City Addresses Sheriff’s Refusal to Enforce Ordinance

City Responds to King County Sheriff’s Office Directive to Not Enforce Public Camping Ordinance
Posted on 03/08/2024
Burien City Hall.

The King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) has advised its deputies against enforcing Burien’s public camping ordinance, which is a breach of the interlocal agreement for contracted law enforcement services provided by King County to Burien.

According to the contract for services, if there is disagreement regarding a contracting city’s “procedure, policy, goal or operation” the solution is not unilateral action by King County, its Sheriff, or members of the KCSO, rather the parties shall negotiate to reach a final determination. The Sheriff’s refusal to follow the contract is a violation of the contract terms. Additionally, it is Burien’s City Manager that has “the general duty and responsibility of providing the assigned police chief with general direction relative to the furnishing of law enforcement services to” Burien.

The KCSO’s unilateral decision amounts to King County claiming the authority to decide the constitutionality of existing laws and potentially politicizing an important public safety issue. This ordinance remains the same in terms of scope as the ordinance the Sheriff stated on November 3, 2023, was a policy decision of the Burien City Council and that Burien Municipal Code 9.85.150 “has not been found to be inconsistent with applicable court cases or law.” The ordinance adds no greater exposure than what existed in the previous versions of the ordinance. The only increased limitation is not from the ordinance but from a map that places a reasonable limitation on where the unhoused may rest if there are no shelters, treatment facilities, or beds available to them. 

Burien’s public camping ordinance was initially adopted in 2023 and amended on March 4, 2024 (Ordinance 832). While Burien actively strives to ensure outreach and services are offered before enforcement, and encourages the KCSO to contact service providers, if an individual refuses the available shelter and refuses to leave public property after repeated contact with service providers they could be charged with a misdemeanor.

Burien will work with the Oversight Committee to redress the situation using remedies available under the existing contract.

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