County Sheriff won’t arrest Burien homeless despite SCOTUS ruling


Despite a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, the King County Sheriff’s Office is still refusing to enforce the City of Burien’s ban on public camping.

On Friday, the nation's highest court decided 6 to 3 that banning homeless encampments on public property does not constitute “cruel and unusual” punishment.

Burien officials deemed the decision a victory as it is in the midst of a legal battle with the King County Sheriff’s Office regarding Ordinance 827, which effectively bans homeless people from living on any public property at any time. 

King County Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall responded to the Burien law by stating that the city’s ordinance violates federal case law and that her office will not enforce the public camping portion of the ordinance until the constitutionality of the ordinance is resolved.

In response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s latest ruling, Burien Deputy Mayor Stephanie Mora said the city has the right to make “common sense laws that work for all of our residents.”

“It is time for the full enforcement of our ordinance which was always and still remains constitutional,” Burien Deputy Mayor Stephanie Mora said in a social media post.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling has not shifted the King County Sheriff’s Office's stance on bans on camping on public property. The department confirmed this with The Center Square in an email.

“We will not arrest based on the change in this law until other issues are addressed, such as an ordinance which includes prohibited camping locations and more precision on the conduct prohibited in designated no-camping zones,” the King County Sheriff’s Office stated.

Burien added an amendment to the ban on public camping that creates a 500-foot buffer zone around parks, libraries, schools, daycares, senior centers and makes it illegal for people to sleep overnight in those areas.

The sheriff’s office noted that the Supreme Court stated that the Constitution provides many additional limits on state prosecutorial power, promising fair notice of the laws.

“Our deputies are sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States, and we remain steadfast in our position that Burien’s ordinance violates these rights,” the department added. “The King County Sheriff’s office and its deputies serving the Burien community will continue to enforce all other City of Burien laws.”