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Charter Amendment No. 5

Making the King County Sheriff an Appointed Position


Shall the King County charter be amended to return the position of King County sheriff to an appointed position with a requirement for consideration of community stakeholder input during the selection process and to make the county executive responsible for bargaining working conditions with the department of public safety's represented employees?




When the King County charter was adopted in 1969, the office of sheriff was an appointed position. In 1996, county voters approved a charter amendment making it an elected position. If Charter Amendment No. 5 is adopted, it would return the office to an appointed position after the expiration of the current elected sheriff's term. The next sheriff would be appointed by the county executive and confirmed by the county council. Both the executive and the council would be required to consider stakeholder input during the selection, appointment and confirmation process. (Except as to collective bargaining described below, Charter Amendment No. 5 does not affect the duties of the sheriff or the duties and structure of the department of public safety; that question is presented in Charter Amendment No. 6.)

Currently under the charter, the elected sheriff is responsible for bargaining with represented employees in the department of public safety on all matters except for compensation and benefits, which are negotiated by the county executive.  If Charter Amendment No. 5 is adopted making the sheriff an appointed position, all bargaining responsibilities would be placed with the county executive.

George Floyd’s death made obvious the need for police reform. However, reform is nearly impossible when our Sheriff is controlled by politics and electoral maneuvering dominated by special interest groups. Is it any wonder the current Sheriff opposes formal investigations of deaths of citizens held in custody, or subpoena power granted to civilian oversight of the Sheriff’s Office? This is why the Charter Review Commission - a volunteer panel of civic leaders from a broad spectrum of viewpoints - overwhelmingly recommends returning to an appointed Sheriff.

An appointed Sheriff would meet professional qualifications, hired and approved by the County Council. Bellevue, Renton and Kent hire from a nationwide pool of candidates based on professional qualifications, not merely on residency or the willingness to run. An elected sheriff limits the candidate pool to current deputies willing to mount a political campaign supported by the Sheriff’s Guild.

History shows that an appointment process leads to better sheriffs. Our first two “elected” Sheriffs were originally appointed by the County Council. They later ran unopposed as incumbents. Since then, the Department has been roiled in controversy and politics. This is our chance for reform. We deserve a professional, transparent, accountable Sheriff’s Department – Vote Yes.

Kinnon Williams, Anja Helmon, Nigel Herbig

Protect your right to vote for our non-partisan, independent, Sheriff. Vote No on Charter Amendment 5. This is a dangerous companion to Amendment 6. Together they would effectively allow a “partisan” Council to assume complete control over the Sheriff’s Office to defund or dismantle it.

In 1996, King County residents wisely voted to make the Sheriff an elected and independent office. Charter Amendment 5 would take away that right and give politicians the power to choose the Sheriff. An elected, nonpartisan, Sheriff protects our system of checks and balances by acting as a counterweight to the County Executive and Council. Currently the Executive and Council have important and powerful budget oversight. If the Executive and Council are given the authority to appoint the Sheriff as well, they would be controlled by politicians with no background or expertise in law enforcement.

Currently, if an elected nonpartisan Sheriff fails to serve the community’s interests, voters can remove that Sheriff from office through the democratic process of voting. There is no greater accountability than for the Sheriff to be elected by the people they serve. 

An appointed Sheriff would answer to politicians, not the people. Vote No on Charter Amendment 5.

Mitzi Johanknecht, Reagan Dunn, Dave Reichert,

We agree. A Sheriff shouldn’t be a politician. Electing the Sheriff makes the Sheriff a politician. Politics means big money. Special interests and political insiders decide who runs. Most Sheriff elections have had only one candidate. 

Want your vote to count? 7 of the 9 County Council districts represent unincorporated areas. Appointment by the Council assures selection of a qualified professional responsive to the needs of our community and accountable to its citizens. Vote yes.

The Sheriff will always be accountable to someone. The question before voters is: “accountable to the people or to a few politicians?”

Amendment 5 is an extreme measure that would make us the Only county in the state without an independent, elected Sheriff. It creates uncertainty by allowing a handful of politicians to choose the Sheriff instead of King County voters. At a time like this, we need stability, not political chaos.

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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