Racial disparities in arrests, use of force found in King County

According to the audit, the King County Sheriff’s Office is 350 times more likely to arrest a black person for a crime given their percentage of the population.

KING COUNTY, Wash. — A King County audit released Tuesday found racial disparities in arrests and the use of force, a lack of comprehensive data to analyze the role of race in relationships with officers and highlighted several steps the King County Sheriff’s Office is taking can do to improve its equity and transparency.

The King County Auditor’s Office said in its report analyzing the department’s duty calls from 2019 to 2021 that there were racial disparities in the number of arrests and the use of force.

The audit found that blacks account for 25% of arrests in incorporated King County, despite making up 7% of the population. According to the audit, the King County Sheriff’s Office is 350 times more likely to arrest a black person for a crime given their percentage of the population. The disparities were found in almost every jurisdiction in King County, resulting in what the audit called a “systemic problem across the county.”

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Officials said Native Americans/Alaska Natives, Hawaiian Natives/Pacific Islanders and Hispanics were also being arrested with a disproportionate frequency, according to their latest findings.

“The causes of these differences are complex and the sheriff’s office does not have sufficient data to explain them,” the report said.

Other racial injustices were identified in the 619 incidents of violence between 2019 and 2021, which accounted for 6% of the department’s total calls. According to the report, four of the cases involving the use of force did not follow King County Sheriff’s Office policy.

In these calls for the use of force, auditors found that white officials were twice as likely to use force as black and Asian officials. The report revealed that white officers used force on 898 of 929,270 duty calls over a three-year period, a rate of 1 in 1,035 duty calls. The King County Auditor’s Office said black officers used force every 2,326 calls and Asian officers used force every 2,326 calls. Overall, white officers were found to be 52% more likely to use violence than officers of all other racial groups combined.

Officials said Hispanics are 50% more likely to be subjected to violence than other races in King County, compared to whites who are 34% less likely, the department said. Reporting from the audit showed that black people were 29% more likely to be victims of violence.

The report went further and found that white officers used violence against blacks 75% more often than officers of any other racial group. At the same time, these white officers were less likely to use violence against Asians and Hispanics than other officers of other races.

The district auditors did not review the department’s policies and procedures regarding the use of force, nor the appropriateness of the use of force.

The King County Sheriff’s Office public dashboard on its website shows the application of incidents of violence from 2014 to 2019.

According to the latest findings, racial identity information was only available in 4% of calls during interactions with officers. To ensure that racial profiling does not occur, law enforcement agencies are encouraged to collect and analyze demographic data related to traffic incidents in accordance with Washington State law. Auditors said the lack of available data made it more difficult to analyze racial injustice and determine whether fundamental changes needed to be made within the department.

Part of the problem may be related to King County code that prohibits the sheriff’s office from collecting “perceived racial data.” Ordinance 18665 was passed in 2018 to ensure that King County data and resources are not used to aid federal government deportation efforts, but that may be why officials don’t collect racial data on duty calls, according to the audit.

There is no field for entering races in King County’s current reporting system, the audit found. Former chiefs of the King County Sheriff’s Office also urged officers not to collect data about race on their duty calls.

Chief Operating Officer Dwight Dively said in a letter to auditors that the department lacks the staff to analyze race data, even if it’s been collected.

In the next two years, the department hopes to get a new reporting system that can potentially track races.

Auditors said alternative policy methods could reduce the burden on officers and allow licensed professionals to handle calls with less risk. An analysis evaluating risk factors found that 58% of calls to the sheriff’s office fall into the lowest risk category. County auditors noted that Phoenix and Austin used mental health providers instead of officials as positive models for replicating King County on certain calls.

King County’s auditors outlined four recommendations for the King County Sheriff’s Office to consider going forward: ensure its mailing system can collect racial data, develop a policy that allows officers to collect data on perceived race, establish a Department for Analysis of Data and Learning from Other Cities “Alternative Policing Methods.

“We agree that inequalities exist in the criminal justice system, and while KCSO rarely uses violence, 619 times in over a million service calls over a three-year period, KCSO is committed to understanding and addressing the racial inequalities identified by your analysis.” Dively wrote in a letter, “We endorse your recommendations and believe they will result in better law enforcement practices.”

The King County Sheriff’s Office serves a population of approximately 500,000 people in unincorporated portions of the county.

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https://www.king5.com/article/news/local/racial-disparities-arrests-use-of-force-king-county-sheriff/281-5800c289-2d1b-4887-a929-e1ccc9ab8326 Racial disparities in arrests, use of force found in King County

Alley Einstein

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