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Former King Co. Sheriff thinks millennials will change policing

Former King County Sheriff Sue Rahr believes younger police officers will rely less on physical responses for upholding the law.
Jonathan Caves
Former King County Sheriff Sue Rahr believes younger police officers will rely less on physical responses for upholding the law.

Could the Millennial Generation transform law enforcement, making it more focused on communication skills than physical force? Sue Rahr, the new director of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, thinks so.

Rahr, the former King County Sheriff, says people who are part of what's come to be called the millennial generation are different than baby boomers or even Gen Xers.

"The kids in their 20’s are much more focused on what is good for the group, what is good for the whole," Rahr said.

They are, she says, kids who grew up doing community service in order to graduate from high school and who were at a formative stage when 9/11 happened. 

"I think this group is very hungry to find ways to get communities to pull together," she said.

More than physical

While Rahr was King County Sheriff, the department came under fire for several high profile cases of officer misconduct including an incident in which a deputy was caught on tape punching a 15-year-old girl in a holding cell. The deputy was fired.

As head of police training in the state, Rahr says she’d like to see officers rely less on physical tools.

"There’s a whole other bag of tools that we haven’t used as much and that is using human psychology, using communication skills and understanding what motivates people to cooperate," she said.

Rahr says people in their 20's, who will be joining police forces in large numbers, are perfectly suited to implement these changes. Rahr says the millennials often get a bad rap as being uncommunicative. But,she says, while they do tend to text rather than talk, they have great social networking skills and that could be a real plus for a police officer.

"I can see a district patrol being in communication with an entire community, getting information out for public safety and creating a channel for getting information to law enforcement," Rahr said.

Rahr says much of her knowledge about millennials comes from personal experience. She’s the mother of two boys now in their 20's.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.