John Urquhart to run for King County sheriff

John Urquhart to run for King County sheriff. - Submitted
John Urquhart to run for King County sheriff.
— image credit: Submitted

John Urquhart, who patrolled King County as a sheriff's deputy, was a detective and as its spokesman was a public face of the Sheriff's Office, announced Tuesday he is running for sheriff.

Urquhart of Mercer Island is running to replace Sue Rahr, who has accepted the job as executive director of the state police training academy. Rahr stepped down earlier this month in the final year of her second term; the King County Council appointed Steve Strachan, her chief deputy and former Kent police chief, to replace her.

Strachan also has announced he will run for sheriff.

Urquhart served as a top aide to former Sheriff Dave Reichert and Rahr."My campaign for King County Sheriff will be based on leadership and accountability," Urquhart said in announcing his campaign.

He said 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," he said. "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."

He said the public wants a Sheriff's Office that is accountable, which, he said, "means we have to hold ourselves accountable first."

Here are changes he offered in his announcement that he would make immediately:

"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.

"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.

"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.

"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.

Urquhart, 64, and his wife Shelley have two adult daughters. He is a graduate of the University of Washington School of Business. He ran a successful business wholesaling electrical construction material.He has been a police officer for more than 36 years, the last 24 years as a member of the Sheriff's Office.


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