Election 2012: Former KCSO spokesperson John Urquhart running for sheriff

He was a familiar face on TV for years as spokesperson for the King County Sheriff’s Office, till he retired a few months back after 23 years with the department. Today, John Urquhart announced he wants to get back into KCSO – at the top. Here’s the announcement and photo he provided:

Today I am announcing I will run for the office of King County Sheriff. It was not a decision made lightly, but made after careful consideration, and with input from of a variety of individuals both inside and outside the Sheriff’s Office, as well as my family.

I have two messages today. The first is for the citizens of King County. The second will be for the nearly 700 deputies in the Sheriff’s Office.

To the citizens:

My campaign for King County Sheriff will be based on leadership and accountability. The Sheriff’s Office is at a crossroads. I don’t want us to go down the road where we run the risk of losing the support of the citizens we serve. 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 agency.

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.

They want a Sheriff’s Office that listens to the citizens it serves. Listens to what the citizens are saying about what is important to them, and THEN takes action. They do not want a police agency that has the attitude of “we’re the cops and you’re not!”

Citizens don’t care about so-called “business plans” or “strategic plans”. They want a police department that is responsive and treats them with respect.

They expect their police department to use force only as a last resort, and then only the minimal amount of force necessary.

They want, as Sir Robert Peel said, not to measure results by the number of arrests, but by the lack of crime.

Our communities do not want an “occupying force”.

And they want a Sheriff who is a leader, not just a manager.

But most of all, they want a Sheriff’s Office that is accountable. That means we have to hold ourselves accountable first. We have to take organizational responsibility for what we do.

For this to occur there must be changes within the Sheriff’s Office. Here are four changes I will make right away:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

No review such as this is currently conducted in the Sheriff’s Office. For example, the incident at the Cinerama where Christopher Harris suffered critical, life-changing injuries which cost the taxpayers over $10 million was not adequately reviewed. How did this tragedy happen? Where was the organizational introspection? How do we lessen the chance this will happen again?

These questions were never asked, much less answered. And they should have been.

In fact, even the most rudimentary supervisor review of the use of force was not completed until almost a year after the incident.
In addition, there is no meaningful training for first-line supervisors on to actually review use-of-force by their deputies. As a review goes up the chain of command, many supervisors give it only a cursory review.

Make no mistake. Use of force is unavoidable in police work. But there are questions we should be asking. Could we have done something else? Could we have de-escalated? Was the amount of force appropriate? These critical questions are not being asked in a systematic way.

In the weeks and months leading up to the election, I will put forth additional proposals regarding changes I will make as sheriff, including how domestic violence, gang crimes, and burglaries are investigated. I will talk about how we can get back to an emphasis on community policing and problem-solving police work.

And very importantly, it’s time for sensible reform to our drug laws, specifically the use and possession of marijuana.

I have a demonstrated reputation for honesty, integrity, and for speaking the unvarnished truth. I’ve held positions of leadership my entire life. I have a very strong business background so I know what it means to balance a budget and make a payroll. Not just on paper……but in real life.

But I’ve carried a badge and a gun for over 36 years, part time, full time, on the street and from behind a desk. So with that background it’s time for a message to the men and women working at the Sheriff’s Office.

The citizens of the State of Washington have given you an incredible responsibility. You have the power to take someone’s freedom away and to use force to ensure compliance. You have the power—and sometimes the duty—to take a human life. Citizens expect you to use that power wisely, fairly, and judiciously, as I will when I am Sheriff.

But as your Sheriff, I will also expect you to use that authority. I will expect you to be very pro-active in your police work. I will expect you to zealously “fight crime” every day to the best of your ability. And I will be right next to you, literally and figuratively, as we do that together. AND I promise you the training and the tools you will need!

Make no mistake…….Fighting crime and good police work go hand in hand with accountability. They are not mutually exclusive. When you work hard, make good arrests, and are responsive to the needs of the community, you will always have my full support.

To be a police officer is an honor and a sacred trust. The 1000 men and women of the Sheriff’s Office who serve the public day in and day out—the street cops, detectives, command staff and civilians—are some of the finest, hardest working, and ethical people I have ever met. By themselves, they cannot change the issues I raise today. The tone and culture of an organization starts at the top. Through actions and leadership, I will set a tone that maintains and reinforces the trust and support of the citizens we serve.

As I said a few minutes ago, the King County Sheriff’s Office is at a crossroads. We could go down a road that will ultimately cost us the respect and support of the very communities we are charged with protecting. We will find ourselves where our deputies will be feared, rather than welcomed.

Under my leadership we will take the other road, where the Sheriff’s Office is one of the most highly respected police agencies in the region. Where our deputies are the best trained, the most responsive, and where the values of the community are reflected in our actions every day. Where use of force by a deputy is the last resort, not the first. Where every aspiring police officer chooses the Sheriff’s Office first because we are the best!

It’s time to take the King County Sheriff’s Office into 21st Century policing. I intend to do that.

When Sue Rahr left the Sheriff’s Office, the County Council appointed Steve Strachan to take over. According to our partners at the Seattle Times, he has said he will run for the nonpartisan position too. Whomever wins this fall will finish Rahr’s term – till fall 2013 – and then the position will be on the ballot again.

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One Response to “Election 2012: Former KCSO spokesperson John Urquhart running for sheriff”

  1. Great News. Good Luck.