King County Executive Dow Constantine had three finalists to choose from when he decided who the next sheriff would be. He appointed Patti Cole-Tindall, which was not a surprise.
The challenge has been in actually getting to the appointment. Notice the twists and turns as this process unfolded. The three finalists were interim King County Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall; Charles Kimble, Chief of Police in Killeen, Texas, and Reginald Moorman, a major in the Atlanta Police Department with assignments that include Atlanta’s airport and pro football stadium.
When Constantine named Cole-Tindall as the interim sheriff last fall, they both said she would not be a candidate for the permanent position. But Cole-Tindall changed her mind and wanted to be a candidate — and Constantine encouraged her to submit an application. Last fall, she acknowledged she might be a distraction if she were part of the process, rather than concentrating on getting through a successful interim process.
You may recall that King County voters in 2020 voted to make the sheriff position appointed, rather than elected, as it had been for more than quarter of a century. Part of the reason for making the position appointed was that a higher level of management skill might be obtained with a broader search, along with a deeper pool of candidates. But that was also problematic as well. The only people who could have run for the job were those actually living in the area.
I was working for the county back in those days, and as a practical matter, it was only people who worked in the sheriff’s office who could get elected. The communications person was on television most nights and became an easy choice for the public.
The most recent sheriff’s term ended when Constantine named Cole-Tindall as the interim sheriff. The two other finalists may wonder how much they can trust King County after going back on their word that Cole-Tindall would not be a candidate. I am a little surprised neither candidate didn’t drop out of contention. As expected, the media has had many questions, but those questions were put off by a week and then done by Zoom. Even though Cole-Tindall has a good reputation around King County among people I know and respect, letting her back into the process (after stating they wouldn’t) sent the wrong message to the other finalists. It not only made her look like the front-runner, but made it look like she was likely the appointee, which she was.
There were 12 finalists prior to cutting the list down to three. They may be glad they didn’t make the final three, although the public lost out as any one of those nine might have been the person we needed, and might have been overlooked by Constantine’s clear preference for Cole-Tindall.
Cole-Tindall was a special agent for the gambling commission and worked on fraud cases with Employment Security. She joined King County in 1998, working as an investigator in the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention. She also served an Assistant Director in the department’s community corrections division. Constantine appointed her in 2010 to be the county’s Director of Labor Relations. So she has some of the qualifications the public should expect. But it does make me wonder what the other nine candidates’ background looked like.
The candidate from Atlanta or any other major metropolitan area would likely have experience that would be similar in comparison to King County. Especially because the sheriff’s office has been troubled by several shootings and still doesn’t have body cameras or dashboard cameras because they are subject to negotiation.
The three finalists also went through further interviews with the public safety committee, county employees, and officials from the cities that contract with the sheriff’s office. Those meetings apparently didn’t change any minds, even though there were two public forums.
The King County Council will now start the confirmation process, which could take several weeks. Constantine would have made sure that his nominee was confirmable. Let’s hope councilmembers ask the questions the public would ask. Because much of the daily job in the sheriff’s office is covered by collective bargaining, the unions will make sure a councilmember asks their questions. Because now it is a political process.
I have appointed a police chief, and a sheriff is similar. Either position contains its own set of politics. Why ? Because there are winners and losers. Think promotions, money and power, particularly on what policies get adopted.
And right now, police accountability and conduct at all levels need to be addressed. And we need a true talent to be able to make the changes that are needed. Did Constantine make the right choice from the 12 finalists?
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.