New King County police contract increases pay, body cams, and civilian oversight
The latest contract ratified by King County’s 633 sergeants and deputies will raise their salaries more than 20% over the next three years. It also paves the way for the King County Sheriff’s Office to implement body-worn cameras.
Mike Mansanarez is president of the King County Police Officers Guild. He said the salary levels they bargained should help attract recruits and lateral transfers, to fill the office’s more than 100 vacant positions.
“I think it’s a very good contract,” he said. “It shows the county cares about the deputies and they want to retain them, and help in the recruiting process of getting laterals in other areas in the state and outside the state to come join us.”
The wage increase is 6% for 2022, to be paid retroactively once the contract is approved, then an additional 10% in 2023 and 4% in 2024. However, Executive Dow Constantine’s proposed budget included a general wage increase of 4%.
In a statement, Constantine's spokesperson Kristin Elia said, “the agreement will require funding beyond what is included in the proposed budget. However, the contract is within our resources as we had reserves set aside to be available for this specific purpose. Once the contract has been ratified, we will work with the Council to appropriate those funds to KCSO.”
The contract also clears the way for adoption of body-worn cameras by officers, an area where King County has lagged behind many other law enforcement agencies. Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall said adopting that technology was a key priority for her when she was appointed in May.
Constantine’s office said, “Body-worn cameras ensure that we have the ability to build trust, transparency, and accountability between law enforcement and the community while responding to a wide variety of needs. We know our deputies are as excited as we are to move forward with the deployment of these tools, which is set to start in the first quarter of next year.”
Mansanarez agreed, saying a majority of his union members support using the cameras. “I think they want them for security purposes as far as complaints,” he said. “Now there will be video and it will all be captured.”
The contract also expands the powers to the county’s civilian-led Office of Law Enforcement Oversight. The office will now have the ability to conduct independent investigations of complaints against officers, and to subpoena officers and their family members in some circumstances.
Tamer Abouzeid directs the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight. He said it could take up to a year for his office to hire staff and initiate its own investigations. He said some investigations could be conducted jointly with the internal investigations unit of the King County Sheriff’s Office. But his office could also investigate complaints on its own.
“We want to do it in a fair way, an unbiased way, a way that protects due process,” he said. “And in a way that answers the community’s questions about what kind of policing services they are receiving from the sheriff’s office.”
Abouzeid said he also wants to do community outreach to hear what types of cases are of the highest concern.
“If I were a betting man, I would say that the two biggest things would be uses of force and unreasonable searches and seizures,” he said. He said serious use of force cases involving police are rare but get people’s attention in a visceral way.
“But I think the day-to-day stuff also — how often are you getting stopped? Are you getting searched? That is the stuff that kind of erodes trust, I think, at an even bigger level than these high-visibility situations,” Abouzeid said.
Until now, his office has certified and sought additional information on the investigations completed by the sheriff’s office. The Office of Law Enforcement Oversight does not have the power to discipline officers — that’s up to the sheriff.
Mansanarez said he didn’t hear any pushback on the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight's role during information sessions to his members on the new contract. He noted that the office technically already had those powers under voter-approved changes to the county charter, but they were subject to bargaining.
Elia, the spokesperson for Constantine, said, “The Executive has always been committed to reflecting the voters’ intent to provide civilian oversight of KCSO and has delivered on that intent with the inclusion of this component in the new agreement.”
The contract now goes to the King County Council for approval.