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Law enforcement needs 'culture change,' says King Co. Council chair

Kyle Fox

This is part two of a conversation KNKX had with Claudia Balducci, chair of the King County Council. Listen to part one, which focuses on housing and homelessness.

In November, voters approved a change to the King County charter. The sheriff would be appointed, not elected. Under the change, the county executive will appoint the sheriff, and the King County Council will confirm the appointment.

Claudia Balducci is chair of the King County Council. She talked with KNKX about that, and other police reform issues, in a recent interview.


On community input in the selection of a new sheriff: “We need standing community members involved in the process from beginning to end; we need one-off opportunities to go out into the community to hear from a broader range of people. It’s just so important. Along with the charter amendment that changed the sheriff’s selection method, we had another charter amendment that also said we can decide … the duties of the sheriff’s office. There’s a lot of discussion around [the idea that] maybe there are things that our sheriff’s office does that would be better done by other professionals in ways that are more supportive of the community, so you remove law enforcement from certain interventions and maybe apply a public health approach or a social work approach. So we have to have that discussion as well.”

King County Council Chair Claudia Balducci
Credit King County Council
King County Council
King County Council Chair Claudia Balducci

On the firing of a sheriff’s detective, and community trust: “We need culture change within our law enforcement; we need culture change. If you think that the people you serve are the enemy, then your heart and your soul are not in the place of protecting and serving those people, not really. And the community knows it. There are some amazing people in law enforcement who absolutely joined because they have the mission to protect and serve and to do right by their community and to be part of the community. But as a whole, you do see there are these cultural rifts between the community and law enforcement. It’s the hardest thing to change. You can’t just write a new service manual, do a new training, and then six months later, everything’s OK. We have to build this feedback loop between the community and law enforcement, and we need to learn how to hear each other across the divisions that are there. It’s going to take a really long time, I think.”

Ed Ronco is a former KNKX producer and reporter and hosted All Things Considered for seven years.