Kathryn Olson, J.D
Kathryn is a leading advocate for police accountability, with broad experience in managing and assessing complaint investigations and other risk management systems
Kathryn understands that the complaint investigation process must be integrated into police risk management strategies, policy and training reviews, and community relations. She appreciates the importance of involving all stakeholders in efforts to increase law enforcement legitimacy and enhance mutual trust between the police and the community served.
After twenty years of overseeing individual and systemic employment discrimination litigation, Kathryn served six years as the civilian director of the Seattle Police Department’s Office of Professional Accountability (OPA), including a period of scrutiny of Seattle’s use of force by the U.S. Department of Justice. OPA’S investigations were found to be “thorough, well-organized, well-documented, and thoughtful.” She has managed complex, sensitive investigations and is well versed in distinct issues associated with police misconduct matters. Kathryn has been retained to handle misconduct investigations involving police executives and has served as an expert witness on best practices in the complaint investigation process and ways misconduct can undermine procedural justice and perceptions of police legitimacy.
Kathryn provides consulting and training on police policies and practices that promote professionalism, along with approaches to civilian involvement in law enforcement. Recent projects include individual and teamwork on an end-to-end analysis of the complaint and discipline process at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, assessments of stakeholder perceptions about policing and oversight in several jurisdictions, review of the functionality of an Early Intervention System used by a sheriff’s office, and evaluation of a federal law enforcement agency’s initiative to recruit more female officers. She also is co-author of the recently published, Police Misconduct Complaint Investigations Manual.
In 2015, Kathryn co-directed the first academic symposium sponsored by the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE), along with the Seattle University School of Law and Criminal Justice Department. The event brought together criminal justice scholars, law enforcement and government leaders, oversight practitioners, and community representatives to collaborate on ways to enhance fair and effective policing and build police/community trust. Criminal Justice Policy Review published related articles, including an introduction co-written by Kathryn.
Kathryn also is a minority partner with Sanford, Olson & Scales, LLC (SOS). Using the Police Force Analysis System™ (P-FAS), SOS conducts reviews of use of force to identify trends and policy/training improvements, and to provide risk management and cross-agency benchmarking. P-FAS interactive dashboards also serve as an excellent tool to engage and educate the community about police use of force.
Kathryn served on the NACOLE Board and as president for two years, is on the President’s Advisory Committee, hosted the 2010 NACOLE conference in Seattle, has frequently contributed to the NACOLE newsletter, and regularly presents at NACOLE conferences and in other forums.