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Charter Amendment No. 4

Office of Law Enforcement Oversight – Subpoena Authority


Shall Section 265 of the King County charter be amended to authorize the office of law enforcement oversight to subpoena witnesses, documents and other evidence related to its investigations and reviews of county law enforcement officers?




King County Charter Section 265 was adopted by county voters in 2015 and established the civilian office of law enforcement oversight (OLEO) as a charter-mandated county office within the legislative branch. Under the charter and established by ordinance, OLEO has the authority to investigate, review and analyze the conduct of county law enforcement officers who have been the subject of a complaint and to investigate the use of force by county law enforcement officers. OLEO also has the authority to review and analyze internal investigations conducted and disciplinary action taken by the county department of public safety in response to complaints and use of force. Chapter 2.75 of the King County Code as adopted by the county council further describes the organization, powers and duties of OLEO.

If adopted, Charter Amendment No. 4 would amend Charter Section 265 to give OLEO the authority to subpoena witnesses, documents and other evidence relating to its investigations and reviews. It would also authorize OLEO to administer oaths to the subpoenaed witnesses and would provide that any subpoenaed witnesses would have the right to be represented by an attorney. While OLEO currently has subpoena power through the county code, the code can be amended by the county council. If the power is added to the charter, it can only be amended or removed by a majority vote of county voters.

After careful investigation and discussion with community leaders, the King County Charter Review Commission recommended that the King County Charter be amended to provide subpoena power for the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO). The Commission found that adding subpoena power would help strengthen police accountability and transparency. The King County Council agreed, forwarding this issue to voters. 

We urge a “yes” vote on this commonsense change to the County Charter. 

Without subpoena power, OLEO can request information from the Sheriff, but it has no ability to legally require it. Among civilian oversight agencies nationwide, the ability to issue subpoenas is commonplace, including those in both liberal and conservative-leaning areas. King County is an outlier because both the Sheriff and the union representing officers have consistently opposed this commonly accepted practice.

Given the recent officer-involved killings and the movement for Black Lives locally and nationally, the time is now to grant OLEO the sensible power it needs to effectively conduct its oversight mission.

Liz Ford, Nikkita Oliver, Rob Saka,

No statement submitted.

Statements in favor of and in opposition to a ballot measure are submitted by committees appointed by the jurisdiction. No persons came forward to serve on the committee and to write a statement in opposition. If you would like to be involved with a committee in the future please contact the jurisdiction.

Simple Majority (King County Charter, Section 800)

For questions about this measure, contact: Patrick Hamacher, Director of Council Initiatives, 
(206) 477-0880,

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