Audit: King County Sheriff's Office needs serious improvements

Audit: King County Sheriff's Office needs serious improvements »Play Video
SEATTLE -- It hasn't even been released yet, and already an audit of the King County Sheriff's Office is turning heads and raising eyebrows. The audit it is critical, harsh, and sets the stage for improvement.

When a deputy shoved Christopher Harris into a wall in Seattle in 2009, it left him with a critical brain injury. His family and friends raised red flags about the deputy's use of force.

Now we know an independent audit is doing the same. KOMO News obtained a copy of the critical, 70-page report that says the King County Sheriff's Office needs some serious improvements when looking at shootings, the use of force, and the internal reviews that follow.

"We're not denying that there's a problem," said King County councilwoman Julia Patterson. "We are not denying that we can improve. What we are saying is that we can improve. Hold us accountable. Watch us do the work."

Patterson sits on the board that commissioned the independent audit from PARC, a police review agency in Los Angeles. It's the second sheriff's audit in as many months. Both found serious faults in internal investigations and the use of force.

"We're a good department, but we can do better and we know it," said King County Sheriff Steven Strachan. "We are committed to the difficult changes to make those improvements in self correction, and learning from our critical incidents."

"They're not saying that the rank and file did anything wrong," said John Urquhart, who is a candidate for King County Sheriff. "They are going after, they are pointing out the failures of leadership inside the sheriff's office."

The audit says the sheriff's office is also "seriously deficient" in keeping records of officer-involved shootings, with some files destroyed or lost.

If one thing's been found, it's a sense that it's time to improve.

"We are not going to deny that there are problems," Patterson said. "We won't suggest that the audit or the report is wrong. We want people in King County to feel that they can trust their police officers."

The report also finds the review board that looks at officer-involved shootings is essentially "rubber-stamping" them, not interviewing in deputies in person, and waiting too long to get statements.

The full audit will be released publicly during a King County Council meeting Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.