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Meet John Urquhart, King County Sheriff Candidate

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.

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.

WEBSITE: http://johnforsheriff.com/

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.

DO YOU SUPPORT/OPPOSE REFERENDUM 74: SHOULD GAY MARRIAGE BE LEGAL IN WASHINGTON? BRIEFLY, WHY?

I strongly support Referendum 74. I believe the right to marry the person you choose is a civil right on par with the right to marry someone of a different race. As the parent of an adopted Korean daughter, the thought her not being able to marry someone she loved from a different race under laws implemented decades ago would be devastating. 

Marriage is about love, partnerships, and ultimately happiness.  Every couple should be able to share the same benefits and rights Shelley and I enjoy in our marriage.  It is important for the next Sheriff to also strongly support marriage equality. 

There are many members of the LGBT community who work at the Sheriff’s Office, and it is critical that the person at the head of the organization respects them and their equal rights under the law.  It is my strong advocacy for approving Referendum 74 that has helped lead to my broad coalition of support from state legislators, including Democrats Ed Murray and Jamie Pedersen, as well as Republican Maureen Walsh.  

My opponent has said Referendum 74 is not a public safety issue.  I strongly disagree.  When an entire class of citizens is treated unequally, they are ultimately treated as second-class citizens.  The whole reason we have added sexual orientation to our hate crime laws is because individuals are still harmed to this day based solely on their sexual orientation.  Approving marriage equality will go a long way to protecting members of the LGBT community in the future.

DO YOU SUPPORT/OPPOSE, INITIATIVE 502 TO MAKE SMALL AMOUNTS OF MARIJUANA LEGAL TO PEOPLE 21 AND OLDER? BRIEFLY, WHY?

Yes.  When I announced my candidacy for Sheriff back in April, I endorsed Initiative 502.  As a former undercover narcotics detective, I have seen endless public resources fruitlessly expended on marijuana prohibition.  The public will be better served when we redirect our finite resources to protecting the public against violent offenders. 

I am pleased that my opponent finally followed my lead in late September by also endorsing I-502. The main issue with marijuana prohibition right now is the lack of clarity in the law. Prosecutors and police officers around the state do not agree on how current laws can be enforced.  We have marijuana dispensaries serving dozens and sometimes hundreds of customers per day in the middle of residential neighborhoods. 

These dispensaries are targets for home invasions and violent crime, and I want them away from neighborhoods and families. Under I-502, dispensaries will be licensed businesses and will be zoned as such.   

Finally, I want all of the revenue from the sale of marijuana taken out of the hands of gangs and put towards critical state programs. The State of Washington estimates that the sale of marijuana will net $500-$700 million per year, with a significant amount that must be spent on drug treatment. That is a lot of money out of the hands of drug dealers, and used towards making the lives of Washingtonians better.

Ron Roberts October 25, 2012 at 06:52 PM
The missing question for John Urquhart: WHY ARE YOU THE BEST CANDIDATE FOR SHERIFF? Well, I'm not the best candidate. In the one leadership role I had at the sheriff's office, I was removed from it after about a year due to the volume of complaints against me. After a few counseling sessions with a doctor, she said that I lacked leadership skills, and could not separate them from management skills. So, I was exiled to the media department where I didn't have to supervise anyone, and I thrived there. So, you can see that I work best when I don't have to supervise people, which makes me the worst candidate for sheriff. To overcome that, I'm going to continue bringing up ticky-tack concerns about the sheriff's office while ignoring the larger problem of a toxic culture (because I'm not going to try and change the culture; I helped create it as a senior policy adviser to the last two sheriffs!). You probably shouldn't vote for me, but I'm spending $80k of my overtime pay from King County to convince you otherwise.

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