases involving the captured Green River Killer. There was no support for this effort from the council or executive. In fact, they voted against any additional funding to solve the Green River murders. An appointed sheriff would have been silenced. I know this because I was sheriff at that time.
Does it matter? Imagine if it were your daughter, son or loved one who had suffered at the hands of a cold-blooded killer. Imagine if it were your family member lost in the mountains praying to be found, or your elderly parent or grandparent who wandered away from a care facility. Imagine if it were your child being bullied in school, ashamed or afraid to tell anyone but a school resource officer.
Imagine that a King County politician could take any or all of the resources away that are needed to provide you with that help. Imagine it happened and there is nothing that you could do or say. As your elected sheriff, I never allowed any of that to happen. But an appointed sheriff would have answered to the politicians for all of those things.
So please, imagine all of that as possible if you give up your right to vote for your sheriff. For those reasons and many more, I urge you to vote no on Charter Amendment 5.