King County Sheriff Sue Rahr in Seattle soon will have a new agency looking over her shoulder at her troubled department, says the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. She says she welcomes the change. A vast majority of County Council members said yesterday they would approve creation of an Office of Independent Oversight to focus on citizen complaints and disciplinary issues at the Sheriff’s Office. “We will have oversight,” said council Chairman Larry Phillips, a Democrat. “It will be independent.” “There needs to be clarity for citizens — where they can go,” said Republican Kathy Lambert. “There is a need for the officers, an assurance they will be treated fairly.”
The near-unanimity came after a 10-member blue-ribbon panel issued a report calling for independent oversight and other sweeping reforms. The cost estimate for the civilian oversight office next year is $358,000, including one-time startup costs. The panel was formed to address problems reported by the Post-Ingelligencer. Because of the failure of the sheriff to enforce discipline consistently, “accountability has often been left to the media,” said former state Supreme Court Justice Faith Ireland, vice chairwoman of the panel.