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King County sheriff finalists cite challenges in crime, recruitment, and community trust

King County Sheriff
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King County Sheriff's Office

King County's next sheriff will likely come from Texas or Georgia. Or it will be the person currently running the office.

The three finalists to become King County’s next sheriff spoke at a virtual press conference Tuesday. They all cited recruitment, rising crime, and building community trust as some of their top priorities.

In 2020, voters changed the King County sheriff job from an elected position to an appointed one. The next sheriff will be more analogous to a big city police chief, appointed by the executive and confirmed by the county council. Now the process is underway for King County Executive Dow Constantine to make that appointment.

One of the three finalists is Charles Kimble, currently the police chief in Killeen, Texas. He said his main focus to stem crime would be on violent repeat offenders, but he is open to alternatives beyond incarceration.

He spoke from a conference of Texas police chiefs, where he said staff shortages were the biggest topic. Kimble said it’s time to rethink the process to attract employees.

caption: Charles Kimble is the police chief of Killeen, Texas.
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Charles Kimble is the police chief of Killeen, Texas.
Killeen Police Department

“I think there are people who want to come in and do the right thing. Let’s merge things like our health profession and law enforcement. Let’s think outside the box,” he said.

Kimble also said, if appointed, he would work to bring video cameras to the sheriff’s office, which has a notable lack of in-car and body-worn cameras, a contrast to neighboring law enforcement agencies.

“I’m kind of surprised that the King County Sheriff’s Office isn’t wearing body cameras and in-car cameras,” Kimble said. “It’s hard to do policing and have validity with your communities if you don’t have body-worn camera and in-car camera systems.”

Reginald Moorman is a major with the Atlanta Police Department in Georgia. He’s recently worked on community-oriented policing, as well as the agency’s major crimes section. Moorman said he’s worked to build ties in the community and embrace de-escalation training, body-worn cameras, and learning from independent reviews when use-of-force incidents occur.

caption: Reginald Moorman is a major with the Atlanta Police Department.
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Reginald Moorman is a major with the Atlanta Police Department.
Atlanta Police Department

Moorman said one challenge he’s faced was connecting homeless people with services when they began staying at the local airport overnight.

“I started a homeless outreach team at the airport. I took that out of my manpower. And that homeless outreach team is still active.”

The third finalist is the county’s interim sheriff, Patti Cole-Tindall. She was appointed to the role in January, when the term ended for the elected sheriff, Mitzi Johanknecht. Cole-Tindall had directed the Office of Labor Relations in King County before joining the sheriff's office six years ago as chief of the technical services division.

caption: Patti Cole-Tindall was appointed as interim King County Sheriff in January 2022.
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Patti Cole-Tindall was appointed as interim King County Sheriff in January 2022.
King County

Cole-Tindall said she’s worked to be accessible since assuming leadership of KCSO and believes morale among staff is improving.

“People are hopeful, it is better," Cole-Tindall said. "We still have work to do, though.”

Cole-Tindall added that staffing is the biggest obstacle to addressing crime, and called it a multi-year process to fill the existing 115 patrol vacancies and 58 vacancies for professional staff.

"But in the meantime we are collaborating with other law enforcement agencies,” including neighboring agencies and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, she said.

Cole-Tindall said she’s also working to build relationships with community groups, and that the sheriff’s office was recently certified in Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement, a program created by Georgetown Law School that requires letters of support from community groups. Cole-Tindall said she secured support from the NAACP and other organizations and wants to work with faith leaders and other groups if appointed.

“This to me is important, to engage with the community, so we can help co-create the public safety office that they want the King County Sheriff’s Office to be.”

Cole-Tindall also said her own law enforcement certification has lapsed, as she spent decades in administrative roles. If appointed, she will have to return to the state police academy and complete the 19-week training before starting her new job.

The three finalists will answer questions from the public at two events April 18 and April 21. King County Executive Dow Constantine will announce his final choice for sheriff in May.

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