• Urquhart Backing Left & Right: Holmes & Reichert

    By Joel Connelly

    Seattle P-I, September 5, 2012

    Retired Sgt. John Urquhart has captured support from a leading Seattle progressive and a Republican congressman in his bid to become King County Sheriff.

    “He’s a good guy,” said Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, who endorsed Urquhart on Labor Day.

    U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, who served as King County Sheriff from 1997 to 2004, rarely gives a speech on any subject without mentioning that he is a former sheriff.  “He’s a cop’s cop and a leader who has my respect, complete trust and wholehearted endorsement,” Reichert said of Urquhart.

    Urquhart, who retired after 24 years with the sheriff’s office, was a longtime spokesman for Reichert and his successor Sue Rahr.  Rahr left the sheriff’s office to head the State Criminal Justice Training Commission.

    Urquhart is pitted against interim Sheriff Steve Strachan, Rahr’s hand-picked successor.  Strachan was police chief in Kent until tapped to become Rahr’s chief deputy.  He previously served as a police officer in Minnesota and a state legislator.

  • Audit of King County Sheriff’s Office Stirs up Concerns

    By KEVIN ENDEJAN
    Issaquah Reporter Assistant editor
    JULY 30, 2012 · UPDATED 9:00 AM

    Link to full story here

    An audit released Tuesday returned scathing results of the way the King County Sheriff’s Office manages its internal and public complaints.

    Among its findings, the audit report made 16 recommendations for the KCSO Internal Investigations Unit and newly established Office of Law Enforcement Oversight.

    “The audit reveals alarming shortcomings in the Sheriff’s Office internal investigation processes and accountability systems that are unacceptable,” King County Councilman Bob Ferguson said. “The public expects and deserves better.”

    Sheriff Steve Strachan, who is up for election this year after replacing out-going Sheriff Sue Rahr on an interim basis in March, responded by saying he “welcomed the feedback and has learned from this audit.”

    Strachan agreed with the recommendations and noted many of the issues have already been identified and changes were in process.

    “I will continue to work with the Police Officers Guild and our other labor groups to create a partnership that’s fair to them and fair to the public,” he said.

    King County Councilwoman Julia Patterson also expressed her disappointment with the audit results, but remained optimistic about turning things around soon.

    “By creating the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight, working to maintain funding for law enforcement oversight, and calling for today’s audit, the Council has continuously made this issue a priority,” Patterson said. “I look forward to working with Sheriff Strachan and OLEO to ensure that the inadequacies that were exposed in today’s report are resolved as quickly as possible.”

    The City of Sammamish contracts the KCSO for police services.

    The audit, which was conducted by Hillard Heintz of Chicago, was completed earlier in the year.

    Some of the findings of the audit included:

    • Senior leadership within the Sheriff’s Office openly downplays the importance of thediscipline process.

    • KCSO leadership has not promoted deputy and management accountability, and theexpectation of rigorous compliance with the department’s accountability system islacking.

    • Performance incidents reported and documented are unaddressed or downplayed at thecommand level.

    • The Internal Investigations Unit is not empowered to fulfill its role as thecoordinator of all internal affairs complaints.

    • The culture of the Sheriff’s Office downplays the importance of officer accountability and complaint response.

    • Internal Investigations is understaffed for a department this size (two investigators).

    • Interim Sheriff Strachan does not meet with the Internal Investigations commanderregularly, contrary to best practices.

    • The department’s accreditation by Commission on Accreditation for LawEnforcement Agencies is at risk because policies and practices are not in compliancewith CALEA standards and best practices.

    • The department’s accountability tools (the IAPro accountability system and Blue Team)are under-utilized, so improving accountability department-wide is problematic.

    • Auditors assessed 20 percent of the cases IIU investigated in 2011, and found theoverwhelming majority lacked significant or substantial documentation to explain therationale underlying the case resolution.

    • Around 100 lower-level complaint cases that were forwarded to field supervisors forinvestigation over the last few years “disappeared”. They never came back to IIU.

    • The audit says Interim Sheriff Strachan’s plan to assign lower-level complaints outsideof the formal disciplinary practice “was not successful” since IIU was not made aware ofthe complaints. This increased the sentiment that IIU is not important to the organization.

    • In 2011 there were only two use of force complaint cases sent to IIU for review. Theauditors note it should be several times this for an agency this size.

    • The auditors noted there has been no formal use of force training in the Sheriff’s Office for 11 years. There is also no formal, continuous professional trainingprogram in place, apparently putting the department out of compliance with CALEA.

     

     

     

    Contact Issaquah Reporter Assistant editor Kevin Endejan at kendejan@issaquah-reporter.com or 425-391-0363, ext. 5054.

  • King County Sheriff’s Office Receives Scathing Audit

    By Joel Moreno Published: Jul 24, 2012 at 6:38 PM PDT – 

    Link to story on komonews.com

    SEATTLE — A scathing audit of the King County sheriff’s office has found that deputies accused of misconduct and illegal use of force are falling through the cracks.

    The audit and a separate consultant’s report released on Tuesday both blast the office, saying front-line sergeants don’t hold deputies responsible in misconduct cases.

    “You know, the findings of the audit have been quite disturbing, but I wanted to say how happy I am that we had this audit done,” said King County Council member Julia Patterson.

    The audit also found that use-of-force investigations often don’t go anywhere.

    “There are clearly times when a supervisor has not done his or her job, and you have to be able to hold them accountable,” said consultant Robert Davis.

    As proof, the consultant showed the King County sheriff’s office had only two use-of-force reports in all of 2011. In comparison, Seattle police had 159 reports and Portland police had 41 during the same time.

    Sheriff Steve Strachan has only been in office for three months, but he said he has a plan to fix the problems.

    “I think they are being taken. I think they are being followed up on,” Strachan said. “It’s just very inconsistent in terms of how they are being treated and how they are being documented.”

    Strachan also said he welcomes the reviews and has already established monthly use-of-force reviews, which now go to a central office.

    But the attorney for Christopher Harris, Sim Osborn, says the public should beware. His client suffered brain damage when a deputy slammed him into a wall during a 2009 arrest.

    The county ultimately settled the case for $10 million, but an internal affairs investigation was never opened against the deputy.

    “So it was the thin blue line stepping up and protecting their own, which is a recurrent theme in these two audits,” Osborn said.

    For his part, Strachan said things in his department are changing.

    “It’s going to be different because now I am the sheriff,” he said. “I’m telling you what we are going to do, and I’m asking you let me show you.”

  • Audit of King County Sheriff’s Office Finds Serious Lapses

    by LINDA BYRON / KING 5 News

    Posted on July 23, 2012 at 10:40 PM

    Updated Tuesday, Jul 24 at 5:51 AM

    Seattle – Police are supposed to protect us and if they break the rules themselves face discipline for their misconduct.  But KING 5 has learned an audit of the King County Sheriff’s Office found lax accountability at nearly every level.

    Sources tell KING 5 the audit is “scathing.” It will be unveiled at a council committee hearing Tuesday.

    The King County Auditor’s Office hired outside experts to help evaluate how well the Sheriff’s Office polices itself.  Sources tell KING 5 they found serious lapses.

    For example, when a deputy shoots someone, there’s supposed to be a review to determine whether the shooting was justified.  But when auditors asked to see reviews for 5 shootings from 2011, 2 of them fatal, those reviews didn’t exist.  No one ever did them.

    Auditors also found fault with the handling of citizen complaints.  Sources say in 2011, some 100 complaints were routed away from headquarters to the precincts, where they languished.  The Internal Investigations Unit, which should have handled them, was crippled by staffing cuts and was also shut out of the process.

    Computer systems set up to track complaints and deputy misconduct were found to be ineffective because some supervisors failed to enter key information.

    The Sheriff’s Office wouldn’t comment until after the audit is presented to a King County Council committee Tuesday.

  • Sheriff’s Policing Plan Leaves No Cops in Skyway Overnight

    Photo by KOMO -TV

    By SCOTT GUTIERREZ, SEATTLEPI.COM STAFF

    Read more: http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/Sheriff-s-policing-plan-cuts-cops-in-Skyway-3717813.php#ixzz22R6lBvvZ

    One of King County’s highest-crime neighborhoods no longer has cops at certain hours of the night under a change in how the Sheriff’s Office does policing.

    Residents in unincorporated Skyway recently learned they have to share police officers with White Center between 2 a.m. and 10 a.m. And they’re not happy about it.

    Neither are firefighters, who must rely on police to secure a crime scene before they can treat victims of shootings, stabbings or other violence.

    “We have already seen a dramatic increase in law enforcement response times on several emergency incidents in Skyway,” Fire District 20 Chief David Crossen wrote in a recent letter to Sheriff Steve Strachan.

    “It is my opinion that the law enforcement staffing levels being provided in Skyway are putting your deputies and potentially our fire service personnel in an unsafe and ineffective situation,” the letter  said.

    Skyway, White Center and slices of Boulevard Park and South Park are part of a densely populated urban zone with a high rate of violent crime. Skyway, located between Seattle and Renton, has about 15,000 residents, and many are low-income.

    One of Sheriff Strachan’s first big initiatives after he replaced Sue Rahr in March was to implement a new zone-based model for police service in King County. The thrust of the plan was to make the Sheriff’s Office more efficient and flexible in handling 911 calls and to reduce overtime.

    The Sheriff’s Office, which has lost 143 positions since 2007 through cuts and annexations, exceeded its overtime budget by $1 million in  2011.

    The move also comes at a time when residents of the West Hill area, which includes Skyway, are considering whether to annex into the city of Renton. An annexation vote is slated for Nov. 6 after a divided Renton City Council voted to move forward. But Renton officials haven’t yet figured out how they’ll afford providing basic services like police to the area.

    Since Skyway is a pocket of unincorporated urban land, it’s expensive for King County to police because the county doesn’t have the same tax options as cities to pay for providing services.

    Previously, Skyway and White Center each had two officers on duty at all times. Another officer roaming between areas would back them up.

    Now, three officers patrol the whole zone overnight — about 8 square miles — and respond to calls from White Center. The zone plan took effect in May.

    The change was made after considering resources and 911 calls, which drop off significantly after 2 a.m., Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Dave Jutilla said.

    As a result, the Sheriff’s Office was able to put more officers on duty during the afternoon and evening, when 911 call volumes are heavier, Jutilla said.

    But for officer safety reasons, officers working between 2 a.m. and 10 a.m. stick together in one area. One officer wouldn’t work alone in Skyway, for instance, while the other two are in White Center.

    And that has residents concerned. The two patrol areas are divided by Interstate 5, a slice of Tukwila, and Boeing Field. It can take 10 minutes or more for an officer to drive between them.

    And a typical domestic violence case, for example, can tie up an officer for two hours or more.

    “We have four liquor establishments that close at 2 a.m., and it is therefore unacceptable, unsafe, and unconscionable to have all cars assigned to White Center, and none in Skyway, during these hours,” longtime resident Sonja Bowden wrote in letters to Strachan and King County Councilmember Larry Gossett.

    “Our citizens are left with no one to provide immediate 911 response between the hours of 2:00 and 6:00 a.m., and if this was common knowledge, taxpayers and citizens would be outraged, and justifiably  frightened.”

    The Skyway area had 4,461 911 calls in 2011, the second highest of patrol districts in what was then the Sheriff’s Office West Precinct (now designated as Zone 4).

    Gangs and shootings are frequent problems in the area. Four of seven homicides investigated by deputies in 2011 occurred in unincorporated areas in the West Precinct, as well as about 20 percent of all domestic violence incidents, according to an analysis of Sheriff’s Office crime statistics. (This sentence has been updated to correct earlier information).

    Bowden said she’d heard from a deputy that gang members also were aware of the change and planned to take advantage. She was among 60 people who attended a community meeting Tuesday to voice concerns to a Sheriff’s captain who oversees the zone.

    Councilmember Gossett, the council chair, also wrote the sheriff, saying he’d a received a number of emails from concerned citizens. Gossett could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

    Bowden said she understands that money is tight. But it seems like urban unincorporated areas are taking the brunt, she said.

    “This area really has to fight back when these things happen because the bar is set pretty low here,” she told seattlepi.com. “We do have a pretty high crime rate and we need to keep a lid on it.”

    The Sheriff’s Office polices an unincorporated population of about 305,000, spread out over 2,100 square miles. The Sheriff’s Office also runs municipal police departments under contracts with cities such as Burien and Shoreline.

    After an audit and an exercise led by a Boeing consultant in finding efficiencies, the Sheriff’s Office shifted from the old system under which the county was divided into three geographical areas, each under a  precinct.

    The new system treats the entire county as one large precinct divided into four zones. The benefit of the new system, Sheriff’s officials say, is that police resources can be more easily shared across zones to react to crime trends or staffing shortages.

    The Sheriff’s Office also has stopped responding to low-priority calls between the hours of 2 a.m. and 1o a.m. to free up deputies for more serious crimes. Calls that will go unanswered until morning include burglaries and car thefts in which the thieves are gone and lives aren’t endangered.

    In Skyway, deputies can request aid from Seattle or Renton police, or even other deputies working in areas east of Renton, Jutilla said. If officers aren’t available for a 911 call in White Center, then officers from Burien could respond, Jutilla said.

    A similar controversy erupted on Vashon Island after residents learned of a proposal to replace their full-time police coverage during off-hours with two on-call deputies.

    “This was the biggest deployment change our department has made in decades,” Jutilla said. “We are the in the beginning stages of implementation and we’ll continue to evaluate and re-evaluate and make  adjustments.”

    “We want to do what’s right and appropriate for the community,” Jutilla said.

    In 2010, King County voters rejected a sales tax increase to pay for criminal justice services.

    But if the new patrol plan makes too many people unhappy, it could become an election issue. Strachan, a former Kent police chief, is running to permanently succeed Rahr, who left this year to run the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission.

    Facing him in the Nov. 6 election will be retired Sheriff’s Sgt. John Urquhart, who most recently had been Rahr’s spokesman. Urquhart attended Tuesday’s meeting in Skyway.

    If elected, he would return 24-hour police coverage to Skyway, even if it meant spending some overtime, Urquhart said. But he thinks money could be found to restore police service in the area.

    “Response time matters and fast response times can save lives,” he said. “And if you have to send a deputy from White Center, that’s not a fast response time.”

    “The No. 1 duty of a police department is reactive patrol — we have to answer those 911 calls,” he said.

    Visit seattlepi.com‘s home page for more Seattle news. Scott Gutierrez can be reached at 206-448-8334 or scottgutierrez@seattlepi.com. Follow Scott on Twitter at twitter.com/2_scoops.

     

  • Urquhart says He is Best for Sheriff

    Link to story

     

    By MEGAN MANAGAN

    Mercer Island Reporter Reporter
    JULY 18, 2012 · 9:11 AM

    Whenever news broke about a major event and anything involving the King County Sheriff’s Office, the name of John Urquhart was often heard. Urquhart was the longtime Public Information Officer for the KCSO.

    Just last year he announced his retirement after 24 years with the Sheriff’s Office and 36 years as a police officer. Earlier this year, in April, he announced his run for the Sheriff’s position, currently filled by interim Sheriff Steve Strachan, who was appointed to the position after Sheriff Sue Rahr accepted a new position.

    “I started getting calls from people inside the sheriff’s department of, really, all ranks. Civilians up through commanders, and they said, John you need to run for sheriff,” said Urquhart. Urquhart, who has lived on Mercer Island for over 30 years, said he felt this is a crucial time for the department.

    “Policing in the Northwest is at a crossroads, especially the Sheriff’s Office. If you look at what’s happening in the Seattle Police Department, they lost the support of the communities where they police. I don’t want the Sheriff’s Office to end up in the same place.”

    Urquhart went on: “Primarily with the Sheriff’s department, it’s overuse of force issues and how we respond to that. In police work, we call it going hands-on — force is inevitable. We will use force of one degree or another, but what is important is how we respond to that and how we let the community know that we take it seriously and that we are looking into each and every case. We have not been doing a very good job of that, and that’s what I want to fix.”

    Urquhart actually come to police work as a second career, after owning a business in the area prior to joining the force.

    “I came out of the school of business at the University of Washington, I owned a business and I had 55-60 employees at four locations. I sold that and took some time off and then went to work full time with the Sheriff’s Office.

    “[I have] a much more varied background than pretty much anyone in law enforcement, and that’s a distinct advantage when I get in there,” he said.

    Urquhart feels one of the biggest challenges for the department right now comes back to the public, and the way the department works with them.

    “The biggest challenge facing the Sheriff’s department is how do we reassure the community,” he said. “There is so much in the news right now that leads the public not to trust us. Part of that is the proliferation of cameras, video cameras in police cars, cell phone cameras, so they see things that are going on now that they haven’t seen before. They may not understand them, and sometimes they are things that shouldn’t be happening. It’s a question of either maintaining the trust in police or putting the trust in the police.”

    “I want to make sure that we have a police department that isn’t too militaristic — we’ve seen that lately in the black uniforms they are wearing and carrying around rifles all the time in downtown Seattle and in urban areas. The public does not want police to be like the military. They don’t want to feel like we are an occupying force in our neighborhoods. I want to make sure that doesn’t happen as well and that can only happen with good strong leadership starting at the top and working its way down through the organization.”

    Over the last several years, largely thanks to the recession, the King County government’s budget has been slashed, including large portions of the Sheriff’s Office. Despite the cuts, Urquhart feels there are still ways to work with what is available, as well as working with other local agencies.

    “There is not enough money, especially in government,” he said. “Cities don’t have enough money and the counties have even less. That means I would have to manage the resources I do have very, very well. But I also have to be able to convince the elected leaders, the county executive and the County Council that funds are needed to maintain public safety in King County.

    That can be a battle.

    What I don’t want to do is fight with social service agencies over what money is available. I’d rather go hand-in-hand with them and go to the County Council and the executive and explain why we each need more money rather than fighting each other for it. We are equal partners in keeping communities safe, and we shouldn’t fight over the few dollars that are there, even though that has happened in the past.”

    Some of Urquhart’s top priorities if elected include creating a use of force review board, to help the department look at the amount of force being used by officers and makes changes as needed.

    “One of the things that I want to do, other than what we’ve talked about, if elected — I want to have a use of force review board. We don’t have that now,” he said. “I want to train our sergeants and I want to establish a use of force review board that we can look at uses of force to determine if we need to retrain a deputy, or is there a way the use of force could have been avoided, including de-escalation, or do we need to retrain the whole department?”

    Another goal is to reestablish the domestic violence unit that was cut in 2010 because of funding.

    “For years we had a unit that had specially trained detectives dedicated to the follow-up investigation. Here’s why that is so important; besides the fact it’s a horrific crime, but often times the victim recants or won’t testify. Those cases are still prosecutable if you can forward a good case to the prosecutor’s office, and that means you need dedicated detectives who can get the medical reports and who have time to do all that so they can quickly get the completed case to the prosecutor’s office,” said Urquhart.

    “All those investigations which were being done by specialized detectives are now being done by detectives who will be investigating a shoplifting or car theft one minute and a domestic violence the next,” he explained.  “I think we can still do it within the budget, but once I convince the county executive how important this is, I think we can get it refunded.”

    Urquhart would also like to see a higher standard for following internal policies.

    “I want to make sure that our policies are followed internally. In 2011 there were four officer-involved shootings that were fatal. There is an internal policy that says there has to be a review within 30 days of the inquest or the investigation. Those first shootings did not go in front of a review board until a year later — in two cases, a year later. The only reason the shooting review boards were held at all is because I made a campaign issue out of it.

    “If a line deputy didn’t follow a policy like that, he’d be disciplined. In this case it was a division officer who let that [happen] and he was not disciplined; in fact, he was promoted. You can’t have that. That doesn’t reassure the public in any way, shape or form.”

    An important piece, Urquhart said, is having leaders at every level of the Sheriff’s Office, not just in the top position.

    “There has to be an insistence on leadership throughout the organization,” he said.

    Though Urquhart lives on Mercer Island, which has its own police force, the Sheriff’s department is still one that can and will impact residents’ lives.

    “People often ask me, why should I care about the Sheriff’s Office? You should care because we are all over King County. At the very least, our Metro transit unit and our Sound Transit unit are the ones on the buses, in the park and rides in the bus shelters,” he said.

    Anytime a home is burglarized and police are searching for the suspect in the area, it’s the KCSO helicopter buzzing overhead. The Sheriff’s Office also deals with evictions and notifications. It is also the Sheriff’s search and rescue team that looks for lost or missing hikers in the Cascades, no matter which city they live in.

    Urquhart has also said, despite the Sheriff’s role as a nonpartisan, he’s willing to answer questions when people ask him about topics like marijuana.

    “Well, people want to know where you stand on issues and what your values are,” he said. “It’s as simple as that. When people ask me, I don’t care what the question is, I will answer. If I lose because of that, so be it. If I can [get] votes for that, that’s great, but I’m true to myself.”

    To learn more about Urquhart’s race for Sheriff, visit the website at www.johnforsheriff.com.

    To learn more about the Sheriff’s Office, visit www.kingcounty.gov/safety/sheriff.aspx.

     

     

    Contact Mercer Island Reporter Reporter Megan Managan at mmanagan@mi-reporter.com or (206) 232-1215 ext. 5054.

  • Urquhart announces campaign


    Sgt. John Urquhart has been the spokesman for the King County Sheriff’s Department on almost every issue and retired months ago. But on Tuesday, he announced he’s throwing his hat into the ring for sheriff because the department is at a crossroads and things need to change.

    “Fighting crime and good police work go hand in hand with accountability. They are not mutually exclusive,” he said at a news conference.

    Urquhart, 64, retired from his role as spokesman last year after 24 years with the agency.  But at Tuesday’s news conference, he sounded like an outsider in his calls for reforms and more accountability to citizens.

    “[Citizens of King County] want a police agency that is tough on crime, but understands you can’t arrest your way out of every problem in society,” Urquhart said. “They do not want a police agency that has the attitude that we’re the cops and you’re not.”

    Urquhart described an office that’s lax in accountability, where citizen complaints aren’t being fully investigated and use of force by officers isn’t being properly reviewed, even when citizens die.

    Urquhart said the department hasn’t done enough soul-searching about the use of force. He pointed to four officer-involved shootings in 2011 – two of them fatal – that weren’t reviewed.

    “There should have been a shooting review within 30 days; there was not,” he said. “That will not happen when I’m sheriff.”

    Urquhart criticized the department for failing to learn from its mistakes in even the most egregious cases, such as one caught on video where Deputy Matt Paul is seen slamming an innocent man into a wall, leaving him damaged for life.

    Even after King County paid out $10 million to settle lawsuits, then-Sheriff Sue Rahr defended the deputy’s tactics.

    “There was no evidence of misconduct on the part of Deputy Paul,” she said.

    But KING 5 obtained his file and found there was never even an investigation into Paul’s use of force.

    “I think he made a mistake,” said Urquhart. “No question about that, no question about that.”

    Urquhart said he was urged to run by people inside the department, but he knows his calls for increased accountability may not be popular with some – and he’s made a decision.

    “I will not seek the endorsement of the Police Guild or Captain’s Guild because I think there’s a huge conflict of interest,” said Urquhart.

    Urquhart said accountability has declined since early 2011. That’s when Rahr brought in former Kent Police Chief Steve Strachan to be her heir-apparent and handed over a lot of management to him.

    Strachan became temporary sheriff a few weeks ago and wants the job permanently. When asked to Urquhart’s criticisms, he responded, “This will be the first hotly contested race for King County sheriff in many years and it’s off to a very interesting start.”

    Urquhart’s announcement comes after King County Sheriff Sue Rahr stepped down to become the director of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission.

    Update, 4/25: Excellent nugget from Wednesday’s Seattle Times:

    Saying the “war on drugs has been an abject failure,” Urquhart supports Initiative 502, which seeks to legalize marijuana in Washington state. “And I was a narcotics detective,” he pointed out.

    Strachan said he welcomes more clarity in the state’s medical-marijuana laws, which I-502 might bring. But he stopped short of endorsing legalization. “At the end of the day it’s up to the will of the people,” he said.

    http://www.king5.com/news/local/Urquhart-stresses-accountability-in-King-County-Sheriff-campaign-launch-148726065.html