King County Council Establishes Strengthened Human and Civil Rights Commission

On Tuesday, June 4, 2024, the King County Council adopted legislation to establish a strengthened Human and Civil Rights Commission.

“I have been concerned for some time about our civil rights enforcement work at King County. In a county named for the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we must lead in this work,” said Councilmember Rod Dembowski, who authored the legislation.

“This legislation reaffirms the County’s commitment to uplifting the voices of community members and upholding equality and justice for all County residents,” Dembowski said. “I look forward to the Commission moving forward in their work without delay.”

The legislation aims to establish a community-led, independent body dedicated to advancing human and civil rights in the county. This revamped Commission will play a key role in advising on anti-discrimination ordinances, conducting outreach to marginalized communities, raising awareness on rights issues, monitoring compliance, and providing regular reports to the County Executive and County Council.

“The NAACP Seattle King County Branch wholeheartedly supports Councilmember Rod Dembowski’s legislation to improve the County’s Human and Civil Rights Commission,” said L. Darrell Powell, President of the NAACP Seattle-King County Branch. “With the new Commission in place, King County will strengthen access to equity, justice, and inclusivity for all of its residents.”

Additionally, the legislation seeks to ensure the Commission’s independence by giving the Commission the ability to review existing civil rights enforcement mechanisms and provide recommendations on changes, including the scope of the Commission’s own responsibilities. 

“The re-establishment of a King County Human and Civil Rights Commission remedies a grave omission in the oversight of civil rights in King County, especially given that almost 50 percent of King County demographics belong to communities of color,” said Kyle Kinoshita, President of Seattle Japanese American Citizens League.

“For our part, the Commission would provide an essential voice for the Asian Pacific Islander community at a time of a rise in anti-Asian hate, lack of affordable housing and continuing income disparities,” Kinoshita added. “The Commission would ensure that our community, along with all protected classes, have a powerful presence in policy decisions.”