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John Urquhart to run for King County Sheriff
John Urquhart announced Tuesday that he will run for the office of King County Sheriff.
If elected, Urquhart would follow former Sheriff Sue Rahr, who stepped down on March 31 to become director of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission (WSCJTC).
Chief Deputy Steve Strachan is currently serving as interim sheriff.
Urquhart joined the King County Sheriff's Office (KCSO) in 1988, when it was called King County Police, and worked as a public information officer and administrative aid for Rahr and her predecessor-turned-U.S. Representative Dave Reichert.
Urquhart, who grew up in north Seattle, has served as a police officer in Washington for 36 years including stints as a patrol officer, field training officer, master police officer and street-level vice/narcotics detective.
"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," he said in a written statement about his decision to run for sheriff.
In his statement, the Mercer Island resident had two messages, one to the citizens of King County and one to the deputies in the KCSO.
To the citizens, he said his campaign will be based on leadership and accountability. He said he doesn't want to risk losing their support and if that happens, "it will not be because our deputies don't care. It will be because of a lack of leadership within the agency."
He added that citizens want many things from the KCSO, including balance.
"They want a police agency that is tough on crime, but understands you can't arrest your way out of every problem in society," he said.
Urquhart said it is important for the sheriff's office to listen to its citizens before taking action and one that is accountable.
"That means we have to hold ourselves accountable first," he said in his statement. "We have to take organizational responsibility for what we do."
Urquhart's plan to do this is four-fold: First, he said he would increase the KCSO's Internal Investigations Unit staff experience to include at least one experienced detective-sergeant immediately. Second, he would stop the practice of transferring citizen complaints to unexperienced and untrained patrol sergeants for investigation. Third he plans to ensure that administrative reviews of officer-involved shootings are done on a timely basis as required by KCSO's policy manual. And finally, Urquhart said if elected, he will form a Use of Force Review Board, specifically to examine force issues where there is a serious injury to a citizen or deputy.
"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," he said in his statement. "I will talk about how we can get back to an emphasis on community policing and problem-solving police work."
Urquhart added that it is also time for sensible reform to drug laws, specifically regarding marijuana.
To the deputies of the KCSO, he said in his statement that they are given "an incredible responsibility."
"You have the power to take someone's freedom away and to use force to ensure compliance," he said. "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."
He continued to tell deputies that he will expect them to use that authority and be proactive in their police work, adding that he will provide them with the training and tools to do so.
Urquhart graduated from Ingraham High School in Seattle and later from the University of Washington with a bachelor's degree in business, which he said will help him if elected.
"I have a very strong business background so I know what it means to balance a budget and make a payroll," he said.