King County Sheriff responds to events in Minneapolis
By King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht
The video of a Minneapolis Police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, and his subsequent death, is heartbreaking and disturbing. I see an officer willfully kneeling on the neck of a man who can’t breathe, and three of his fellow officers failing to intervene. Simply put, I am outraged.
I want to assure our community members that we take our responsibility as peace officers very seriously. Accountability for our actions and transparency are among my top priorities.
Many of you have written to ask what measures are in place to insure our deputies are properly trained and respectful of all members of our community, even those we have to arrest.
The King County Sheriff's Office is a model agency for training in our state. While the state requires our deputies to receive 8 hours of Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) by July of 2021, my agency requires them to have 40 hours of CIT. What is Crisis Intervention Training? CIT allows our commissioned personnel to develop skills to effectively deal with individuals in crisis. When people call 911 for help, it is typically a time of great stress for them. Whether their difficulties are due to a behavioral health crisis, substance abuse or the stress of the event, our deputies are trained in the principals of effective crisis intervention to avoid use of force and injury to the individual or our deputies.
Another important component of reducing use of force in the field is something called De-escalation Training. The basic principal of de-escalation is creating physical distance between a combative subject and our personnel, when possible, and using verbal skills to calm emotions, bring the subject in to compliance and create a better outcome.
Our deputies also train in the use of defensive tactics. These are hand-to-hand methods aimed at gaining a subject’s compliance without the use of firearms. As soon as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, this training will resume.
Further, all members of the Sheriff's Office are required to attend 8 hours of Implicit Bias Training, with Dr. Bryant Marks from Morehouse University. The training examines a range of implicit biases, including stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination and their impacts on our communities of color.
Since I took office, we have also spent considerable time strengthening and improving our use of force policies and the process for reviewing internal and community complaints about uses of force and potential misconduct.
Finally, it is my intention that the King County Sheriff's Office have body worn and in-car cameras in the near future to increase our accountability and transparency. We are currently doing our due diligence to find a proper vendor. Our ultimate success will be dependent on Executive and County Council budget approval. I will update you as the process moves along.
In closing, I want to reiterate my commitment to fairness, equity, building community trust and to reducing use of force where possible.
It is an honor and pleasure serving as your elected Sheriff.
Mitzi G. Johanknecht, Sheriff