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.
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.