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King County Council ousts law enforcement oversight director

September 3, 2020 GMT

SEATTLE (AP) — The Metropolitan King County Council has voted 5-4 to not extend the contract of the civilian director of the county’s Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO), after praising her work but saying workplace issues have soured her time there.

The council voted to begin a national search to replace Deborah Jacobs this week, and appointed the office’s current deputy director, Adrienne Wat, as interim director, The Seattle Times reported.

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Jacobs has protested her removal as director during the search, saying the county’s charter would have her continue in the role while the county finds her replacement, since she was not fired.

The decision to remove Jacobs came after an independent investigation found that Jacobs had used inappropriate and discriminatory language, and made some of her staff feel uncomfortable.

The investigation concluded that Jacobs engaged in discrimination or inappropriate or unwelcome conduct five times, and that five other times were either unfounded or could not be proven by a preponderance of the evidence. It concluded that her conduct was inconsistent with her role as a supervisor and violated county policies.

Among the findings is that Jacobs commented that she could not see anyone but a white male in the position of deputy director of OLEO, and purportedly said that a woman in the office might not fit in the job because she had children.

Jacobs believes she has been the target of a joint effort by some council members and the King County Police Officer’s Guild, which has been critical of Jacobs and has fought many of her proposed reforms.

Council chair Claudia Balducci, who led the effort to not reappoint Jacobs to the post, praised Jacobs’ tenure in the difficult job and said real progress has been made toward police accountability. Jacobs has worked to help revise the county’s use-of-force policy, commissioned independent reviews of critical incidents and worked with families of people killed by law enforcement officers.

The four council members who supported Jacobs on Tuesday were Dembowski, Dave Upthegrove, Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Joe McDermott.

Jacobs had filed a $2 million tort claim against the county alleging she has been the victim of gender and sex discrimination from within the King County Sheriff’s Office since becoming director in 2016.

“My greatest hope is that OLEO will not lose momentum on its critical work and will thrive moving forward,” Jacobs said.