King County Sheriffs deputies will be required to attend crisis intervention and deescalation trainings.
King County Sheriff's deputies will be required to attend crisis intervention and deescalation trainings. WELLPHOTO/SHUTTERSTOCK

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The King County Sheriff's Office plans to review how it trains deputies to handle people in the throes of a mental health crisis, following a unanimous vote on Monday from the county council. The department will be required to provide all officers with crisis intervention, deescalation, and culturally sensitive anti-bias trainings. In addition to trainings, the Sheriff's office will also review and revise its use of force policies in conjunction with the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight.

"The sad truth is that we’ve lost too many people, family, friends, and neighbors, in tragic ways," County Council President Joe McDermott, who sponsored the motion, said during the meeting. “This will help avoid use of deadly force from occurring whenever possible."

In an interview with The Stranger after the meeting, McDermott called the decision a "significant step" forward to better address the ways in which law enforcement officers interact with the community. McDermott said he recognized that his motion is not yet the full solution to addressing excessive use of force and crisis intervention. As county officials and representatives with the Sheriff’s and law enforcement oversight offices move forward, they will work to identify next steps such as using less lethal equipment and having officers participate in deescalation role play.

"Our deputies respond to people in countless types of crisis with no warning," he said. "Deputies have very little information about what they're walking into when they arrive. To adequately assess and plan a response to a variety of situations, I think the more comprehensive 40-hour [crisis intervention] a meaningful investment."

Currently, about 25 percent of patrol deputies with the Sheriff's department have gone through the 40-hour crisis intervention training, while the remaining deputies have attended eight-hour trainings. Officials from the Sheriff's office will now ensure that all officers—about 450 people—attend the 40-hour training by the end of 2018, the Sheriff's Office Chief of Staff Chris Barringer said.

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Beginning in October, Sheriff's deputies will also attend a three-day course on implicit bias and deescalation training, he added. The Sheriff's office are required to present their results from the program to the King County Council by December 1.

The council's decision comes after Sheriff's deputies fatally shot Tommy Le, a 20-year-old student, in June and Renee Davis, a pregnant, 23-year-old Muckleshoot tribal member last October.

Le, who was holding a pen when he was killed, was shot twice in the back, according to an autopsy report. Officials with the Sheriff's office said Davis pointed an unloaded gun at deputies before they shot her.

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