The civilian just hired to oversee police accountability throughout King County has valuable experience in one of the nation's most volatile communities: Ferguson, Missouri.
“I arrived in St. Louis a couple of months before Michael Brown was shot,” Deborah Jacobs told KIRO 7 on Thursday. “I immediately got involved with the movement for Black Lives and contributed to police policy issues throughout the region.”
Jacobs is the newly appointed director of the King County Office of Law Enforcement Oversight, which has newly expanded authority to investigate complaints of misconduct by King County Sheriff's Office personnel.
“Sometimes, it can be an intimidating process to file an internal affairs complaint,” Jacobs said on her second day in her new role. “We can be that safe space for community members to come to us, but we’re also the eyes and the ears of the community, and where we see issues, we won’t be shy about raising them.”
Jacobs said she accepted the position because King County voters recently approved the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight’s expanded authority to investigate complaints, conduct interviews and mediation, impact policy, and implement best practices within the Sheriff’s Office.
She said she’s also looking forward to working with Sheriff John Urquhart.
“The sheriff does have a good, strong reputation and I’m really happy to be able to come in and establish this office in that context, versus working with someone who doesn’t get it,” the Ellensburg native and longtime veteran of the American Civil Liberties Union told KIRO 7. Despite her confidence in the current sheriff, Jacobs said she believes “the (OLEO) office is necessary because we need to instill community trust, and let the community members who have experienced police misconduct know they have a place to go where we will look out for them and investigate their concerns.”
Sheriff Urquhart agreed.
“Police departments need civilian oversight,” he said on Thursday. “We need to be able to prove to the community that we are doing a good job in our internal investigations. We think we are, but I don’t want people to listen to me. I want them to listen to a civilian who doesn’t work for me, who works outside the Sheriff’s Office, to say the same thing, hopefully.”