In 2020, the same year Ed Troyer ran for Sheriff of Pierce County, Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier commissioned a study of use–of–force incidents committed by the Sheriff’s Department. Published in November 2021, the report of the Pierce County Criminal Justice Work Group noted that black residents of Pierce County experienced 5.62 times as much police use–of–force as white residents. Black children experienced force seven to 12 times more than white children. Black or African Americans experienced deadly force at a rate close to three times that of the white population.
In an interview with conservative talk radio staff for KTTH in March 2022, Troyer—who is white—responded to the study by criticizing the methodology used:
“Somebody gets arrested for, say, domestic violence. And we tell them they’re under arrest, and we put handcuffs on them, even though they’re being cooperative, we stick them in the patrol car. That’s three uses of force—it’s not excessive force or unlawful force. They’re not clarifying that, they’re just saying ‘use–of–force.”
In other words, there’s nothing to see here.
But there’s something to see here
On January 27, 2021, around 2 am, Sedrick Altheimer—who is black— was delivering newspapers for a route that included Sheriff Troyer’s house. In an interview published by King 5 News last May, Altheimer explained that he’s worked that route for eight years—since he was 18. He delivers more than 400 papers, six nights a week in the predominantly white north Tacoma neighborhood. That January night, Altheimer said, he noticed someone following him. Altheimer got out of his car, approached the other driver, and asked three questions: “Are you a cop? Are you following me? And is it because I’m black?”
According to Altheimer, Troyer didn’t identify himself as law enforcement—but said his wife was black, and accused Altheimer of being a “porch pirate.” Right after the confrontation, Troyer called an emergency dispatcher and claimed that Altheimer had threatened to kill him. The dispatcher sent an alarm to all law enforcement in the area—ultimately, 14 officers converged on the scene.
Altheimer said in the interview with King 5 that he feared for his life: “Every time you drive in that neighborhood you look at that one spot and you’re like, man, I almost lost my life.”
An investigation and charges—against Troyer
In April 2021, Governor Inslee asked the Attorney General’s office to investigate the incident. In October 2021, AG Ferguson’s office filed two misdemeanor criminal charges against Troyer—one for false reporting and one count of making false or misleading statements to a civil servant. In addition, an investigation commissioned by the Pierce County Council and conducted by former US Attorney Brian Moran found Troyer’s conduct had “violated policies on bias–free policing and other professional standards.”
Troyer was placed on Pierce County’s “Brady List,” a list of police officials who have engaged in misconduct or given false or misleading statements. The Seattle Times describes the Brady List as “a roster of law enforcement officers with credibility problems that could impact their ability to serve as witnesses in criminal cases.”
But wait, there’s more
Altheimer claims Troyer has approached him on several occasions since the initial incident in January, in spite of an anti–harassment order. At a hearing in July 2022, Judge Jeffrey Jahns determined that Troyer represents “a substantial danger to the community, especially Mr. Altheimer” and noted the power differential between the two men. Jahns said there was a likelihood that Troyer would “seek to intimidate witnesses and otherwise seek to interfere with the administration of justice.” As a result, Jahns ordered Troyer to post $100,000 bail while he awaits trial on the false–reporting charges.
But not enough to end Troyer’s position as Sheriff
Troyer claims the charges against him are politically motivated by anti–cop forces who see racism everywhere. Back on KTTH radio, Troyer claimed that “we can either have a safe community where police are allowed to do their job or we can have the cops handcuffed and the criminals run free. I ask for your support in standing up to bullies in power,” he said.
Troyer understands how to play the power game. As Libby Denkman and Sarah Leibovitz point out in an article published on KUOW’s website in June, Troyer can’t be fired—only voters can remove him from office: “The sheriff is still elected. And with two years left in his term, Troyer has plenty of time to prepare for a re–election campaign.”
King County voters opted to change the role of sheriff from elected to appointed in 2020. That means a sheriff in King County can be fired. Thurston and Pierce Counties still elect their sheriffs. Last summer, the Pierce County Council voted down a proposed ballot measure that would have asked voters whether to turn the sheriff’s position into an appointed one.
Ed Troyer remains in office awaiting trial. Sedrick Altheimer has resigned from his job as a newspaper carrier. He awaits an October 2022 trial on the suit he filed in Federal Court against Troyer. The section of the Pierce County website where the report on use–of–force was published has not been updated.
Emily Lardner is a long–time member of the WIP Publishing Committee.