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caption: Alexis Francois, center, says KCSO discipline was too lenient for officer who referred to Black youth as "animals" in a Facebook post.
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Alexis Francois, center, says KCSO discipline was too lenient for officer who referred to Black youth as "animals" in a Facebook post.
Credit: KUOW/Amy Radil

Families call King County Sheriff too lenient in captain's discipline over Facebook post about Black youth

Family members of people killed by police are calling on the King County Sheriff to fire a captain over a social media post that describes Black youth as "animals."

Last year on Facebook, King County Sheriff’s Captain Todd Miller posted about an incident in New York in which Black teens beat and robbed a Black teenage girl. Miller wrote: “Animals. This is what the inner city gives us these days.”

In response, King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht suspended Miller for one day without pay, saying his words draw on “the racist history in America.”

Miller was also involved in the death of MiChance Dunlap-Gittens, a Black 17-year-old, who was shot and killed by King County deputies in 2017.

Gittens’ mother Alexis Francois and other members of the groups Not This Time, Next Steps Washington, and the local NAACP, gathered outside the King County Administrative Building Friday to denounce the sheriff’s handling of Miller's case.

“I want her to resign. I want Todd Miller to be fired, not promoted,” Francois said. “He led the rogue investigation that caused Chance’s death — she promoted him. He makes a racist post on social media, he gets suspended for one day.”

Francois and other families criticized Miller’s discipline as insignificant compared to the sheriff’s recent termination of Deputy Mike Brown for his series of Facebook posts mocking Black Lives Matter protesters. In explaining her decision in Miller’s case, Sheriff Johanknecht said Miller has a clean record and “will learn from this experience.”

In a letter explaining her decision to terminate Brown, Johanknecht also compared his case to Miller’s and others involving social media posts by officers. She said Miller’s discipline was lighter, in part because his actions had not elicited as much outrage or been as damaging to the Sheriff’s Office as Brown’s.

But the family members at Friday’s press conference said they had been unaware of Miller’s April 21, 2020 Facebook post or the misconduct investigation he faced until the outcome was reported recently in the press.

Not This Time’s acting director Devitta Briscoe said the revelation has damaged public trust in the Sheriff’s Office.

“The deep-seated racist beliefs are inherent in our law enforcement and it shows that these are the belief systems that cost MiChance his life,” she said.

Not This Time is part of an advisory committee that will help the King County Council select and appoint a sheriff in the coming months, following the passing of a King County charter last November that changed the sheriff from an elected to an appointed position.