King County Sheriff Mitzi G. Johanknecht issues directive on use of chemical irritants for crowd control

Monday, June 15, 2020

King County Sheriff Mitzi G. Johanknecht

The following statement is from King County Sheriff Mitzi G. Johanknecht. Shoreline contracts with King County to provide its police department.

The Shoreline Police department serves the city of Shoreline and has the resources of the Sheriff's office for functions such as major crimes investigations. Kenmore is also a "contract city." 

Lake Forest Park has its own department, reporting to Mayor and City Council. It is in a coalition with other small departments to share resources and training exercises.

Sheriff Johanknecht is responding to a court ruling regarding the Seattle police department's use of "tear gas" during the first days of the protests in Seattle.

“Yesterday, the Western District of Washington issued an order with respect to crowd control and the use of chemical irritants.

"The court was asked to consider a ban on the use of chemical irritants as a less lethal tool by the Seattle Police Department. The court ruled as follows:
  • SPD may not use chemical irritants or projectiles against persons peacefully protesting or demonstrating
  • Individual officers may use reasonable, proportional and targeted action to protect against a specific threat of imminent physical harm to themselves or identifiable others or to respond to specific acts of violence or destruction of property
  • Tear gas may only be used if other efforts to subdue a threat with alternate crowd control measures have been exhausted and ineffective; AND
  • The Chief of Police has determined tear gas is the only reasonable alternative available.
  • Should the Chief find a basis exists to use tear gas, it must be directed at potentially life threatening activity and may not be deployed indiscriminately into a crowd.

"I appreciate the guidance from the court. I find this guidance consistent with my expectations of the women and men of the King County Sheriff’s Office. It is my hope that our agency will not find it necessary to even consider the use of chemical irritants or projectiles. If it is necessary, it will be under the circumstances outlined by the court and only initiated with my approval.

"Mitzi G. Johanknecht, Sheriff"


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