Pierce County Council moves forward with independent investigation

Bizar Male

At its April 6 regular meeting Council took the next steps in the process of hiring an independent investigator to review the conduct of Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer.

Council unanimously approved a motion directing staff to prepare a contract for investigative services with Seattle law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. Brian Moran, former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, is a partner at the firm and is the person Council plans to hire to conduct the investigation.

Moran has not yet agreed to the contract, which still needs to be negotiated. The proposed contract for services agreed upon by Council is not to exceed $50,000.

If Moran agrees to the contract, he will act as investigator for the Council, exercising the body’s investigative powers granted under Section 2.25 of the Pierce County Charter.

Under a draft proposed scope of work, Council wants to see the following items included in the investigation:

  1. Determine the facts of what occurred during the incident on January 27, 2021, in which the sheriff requested assistance from 911 dispatch, including the response to the request, the law enforcement investigation of the incident, and statements made thereafter. To the extent possible, the investigation is to resolve disputed facts and versions, and include investigation of motivations and states of mind of those involved, including potential biases or prejudices.
  2. Determine whether the sheriff, during the January 27 incident, misused his authority, deviated from standard or required law enforcement standards (including honesty), violated any sheriff’s department policy or regulation, or violated any criminal law.
  3. Investigate past conduct of the sheriff as part of determining whether the January 27 incident was a misuse of authority, a deviation from standards, or a violation of policy or law and to determine whether there is a pattern of the same. Past conduct to be investigated to include the incidents, prior to the sheriff taking office but while serving as a deputy, in which the sheriff called 911 dispatch on November 11, 2020, and the public statements the sheriff made about the death of Manuel Ellis and the sheriff department’s investigation of the same. Investigation of past conduct shall be limited only to those incidents relevant to determining whether there is a pattern of misuse of authority, deviation from standards, or a violation of policy or law, and shall not extend to any incidents earlier than January 1, 2020, without specific authorization from the Council.
  4. If the investigator determines that there was a misuse of authority, a deviation from standards, or a violation of policy or law, determine what discipline would typically be recommended if a deputy sheriff or other non-elected employee of the sheriff’s department had so acted.
  5. If the investigator determines that there was a misuse of authority, a deviation from standards, or a violation of policy or law, the investigator may provide any appropriate recommendations for oversight or other procedures that could prevent or discourage similar misconduct in the future by any person serving as sheriff.

With Council approval, the next steps in the process is to draft a contract and begin negotiations with Moran’s firm. Council is committed to keeping the public informed throughout the process and will provide updates as new information is made available.

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