King County Sheriff candidate John Urquhart told Robinson Newspapers he blames his opponent, Sheriff Steve Strachan, for the serious problems outlined in a King County Sheriff's Office audit just released. The two candidates will run in the general election, not in the upcoming primary. One of Urquhart's two daughters lives in West Seattle's Alaska Junction and works at an early learning center.
King County Sheriff candidate Urquhart blames opponent, Sheriff Strachan, for problems cited by audit
King County Sheriff candidate John Urquhart blames his opponent, Sheriff Steve Strachan, for the serious problems outlined in a King County Sheriff's Office audit just released. The two candidates only run in the general election, not in the upcoming primary.
The audit's executive summery cites 'significant issues with King County Sheriff’s Office’s (KCSO) policies and procedures for documenting and investigating complaints, and inconsistent adherence to those policies among KCSO units undermine organizational and individual accountability. KCSO’s inability to enforce the procedures for complaints and policy violations was also inconsistent with Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies standards or best practices.
In addition, efforts to implement civilian oversight in King County have been hampered by labor and legal issues—from the policy development phase to the collaborative efforts of the new Office of Law Enforcement Oversight Director and the Sheriff to launch an effective oversight function.
Sixteen recommendations are offered in the report to improve KCSO complaint policies, processes, and investigations, as well as to provide effective law enforcement oversight as envisioned by the King County Council and by the former KCSO Blue Ribbon Panel.
You can read an 84-page detailed report on the audits findings here.
Click on the first "Final Report".
The Blue Ribbon Panel was initiated by Sheriff Sue Rahr in 2006. Urquhart spoke with the Robinson Newspapers and said he saw problems coming and that motivated him to run for office. He was careful not to assign blame to former Sheriff Rahr, however, and said the Blue Ribbon Panel was well-intentioned.
Urquhart, a police officer for over 36 years, served the last 24 years as a full time member of the King County Sheriff’s Office, including patrol, field training, master police officer, street-level vice/narcotics detective, public information officer and administrative aide to Sheriffs Dave Reichert and Sue Rahr. He was selected by his peers as the Officer of the Year at Precinct #4 in Burien, and by Sheriff James Montgomery as the Officer of the Year for the Sheriff’s Office. He started a company in Bellevue wholesaling electrical construction material. He expanded to four locations with over 50 employees before selling the company.
"The Blue Ribbon Panel was a very good thing," Urquhart said. "We never had any of these issues at all until Steve Strachan became the undersheriff and started running the sheriff's office, period. I was downtown, and know exactly what was going on. Sheriff Rahr put him in there January, 2011, and he ran the day to day operations of the sheriff's office from that point foreword."
(Strachen began serving as King County Sheriff April of this year.)
"All of these things the audit is calling the department out on are his initiatives, things he changed within the sheriff's office, shipping off investigations to the precincts, gutting internal investigations, only having two sergeants in internal Investigations," he said. "He tried to get rid of a captain in Internal Investigations. They talked him out of it. You can't put this back on Sue.
"I don't agree with a lot of Sue's decisions, but you can't fault her for this," he continued. "I reported to Sue and was a public information officer, but did not make policy. We talked about these issues, certainly. But I did not have decision making ability. As undersheriff, he did.
"I am not surprised by the audit," said Urquhart. "The only thing that surprises me is how damning it is. I'm flabbergasted. I saw some of this coming, but not as much as this. Like the audit said, it's a culture of not taking these things seriously. As the (July 25) Seattle Times article points out, the man hired to offer some civilian oversight for internal investigations in the King County Sheriff's Office has been frustrated in his job, and wondered if the Department of Justice might take an interest in the Sheriff's Office after it's done with Seattle police."
He refers to Charles Gaither, a former Los Angeles Police Department investigator who was appointed as director of the county's Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO). The article cites him saying "the release of reports finding the office has a dismal record of investigating officer-involved shootings and allegations of on-duty misconduct."
Gathier also said he "did not anticipate what he called a complete breakdown of communications with the King County Police Officers Guild, the union representing deputies." It has filed several grievances against him.
"If you don't have confidence in your police department you may be safe, but you are not going to feel safe. We have to reduce crime, certainly, but we also have to reduce the fear of crime. If you have a department that is dysfunctional where the managers are spending all that time trying to keep the Department of Justice happy or whatever they are trying to do, they don't have time to manage the department to fight crime the way they need to. If we're distracted by all this drama then that's going to fall by the wayside."
Urquhart said that, as King County Sheriff, he would be tough on crime while softening the image of the officer on the beat, and that this is a "balancing act."
He explained, "I'm against the militarization of the police department. You see them in these black uniforms with their rifles out all the time. The public doesn't want that. I don't want the police to be seen as an occupying force in our neighborhoods."
He pointed out, however, that the audit did not criticize the deputies on patrol, only upper leadership. He said he is not worried about ruffling any feathers if he wins the election.
"I see a total failure of leadership in the sheriff's office," he said. "I can't worry whether I'm p***ing people off or not. I tell the truth. Everybody knows me. I'm a straight shooter. I tell it like it is. I'll let the chips fall as they may. I am a leader, and that's what this department needs, a leader, not more managers."