Ex-King County Sheriff's Office media spokesman announces run for sheriff
By STEVE HUNTER
Kent Reporter Courts, government reporter
April 24, 2012 · 1:05 PM
John Urquhart, former King County Sheriff's Office media spokesman, announced Tuesday at a press conference in downtown Seattle that he's running for King County Sheriff.
Urquhart will run against interim Sheriff Steve Strachan, a former Kent Police chief, on November's ballot to replace Sue Rahr. Rahr resigned in March to become director of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission in Burien.
Urquhart, 64, of Mercer Island, released his statements from the press conference about the reasons he decided to run for sheriff.
"My campaign for King County Sheriff is based on leadership and accountability," Urquhart said. "The Sheriff's Office is at a crossroads. We are headed down a road where we run the risk of losing support of the citizens we serve. I can’t let that happen. If we go down that wrong road, it will not be because our deputies don’t care. It will be because of a lack of leadership within the Sheriff’s Office.
"The citizens of King County want many things from their Sheriff’s Office. They want a police agency that is tough on crime, but understands you can’t arrest your way out of every problem in society."
Urquhart discussed his decision to run with his wife and two adult daughters before making the decision official.
Urquhart retired in 2011 after 24 years with the Sheriff's Office. He worked many years as the media spokesman and also served as a patrol officer, field training officer, narcotics and vice detective and as an administrative aide to Rahr and former Sheriff Dave Reichert.
Strachan, 47, became Chief Deputy of the King County Sheriff’s Office in January 2011 after serving nearly five years as Kent’s Police chief. He previously was Chief of Police in Lakeville, Minn.
Rahr appointed Strachan in March as interim Sheriff and the King County Council appointed him to the position April 2.
Strachan and Urquhart must file by mid-May to run for Sheriff to complete Rahr's four-year term that expires the end of 2013. Strachan has said he plans to run for the position.
Urquhart released four major changes he would make if elected:
• The Internal Investigations Unit investigates complaints against employees of the Sheriff’s Office. But that unit has been decimated over the past year. Experienced detective sergeants are gone. The two detectives currently in the unit have a combined experience of only a few months handling misconduct investigations. That is unacceptable. I will staff this unit to the level needed to assure thorough, quality, and timely investigations, and I will bring at least one experienced detective-sergeant back into this unit immediately. Our employees deserve this and the community expects no less.
• Many citizen complaints have been transferred to patrol sergeants for investigation, much like the Seattle Police Dept. did, and that was a failure, according to the Dept. of Justice. Patrol sergeants have neither the time nor experience to conduct these often demanding and complex investigations. Expecting untrained individuals to handle complaints against deputies is unacceptable and does an injustice to the citizen complaint process.
• I will ensure that administrative reviews of officer-involved shootings are done on a timely basis as required by our policy manual. Was the shooting within policy? Is additional training required? Could the shooting have been avoided? These questions can’t be answered without the review. An administrative shooting review is critical to show the community that we examine the actions of our deputies with a critical eye. Yet there were four officer-involved shootings in 2011—two fatal—where no Shooting Review Board has taken place until—coincidentally perhaps—yesterday, despite the policy requirement. This lapse will not occur when I am sheriff.
• Once elected, I will form a Use of Force Review Board, specifically to examine force issues where there is a serious injury to a citizen or deputy. The goal will be to examine the incident to see if the injuries were avoidable, either through a change in tactics (including de-escalation), whether additional training for the deputy is needed, or perhaps a change at the Criminal Justice Training Center.Contact Kent Reporter Courts, government reporter Steve Hunter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 253-872-6600, ext. 5052.