Deborah Jacobs, the director of King County’s civilian-run Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO), said Monday she has been subjected to “bullying” and discrimination on the job, and expects to lose her position following an administrative investigation into unspecified complaints about her office.
Jacobs told The Seattle Times late Monday that she “sort of saw this coming” after the Metropolitan King County Council ordered an independent “workplace investigation” into Jacob’s management of OLEO early last summer.
Jacobs said she was “surprised” by a news release issued Monday afternoon by Council Chair Claudia Balducci, who announced she will recommend the county’s Employment and Administration Committee vote to not reappoint Jacobs to another term. Jacob’s first term as director of OLEO expired in June. The committee meets Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.
Balducci declined to discuss her news release, said council spokesman Daniel DeMay.
Any vote by the committee would have to be taken up by the full council in open session before the county could act.
Jacobs, in a statement, hinted that she believes pushback against her efforts to push reforms and civilian oversight within the King County Sheriff’s Office played some role in her anticipated departure.
“Police oversight is a notoriously difficult role, and few who challenge the power of the police remain unscathed,” she said. “During my time on this job I have been subjected to gender discrimination and bullying, and I am considering my options for redress.”
Jacobs’ tenure has been marked by conflict with the King County Police Officer’s Guild, and she recently butted heads with Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht over the county’s new use of force policy. The sheriff’s office filed a grievance in February, unsuccessfully trying to stop Jacobs from releasing an independent report that was sharply critical of the 2017 deputy-involved shooting of Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens.
Jacobs said the office is within weeks of issuing a similar report on the 2017 shooting of 20-year-old Tommy Le, a Burien student who was shot and killed after a deputy said Le attacked him with a sharp object, which turned out to be a ballpoint pen.
Balducci in her news release said the council has reviewed the investigator’s report on Jacobs and discussed it in executive session. DeMay, the spokesman for Balducci, said the council would not provide a copy of the report or its findings ahead of the meeting.
Jacobs declined to discuss the allegations pending the public release of the report.
“I expect I’ll be gone in a couple of weeks,” Jacobs said Monday.
Jacobs, an Ellensburg native, was hired in 2016 by the council after a national search. She had a background with the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington and served as the ACLU’s executive director in Eastern Missouri and New Jersey.
After leaving the ACLU, Jacobs joined the nonprofit Ms. Foundation for Women, serving as vice president for advocacy and policy between 2012 and 2014.
In 2014, she opened Get it Right Consulting in the St. Louis, Missouri, area, where she provided strategic communication for the Don’t Shoot Coalition formed in response to the highly publicized police shooting of an unarmed Black man, Michael Brown, by a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri.
Jacobs attended Skidmore College in New York and studied as a Fulbright scholar in Helsinki, Finland.
“It has been a great honor to carry out the work of OLEO and I am proud of all I have accomplished to advance police accountability in King County,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs said that during her tenure, the sheriff’s office’s guidelines for internal investigations have been strengthened and the quality of investigations has improved. She said the King County Sheriff’s Office has adopted OLEO recommendations to improve policies dealing with everything from use of force to pursuits.