Sheriff changes use-of-force policies in case of motorcyclist held at gunpoint by plainclothes officer

The King County Sheriff’s Office has agreed to change its use-of-force policies as part of a settlement in a lawsuit over a plainclothes officer who held a motorcyclist at gunpoint.

As a first step, the policy change clarifies that “aiming a weapon is a use of force and should be reported within the Sheriff’s office subject to further consideration and evaluation by persons higher up in the chain of command.”

“We appreciate the Sheriff’s recognition of the importance of this issue,” said Chris Carney, attorney for the motorcyclist, Alex Randall. “Pointing a gun at a person without a good reason needlessly escalates the danger of any interaction with police, and increases the risks that citizens and officers will be hurt or killed.

“This policy change brings the King County Sheriff in line with modern policing, and will hopefully improve officer training to de-escalate dangerous situations.”

The lawsuit arose from an August 2017 incident in which  plainclothes King County Sheriff’s Detective Richard Rowe was caught on video holding a Mr. Randall at gunpoint. Mr. Randall was legally stopped at a traffic light at the time.

The lawsuit alleged that Detective Rowe used excessive force in pointing a gun at Mr. Randall without a legal justification, and that the King County Sheriff’s Office had failed to train and supervise him.

“This was a terrifying incident for me, and I hope that this settlement will prevent this from happening to anyone else,” said Mr. Randall. “I’m glad that something good has come from what happened to me, and I look forward to continuing to volunteer my efforts to improve community relations with our police.”

The settlement in the case, Randall v. King County et al., 18-cv-01123-JCC, included a payment of $65,000 to Mr. Randall.