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

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