All posts in Latest News

  • 26 arrested in ‘Operation Quiet Nights,’ targeting gun violence in South King County

    POSTED 6:08 PM, JUNE 26, 2017, BY , UPDATED AT 10:10PM, JUNE 26, 2017

    KENT, Wash. – A collaborative law enforcement effort targeting gun violence in South King County is showing promising trends. In the first four months of 2017, there were 16 gun-related homicides and 48 shootings in which people were hit but survived.

    Fourteen local, state and federal agencies have been working on a task force to combat the gun violence.

    “Over the past two months, we have seen a reduction in shooting incidents per month from over 65 per month average over the first four months down to 36 shootings per month in the past two months,” said Kent Police Chief Ken Thomas.

    One area where he says police remain challenged is youth and firearms. Much of the violence has been carried out by juveniles recruited by gang leaders because there is little accountability for gun violations in the juvenile justice system.

    “We are going to get out there and we are going to catch these shooters and we’re gonna take those off the streets,” said King County Sheriff John Urquhart. “Our No. 2 message is to the parents of these juveniles. Get these kids out of gangs. Keep them away from guns, or your kids are gonna get killed.”

    Chief Thomas pointed to an incident in mid-March on a bus filled with 62 elementary kids as an example. Two teens were arrested after threatening to kill a bus driver with a fully loaded firearm with an additional 30 round magazine.

    “As our detectives interviewed the bus driver the next day, he was still sobbing. He was so upset and scared because he felt that he was going to be shot that day and the danger it exposed the children too,” said Chief Thomas. The juvenile court sentenced the 15 and 16-year-old boys to less than a month in detention.

    Last week during a U.S. Marshals led sweep of violent offenders in South King County dubbed Operation Quiet Nights, officers arrested 26 suspects involved in gang violence including 7 juveniles for felony firearms violations.

    “Five of those subjects are already back out on the streets,” Thomas said.

    The fugitive sweep was planned in advance of summer when gun violence typically heats up between rival groups and gangs.

    “After this operation is over, we are going to continue to maintain pressure on these gang members in South King County. We are going to continue to look for anybody with an active warrant who has gang connections,” said Supervisory Deputy Michael Leigh with the U.S. Marshals Pacific NW Violent Offender Task Force.

    The goal is to serve as a visible reminder to the those involved in gun violence in South King County that law enforcement is actively working to get them off the streets.

    “Prior to the initiative, we were averaging over 11 shootings where people were hit per month and we are now down to four shooting where people were hit per month,” Thomas said.

  • King County deputy fired for putting pepper spray on homeless man’s water bottle

    KING 5’s Amanda Grace reports.

    A King County Sheriff’s deputy has been fired for “abusing” authority and spraying pepper spray on a homeless person’s belongings, according to the King County Sheriff’s Office.

    Former Deputy Derek DeZiel admitted to putting pepper spray on a homeless man’s water bottle in an attempt to clear out an encampment in Fall City in November 2016, according to internal documents obtained by KING 5.

    In the recorded investigation, DeZiel said there was a person that was living under the bridges, and he wanted to send a message to the homeless man that he wasn’t welcome there.

    “I put a little squirt of pepper spray on the end of a water bottle to deter him from coming back,” DeZiel said. “He’s going to touch it. He’s going to understand that he’s no longer welcome here, and he won’t be under the bridges anymore.”

     

     

    In DeZiel’s termination letter, King County Sheriff John Urquhart called DeZiel’s rationale for pepper spraying the water bottle “concerning.”

    “I don’t find the fact that you pepper sprayed the water bottle of a homeless person ‘benign,’” Urquhart wrote. “Not in the least. I find it an attack on the most vulnerable and powerless segment of society by the most powerful segment of society…a police officer.”

    DeZiel’s last day was May 5.

    During the investigation, investigators asked DeZiel if he thought it was the right thing to do.

    “I did not have a problem with it, no,” DeZiel said.

    Deziel said he learned the tactic when he was a junior deputy, and it was something he had done before. He said he wasn’t trying to seriously hurt anyone.

    DeZiel’s partner, Ryan Sprecher, saw the pepper spray incident and reported DeZiel’s actions. In his own interview, Sprecher said he “was kind of disappointed in his action,” and “it didn’t seem right to me.”

    During DeZiel’s 24-minute long interview, one investigator, who represented the King County Police Officer’s Guild, appeared to downplay the pepper spraying. He asked if it was organic. DeZiel said yes. Then the union representative said, “I know a guy that would put that on his tacos.”

    Sprecher did not take the spraying of pepper spray lightly.

    “I’ve been involved, you know, in OC (pepper spray) and it’s not fun,” Sprecher said. “I really wouldn’t want it in my mouth. Especially drinking water.”

    DeZiel Loudermill Results Letter – Redacted

     

    © 2017 KING-TV

  • King County Sheriff’s Office makes changes to hire more women and minorities

    KING 5’s Greg Copeland reports.

    The King County Sheriff’s Office has made some changes to put more women in uniform.

    And now the sheriff hopes his department can be used as a model nationwide. It all started with Department of Justice report last October.  Prior to that, Sheriff John Urquhart says the hiring was fairly routine, former military.

    “They make great hires. There’s no question about that,” said Urquhart. “The problem is, what we’ve found is they’re all male that are applying, and they’re all white.”

    Women who were applying often didn’t make it through the first round. Like many police agencies in the state, the civil service testing for King County is conducted by a private company. Recruits are run through a series exams, including psychological, a polygraph, oral board, writing ability, and physical ability. Men and women are scored the same on the physical tests, and many women couldn’t keep up.

    “Sprints, push-ups, sit-ups, a mile-and-a-half run that you have to do in a set period of time,” said Urquhart.

    So the first thing the sheriff’s office did was throw out that physical test at the beginning of the hiring process, started with more female recruits and got them physically fit enough to pass the test as required before they entered the academy.

    But that’s not all. Per King County, military recruits get an extra 10-percent on their civil exams, which often put them at the top of the class. So Urquhart petitioned for the same 10 percent for members of the Peace Corps, an organization composed of 70 percent women, and for those who speak a second language.

    “Now think how valuable that is for a police officer to speak that second language, especially in King County when there’s 130 languages that are spoken,” he said.

    And the changes seem to be helping. In the first quarter of this year, 46 percent of the new recruits for the sheriff’s office were women and/or persons of color.

    Sheriff Urquhart knows there’s a long way to go to get his department to mirror the community it serves. Right now it’s 19 percent female, but he would like to see that at 50 percent.

    While the DOJ is going over KCSO data back to 2009, Urquart hopes when the investigation is complete, the DOJ will see his department as a model for others across the country.

    © 2017 KING-TV

  • ‘It’s beautiful’: Memorial unveiled to 15 fallen King County deputies and 1 sheriff

    As relatives of the slain watched, King County Sheriff John Urquhart pulled back a curtain to reveal the marble memorial with individual glass plaques.

    The first to be killed was in 1854; the last in 2006.

    On Friday, the King County Sheriff’s Office unveiled a memorial to honor 15 deputies and 1 sheriff killed in the line of duty since the office was established in 1852.

     As relatives of the slain watched, Sheriff John Urquhart pulled back a curtain to reveal the stunning marble memorial with individual glass plaques, located on a wall outside the entrance to the sheriff’s headquarters at the King County Courthouse in downtown Seattle.

    “King County never forgets its fallen,” said Metropolitan King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn, who played a major role in bringing about the memorial.

    Although the event had been planned for some time, it coincided with what Dunn described as the “heavy hearts” in the crowd reeling from the fatal shooting Wednesday of Tacoma Police Officer Reginald “Jake” Gutierrez.

    Urquhart said construction of the memorial was one of his chief goals since being elected sheriff four years ago — something long overdue, he added.

    “It’s been a long time coming, but today is that day,” he said.

    Still, “it is bittersweet,” Urquhart said of the timing, noting Gutierrez gave his life during a domestic-violence call so familiar to law-enforcement officers.

    He also pointed to the deaths, nationwide, of 134 officers and deputies killed in the line of duty so far this year, 63 by gunfire, a 64 percent increase over last year.

    “Several of those cases, officers were targeted, solely for the fact they put on a uniform, a badge and a gun just to protect their community each and every day,” Urquhart said.

    Of the 16 members honored on the memorial, Urquhart said 14 died as a result of homicidal acts and two from motorcycle accidents. Two were killed with their own weapons, he said, undermining what he called the myth that unarmed people pose no danger.

    The memorial not only honors those who died, but also strengthens the resolve of those who serve, Urquhart said.

    After the remarks, dozens of family members of those being recognized, many carrying red roses, gathered in front of the memorial to await its unveiling.

    Among them was Don Armeni, 85, of Kalama, Cowlitz County, whose father Donald A. Armeni was shot and killed on Sept. 15, 1954, by a suspect he was taking into custody for commitment on an insanity warrant.

    The son was 23 when he lost his father.

    “I had just moved to Longview, Washington. I was there eight days. And they called me and said he had been killed. Yeah, it was kind of a shock, of course.”

    About 1,000 people attended his father’s service, he said.

    “I remember the procession was as long as I could see back,” he said of the vehicles that included many from various law-enforcement agencies.

    The new memorial, he said, was rewarding to his family. And for the public, he said, it comes at a time when law enforcement is confronting so much change and new requirements.

    “I feel sorry for all the officers today,” he said. “My dad … almost wouldn’t believe the way it’s changed.”

    The memorial plaques contain the names of all 16 who died, along with badges from their respective eras.

    The first killed was Deputy Wesley F. Cherry, who was shot on March 6, 1854, while searching with a posse for murder suspects on Whidbey Island, then part of King County in Washington Territory, before statehood. He had served for one day.

    The most recent occurred Dec. 2, 2006 — 10 years to the day before Friday’s event — when Deputy Steve Cox was fatally shot while interviewing a man in the White Center area.

    The only sheriff to die on duty was Louis V. Wyckoff, who suffered a heart attack on Jan. 21, 1882, while defending prisoners from a vigilante mob that hanged two suspects in a fatal robbery and another prisoner.

    Urquhart spoke their names and the 13 others.

    As he pulled back the curtain covering the memorial, a woman among the family members gasped.

    Her voice quavering with emotion, she exclaimed, “It’s beautiful.”

    Relatives then placed their roses on a cloth-covered table below the memorial.

    One reached out her hand to touch the name of Deputy Richard S. Cochran II, killed on May 22, 1991, in a motorcycle accident while on duty.

    A photo caption with this article, originally published Dec. 2, 2016, was corrected Dec. 3, 2016. In a previous version of this story, a caption misidentified a visitor to the new memorial and the relative she was there to honor. Elizabeth Stratton came to remember her brother, Deputy Richard S. Cochran II.

  • Sheriff: Intricacies of immigration enforcement lost on Donald Trump

    King County Sheriff John Urquhart told KIRO Radio’s Ron and Don immigration enforcement is a tricky issue that Donald Trump can’t understand.
    LISTEN: Sheriff Urquhart can’t really help Trump deport people

    President-elect Donald Trump says he plans to deport 2 million illegal immigrants who are criminals.

    “We’re getting them out of our country or we’re going to incarcerate,” Trump said on “60 Minutes.”

    KIRO Radio’s Ron and Don asked King County Sheriff John Urquhart if that’s an accurate number.

    “You gotta consider the source,” Urquhart said. “I have no idea where he comes up with that number. I’ve heard President Obama say there are 12 million undocumented immigrants in this country; let’s go with that. But I have no idea how many are so-called criminals.”

    King County’s policy

    Sheriff Urquhart says his deputies are not allowed to ask the status of one’s immigration — a policy that dates back at least 25 years.

    “They’re not allowed to ask for a green card, they’re not allowed to ask if they’re in the country legally or illegally, they can’t ask anything about that,” he said.

    Urquhart says this is nothing new with the Sheriff’s Office or the Northwest.

    For example, Urquhart ran through a few scenarios. A dad is arrested for stealing baby food at a store — he’ll get a few hours or a night in jail. Deputies should not concern themselves with the man’s immigration status, even if they suspect he’s undocumented. In a second scenario, deputies arrest a man who is a known drug dealer working with the Mexican cartel and they suspect he’s undocumented.

    “We better darn well be calling ICE. There’s a finesse to all of this that is totally lost on most people, not the least of which is Donald Trump.”

    Deportation force

    As for a federal deportation force, Urquhart says “knock yourselves out.” But deputies won’t be going door-to-door to inspect people’s papers.

    “We are not an arm of the federal government,” he said. “We will not enforce federal laws including immigration laws. No police department in this part of the country can do that.”

    In his first 100 Days, Trump promised to cut federal funding to sanctuary cities. Urquhart said that doesn’t really affect him as a cop, nor does it affect the Sheriff’s Office as it doesn’t receive too much federal funding.

    “But I think it would have a significant effect on King County as a whole and maybe it would have a trickle-down effect on the Sheriff’s Office.”

    He said it’s probably something the City of Seattle should be worried about.

    Urquhart says it’s not entirely clear what a “sanctuary city” is, much less a sanctuary county. He imagines everyone’s definition is slightly different.

    Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole echoed a similar sentiment and said the policies of the Seattle Police Department regarding immigration status will not change. Read more here.

  • Sheriff Urquhart speaks on 3 ways to save yourself if A Shooter enters your office

    DEC 9, 2015

    Three things you can do when a mean-mugging man with an assault rifle blazes into your office, according to King County Sheriff John Urquhart:

    “The first is run,” Urquhart said. “Go out a back door, go out the front door if you can, break out a window, climb out a window.”

    Plan B: Hide. Go into an office, barricade the door and keep quiet until you’re sure police are on the other side of that door.

    Your third option is to be fierce.

    “If you can’t run and you can’t hide, you’re going to have to fight,” Urquhart says. “You’re going to have to take out that shooter, because otherwise you’re probably going to get killed anyway. Get a fire extinguisher, get a chair; get something heavy. Go after him and try to take him out before he takes you out.”

    Brazen? Yes. Also totally new advice.

    “This is something we’ve never told the public before, but we need to be honest now,” Urquhart said.

    He stopped short, though, of saying you buy a gun.

    “Owning a gun, carrying a gun is a very personal decision,” he said. “Make sure you know how to use that gun. But, boy oh boy, you better know what you’re doing.”

    He said police can’t keep mass shootings like the ones in Roseburg, Oregon, or San Bernardino, California, from happening. And, Urquhart warned, that police probably aren’t going to be on the scene in the first critical minutes of an attack.

    “People are going to have to take responsibility for protecting themselves in an active shooter situation,” he said.

    Police made major changes in tactics after the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado. There, police waited for heavily armed SWAT teams to arrive before going in to the school. Some of the wounded lay for hours before being evacuated.

    Urquhart said his force now follows the new tactic of going immediately into a shooting scene and not waiting for help, although preferably a four-person team would be used.

    “That’s a complete change in tactics,” he said, “but it’s what we have to do.” He has told his deputies to carry a weapon even when they’re off-duty.

    Urquhart said it’s too easy for dangerous people to get hold of guns, whether that’s a mentally ill person or a person radicalized by ISIS.

    “There are criminals and would-be criminals who should not get firearms,” he said. “We have not yet figured out how to keep that from happening. We need to have that conversation.”

    He criticized a 1997 law that has prevented scientists from using federal money to study gun violence.

    “Right now they’re prohibited from doing that, and that law needs to be changed,” he said.

    So what’s the average person to do? Urquhart says people have to plan.

    “People are going to have to save themselves,” he said. “They have to think ahead, preferably practice what they’re going to do if a shooter walks through that door.”

    Produced for the Web by Gil Aegerter.

  • Body-camera result: deputy who accused bus driver of profanity fired for dishonesty

    In a termination letter sent last week to Deputy Amy Shoblom, King County Sheriff John Urquhart cited video evidence captured on personal body camera worn by the Metro Transit driver, which showed no profanity was used during a Nov. 14 argument.

    King County Sheriff John Urquhart has fired a deputy after an internal investigation determined she falsely accused a bus driver of using a profanity during an argument with her sergeant.

    In a termination letter sent last week to Deputy Amy Shoblom, Urquhart cited video evidence captured on a personal body camera worn by the King County Metro Transit driver, which showed no profanity was used during the Nov. 14 argument.

    Urquhart noted that, in many instances, the word of an officer is not subject to independent confirmation.

    “Rather, it stands on its own, backed only by the badge and the hard-earned goodwill of the department the officer represents,” he wrote. “Both the public, in general, and this office, in particular, grant you this broad authority essentially on a single condition, which is that you exercise it honestly, that you can be trusted. In the final analysis, it is the breach of this fundamental bargain that warrants, if not compels, discharge.”

    Shoblom, 34, joined the sheriff’s office in 2006. Her termination was effective Aug. 7.

    Urquhart’s decision whether to fire the sergeant, Lou Caballero, who initially accused the driver of using the profanity, has been delayed while the sheriff’s office looks into a new, similar allegation recently brought by another Metro driver against Caballero.

    Urquhart received recommendations to terminate Caballero and Shoblom for dishonesty detailed in the internal investigation, which also found Caballero retaliated against the driver, Kelvin Kirkpatrick.

    Shoblom’s attorney, Julie Kays, criticized the firing Monday, attributing Shoblom’s termination to the “ultimate act of retaliation” for alleging separate incidents of sexual harassment against another sergeant.

    “It sends a chilling message to other women in the department who are being discriminated against and harassed: if you dare speak out, you will suffer the consequences,” she wrote in a statement.

    Kays, who is also representing Caballero, said Caballero filed a claim for up to $3 million in damages against the county last week, citing retaliation for also alleging the sexual harassment of Shoblom. The claim is the first step in a potential lawsuit.

    The Nov. 14 argument culminated months of tension between Caballero and Kirkpatrick, who had complained that Caballero’s deputies weren’t doing their job on the overnight shift, according to sheriff’s records.

    Shortly after the argument, Caballero filed a complaint against Kirkpatrick, accusing him of using a variation of the f-word while the two spoke behind Kirkpatrick’s bus in downtown Seattle.

    Caballero alleged Kirkpatrick yelled and said: “You got three (expletive) deputies out here that don’t do nothing.”

    At Caballero’s request, Shoblom wrote a report, stating Kirkpatrick yelled and used the profanity, with the same improper grammar.

    Caballero and Shoblom were unaware that Kirkpatrick was wearing glasses with a built-in video camera, which showed Kirkpatrick saying, “I’m expressing how frustrated I am at the fact that I got three deputies that don’t do anything when I need help!”

    Urquhart’s termination letter found Kirkpatrick reasonably expressed his frustration, speaking “loudly, clearly, grammatically correctly, and professionally.”

    Metro Transit cleared Kirkpatrick, 45, of the deputies’ allegations after an internal investigation.

    Urquhart noted that, without the video recording, Kirkpatrick could have been unfairly disciplined.

    Caballero and Shoblom repeated their allegations when questioned during the internal investigation. After later learning of the video, they strongly denied they had lied in written statements submitted to Urquhart in June.

    A third deputy interviewed during the internal investigation said he didn’t hear any profanity.

    The case also took on racial overtones when a sheriff’s commander, who oversees Metro Transit police, noted in a memo that the deputies’ accusation against Kirkpatrick, who is African-American, cast the sheriff’s office in a damaging light at a time of widespread distrust of police in African-American communities nationwide.

    The new allegation against Caballero, 50, a sheriff’s deputy since 1999, arose when another Metro driver contacted the sheriff’s office in the wake of news stories last month about the Nov. 14 incident.

    The driver, Gregory Allen, 63, who is also African-American, told The Seattle Times that about one or two months before that incident, Caballero had become upset after a passenger he removed from Allen’s bus in downtown Seattle managed to get back on without Allen noticing.

    While exchanging words, Allen said, Caballero told him not to “cuss” at him.

    Allen said he never swore at Caballero and reported Caballero’s remark to his supervisor. In that instance, Allen said, Caballero didn’t file a complaint against him.

    Shoblom was the subject of news stories earlier this year, when it was revealed she had exchanged sexually charged text messages with the sergeant she accused of sexual harassment, Dewey Burns, who was fired in April for sending racist and anti-gay texts, primarily to Shoblom.

    Although Shoblom wasn’t found to have engaged in misconduct over the sexually and racially related texts, she received 20 days off without pay for sending insensitive comments about the use of lethal force.

    In April, Shoblom and two other female deputies filed a lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Office, alleging sexual harassment, bias and retaliation.

    Kays, the attorney for Shoblom and Caballero, said in her statement that Kirkpatrick was a character witness for Burns before he was fired.

    “We look forward to deposing the Sheriff and all others who were involved in this decision,” she said of Shoblom’s termination while asserting Kirkpatrick’s veracity, bias and motive have been “called into question.”

    Kirkpatrick, the bus driver, also has been in the news previously. In 1999, he was shot while attending a movie.

    Court papers said a belligerent moviegoer pulled his snub-nose revolver after Kirkpatrick asked him to shut up during a showing of the Robert DeNiro gangster comedy “Analyze This.” A Renton man was charged with first-degree assault.

    The incident, Kirkpatrick said recently, shaped his views on personal safety.

    Kirkpatrick, a 20-year driver, has said he began wearing a camera on the job about a year ago — before his dispute with the deputies — for safety and in the event Metro’s onboard camera system failed.

    Urquhart earlier said Kirkpatrick’s recording fell within legal bounds because people are allowed to shoot video and audio of police officers on the job.

  • King County Sheriff fires sergeant for offensive texts to other deputies

    Sheriff John Urquhart has fired a veteran Metro Transit sergeant for sending racist, homophobic and lewd texts to other deputies, including a female subordinate who the sheriff says seemed to welcome most of the sexual messages.

    Sheriff John Urquhart has fired a veteran sergeant for sending racist, anti-gay and sexually charged texts to other deputies, including a female subordinate.

    Urquhart, in a five-page letter written to former Sgt. Dewey Burns last week, said he had sustained disciplinary findings that Burns violated sheriff’s policies and engaged in “racial, ethnic and homophobic” comments that embarrassed the Sheriff’s Office and were not “true to the ethics of police service.”

    According to an internal investigation, Burns sent racist, homophobic and lewd texts to Deputy Amy Shoblom and another deputy, and at one point drew a penis on Shoblom’s patrol car with soap.

    In the texts, he used slurs to refer to blacks, gay men, Mexicans and Chinese, some of whom he encountered at a poker room and a gym. In one, he referred to a Latino sergeant as “the Mexi.”

    Urquhart said the written comments “are shocking and can’t be ignored or explained away.”

    “The public would never stand for a police officer making these comments, much less writing them down via text to a subordinate. Nor should they. Nor will I. They are egregious.”

    Burns, a 16-year Sheriff’s Office veteran, was fired for making those comments.

    In addition, Urquhart imposed a demotion to deputy and a 30-day suspension. Those punishments are held in abeyance while Burns decides whether to appeal his termination.

    His termination is effective on May 1, according to the letter.

    A telephone call Monday evening to Burns’ attorney, Bob Christie, was not returned.

    Urquhart did not sustain disciplinary findings on some allegations, finding that “the vast majority” of the sexually charged texts were welcomed by Shoblom, and that “on many occasions Deputy Shoblom instigated the highly sexualized texting between the two of you.”

    Shoblom and two other female deputies, Diana Neff and Julie Blessum, last week filed a lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Office, alleging sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation.

    While Shoblom has claimed it was a situation of “go along to get along,” the sheriff said, he noted that Burns was her supervisor for only a brief period during the texting incidents, and that many of the texts were sent after she was off his squad.

    Julie Kays, Shoblom’s attorney, disputes any suggestion that Shoblom brought sexual harassment on herself.

    “Women who have the courage to report sexual harassment should be applauded, not thrown under the bus,” Kays said.

    “There is a pattern and practice at the (King County Sheriff’s Office) of sweeping complaints of sexual harassment under the rug, and pointing the finger of blame at the woman who had the courage to come forward and report it,” Kays said Monday. “Sadly, that pattern continues today.”

    Burns was a supervisor in the sheriff’s Metro Transit Division until he was placed on leave last year when Shoblom and the two other deputies filed a claim against the county.

    A sweeping internal investigation showed a sexually charged relationship between Shoblom and Burns and incidents in which Burns compromised his duties to pursue it.

    Urquhart acknowledged that, during a face-to-face hearing with Burns on April 13, the sergeant took full responsibility for his actions and presented “several mitigating factors,” including his claim that some of the terms he used were meant to be endearing. He contends a number of others in the department refer to a particular Latino sergeant as “the Mexi.”

    In an earlier interview, Christie, Burns’ attorney, said the sergeant was “not proud he used those words and took full responsibility that those were completely inappropriate.”

    Christie said the veteran sergeant received high marks in his 2014 job evaluation.

    Urquhart said he did not find Burns’ explanations compelling.

    Information in this article, originally published April 27, 2015, was corrected April 28, 2015. A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled Julie Kays’ name.

  • Sheriff Fires Cop Who Threatened to Arrest Me for Taking Photos of Cops

     by Dominic HoldenFeb 3, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    K.C. SAULET During an incident he later lied about, according to King County sheriff John Urquhart.

    • DOMINIC HOLDEN
    • K.C. SAULET During an incident he later lied about, according to King County sheriff John Urquhart.

    King County deputy Patrick “K.C.” Saulet has been fired for threatening to arrest me last summer, when I was photographing several officers on a downtown street corner, and then lying to investigators about the incident, says King County sheriff John Urquhart.

    The termination is effective today.

    “You have a constitutional right to photograph the police,” Sheriff Urquhart asserted in a phone interview with me today. Threatening to arrest a citizen for legally taking photos of cops while on public property, he added, “is a constitutional violation, as far as I am concerned.”

    That incident occurred last July 30 in the International District.The short version: Several officers were surrounding a man sitting on a planter box. I’d started taking photos from a distance when Saulet rushed over to say I’d be arrested if I didn’t leave. He claimed, wrongly, that I was standing on private property—that the International District Station plaza belongs to King County Metro and I could not stand there. Even though that didn’t sound right to me, I backed up anyway until I was unambiguously on the City of Seattle’s sidewalk. But Sergeant Saulet insisted that was illegal, too, and I would be arrested unless I left the entire block. I filed a complaint with King County against Saulet. (I also filed another complaint with the Seattle Police Department, against a Seattle cop who was nearby, saw the interaction I had with Saulet, and threatened to come into The Stranger‘s offices and harass me at work. SPD punished him with a day off.)

    After a six month investigation—which included an internal recommendation to terminate Saulet and the King County police union attempting to overturn that recommendation—Sheriff Urquhart issued a disciplinary letter on January 30.

    One paragraph of the sheriff’s letter to Saulet summarized the results:

    Suffice it to say, in my judgement, the evidence shows that (i) you abused your authority in your dealings with Mr. Holden on July 30, and (ii) thereafter, rather than be accountable, you attempted to recast events in a light more favorable to you. Stated broadly, for example, you claim you interacted with Mr. Holden in a civil, professional manner that was nothing more than ‘social contact’; you did little more than tell him for his benefit that he couldn’t ride on Metro property because doing so is a $66 infraction; [you claim that two other deputies] Shook and Mikulcik told him the same thing; and you once calmly pointed him in a direction you were suggesting he leave. But the evidence is that you approached Mr. Holden because you took exception with him lawfully exercising his right to take photographs of you and your colleagues while lawfully standing on public property; you were agitated and confrontational; you essentially ‘squared off’ with him; you expressly and/or implicitly threatened to arrest him if he did not leave immediately in the specific direction you pointed, not once but five times (misidentifying public property as private property in the process); and Shook and Mikulcik deny the statement you attribute to them.

    “Your ill-advised actions also play to some of the most basic fears among some citizens, which is that a police officer may indiscriminately exercise his or her power in violation of their rights,” Urquharts discipline letter continues. He explains people fear that “in the event of a complaint, the officer will just deny the allegations and ‘circle the wagons’ with his or her fellow officers with the expectation they will take care of their own. In a matter of minutes, your actions violated the trust that we, as a department, spend years trying to build and maintain.”

    Saulet and his union fought the decision. They argued the investigation was a “witch hunt,” according to the sheriff’s termination letter, and that Saulet did nothing wrong. After Saulet’s commander and the deputy sheriff recommended termination, Saulet appealed their recommendation in what’s called a Loudermill hearing before the sheriff. Saulet and his union, called the King County Police Officers’ Guild, further argued that investigators asked leading questions and that “none of the witness statements are consistent.”

    “This is an overstatement,” says Urquhart in his discipline letter to Saulet. “There are some inconsistencies to be sure, but no more or less than is typical of most police investigations: The most comprehensive and fundamental conflict was between Mr. Holden’s statement and yours, and the other statements provided substantially more support for him than you on key points.” Responding to the “witch hunt” claim, which the union made based on the fact that there was a particularly large investigation file, Urquhart says that “the density of the file, however, favorably reflects the thoroughness of the investigation. If the department in general, or I or the investigator in particular, were ‘hunting’ for a reason to take action against you, we would not have made such a substantial effort to collect and carefully review all relevant circumstances, including any and all that might have wholly or partly exculpated you or otherwise mitigate the circumstances.”

    Saulet and his union may try to appeal, but, as of today, Urquhart says they have not.

    Saulet has long history of misconduct, with approximately 120 allegations against him and 21 cases of sustained misconduct (more than any other officer in the department). The sheriff’s letter says that Saulet repeatedly was told to improve interactions with the public, and provided with remarkable investments of coaching and counseling. Saulet underwent three performance-improvement plans, two training sessions, and two multi-visit sessions with a social psychologist, coaching sessions with supervisors, and 80 hours of time off without pay. Saulet was demoted from sergeant to deputy for another incident in August.

    For the record: I’m not gleeful that Saulet got fired, although it’s welcome evidence that Urquhart takes complaints seriously. This incident—and my complaint—is not about me. After growing up in this town, I believe that certain cops regularly submit civilians (particularly racial minorities) to abusive treatment—much more abusive than what I faced here. Often, folks don’t complain, and when they do, the record shows, bad cops are often wholly or partially exonerated, even when they’re guilty. We know from a US Department of Justice investigation that Seattle cops have a practice of using excessive force, and we know from internal audits that the King County Sheriff’s Office has had problems disciplining bad cops. So now, more than ever, I think citizens should complain if they encounter hostile, unconstitutional, or violent policing. Sheriff Urquhart has only been in office about one year. Again, it’s good to see him taking complaints against problem cops seriously. Most cops are not problem cops. Most work hard and keep us safe. It’s miserable that abusive cops ruin those good cops’ reputations, and if we’re going to get from here to a place where the public trusts the police more, it will require police brass continuing to punish the bad apples, as Urquhart has done.

    Urquhart added that I was “treated no differently than other people” who file complaints. His decision to terminate Saulet was not because I’m a reporter and editor at a newspaper, he said. “We would do exactly the same with anyone making these allegations.” Urquhart has fired other deputies accused of misconduct.

  • Meet John Urquhart, Candidate for King County Sheriff

    The former King County Sheriff’s Spokesman, a 30-plus year Mercer Island resident, faces Interim Sheriff Steve Strachan for the King County Sheriff’s job.

    By Kendall Watson

    Mercer Island Patch

    NAME: John Urquhart

    OFFICE SOUGHT: King County Sheriff

    TOWN OF RESIDENCE: Mercer Island

    CURRENT OCCUPATION: Retired, President of non-profit organization S.H.E.R.I.F.F Fund

    PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND: A police officer, now retired, for over 36
    years, the last 24 as a full time member of the King County Sheriff’s Office. Served as Patrol Officer, Field Training Officer, Master Police Officer, street-level vice/narcotics detective, public information officer and administrative aide to Sheriff Dave Reichert and Sheriff Sue Rahr. Also a former business owner, running a successful Bellevue wholesaling electrical construction material business.

    WEBSITE: http://johnforsheriff.com/

    WHAT IS THE MOST PRESSING ISSUE FACING VOTERS IN YOUR DISTRICT?

    As far as public safety is concerned, the most pressing issue is regaining the public’s trust in the Sheriff’s Office.  The headlines speak for themselves: Two devastating audits critical of the current leadership in the Sheriff’s Office; over 100 citizen complaints are missing; a $9 million sexual harassment claim; calls for the Department of Justice to intervene in the Sheriff’s Office, just like they have with the Seattle Police Department; and the current Sheriff is found to have violated the ethics code for his campaign activities.

    The current leadership in the Sheriff’s Office has not been following its own internal processes. In 2011, there were four officer-involved shootings, two of which were fatal. Under the Sheriff’s Office policies, these shootings must be reviewed by a shooting review board within thirty days of the completion of the investigation or inquest. None of the shooting review boards were completed on time, and two of them were finally held over a year later, and only after the media reported on them. This is unacceptable.

    How can the public be assured the Sheriff’s Office takes accountability and discipline seriously it fails to follow its own procedures? All of the negative press on the Sheriff’s Office has resulted in a loss of trust by the community.  The Sheriff’s Office cannot keep the public safe unless the community has confidence in their police force. The community’s trust is the most pressing issue facing King County voters.

    IF ELECTED, WHAT WILL YOU DO IN THE FIRST SIX MONTHS IN OFFICE TO ADDRESS THIS ISSUE?

    There are several changes I will do my best to implement within the first six months. As Sheriff, I will ensure my command staff follows the internal policies of the Sheriff’s Office. I will work to implement the excellent recommendations from both audits. I will meet with members of the community on a regular basis – something that is not happening now. I will get civilian input in our hiring decisions and shooting review boards. I will form the first ever Use of Force Review Board in the Sheriff’s Office. I will start a Sergeant’s Academy, so our first-level supervisors are properly trained. I will work to recruit so that the Sheriff’s Office is a mirror of the community. I will pick Anne Kirkpatrick as my second-in-command, a woman who has 15 years of experience as a police chief.

    Finally, I will restore the Domestic Violence Unit, a critical unit that was cut in 2009 due to budget constraints.  Domestic violence offenders are the most likely offenders to reoffend violently, up to and including murder. Not surprisingly, victims of domestic violence are the most likely type of victim to recant or refuse to testify in court. Just one conviction of domestic violence prohibits an offender from possessing firearms or ammunition under federal law. Restoring this unit is key to protecting the public.