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Candidates square off in sheriff race

With the race for King County Sheriff on the ballot next month, the two candidates for the position appeared at the Mercer Island Rotary Lunch on Tuesday, Sept. 17.

Current Sheriff Steve Strachan and candidate John Urquhart spoke at the lunch about themselves and took questions from members of the community. Both candidates talked about the recent audits of the Sheriff’s Office, one in July and the second earlier in the month. The topic of change within the department is one that has become ingrained in the election.

The second report, which was highly critical of the Sheriff’s Office, looked a various areas of the department and offered specific suggestions, on critical issues such as use of force, misconduct policies and procedural oversight.

On Sept. 18, the King County Council, the government body which oversees the Sheriff’s Office, laid out mandates for the office, based on the report.

The report, done by Merrick Bobb, a nationally recognized head of the Police Assessment Resource Center, recommends creating a Use of Force Review Board, which would replace the Shooting Review Board. The report by Bobb said the current model has an “absence of serious and explicit reasoning” in findings.

The King County Council told the Sheriff’s department it would have to develop detailed standards and procedures when reporting, documenting and investigating complaints against it’s deputies, realign the command staff so the commander of internal investigations reports to the sheriff. The office will provide continuing training to supervisors on how to investigate and handle misconduct complaints, as well as creating a culture where complaints, misconduct and violations are reported.

At the Rotary lunch, held prior to the Council meeting, touched on several of the same subjects.

“The Seattle Police Department has lost the support of it’s community and the Sheriff’s department is going that way,” said Urquhart. “I strongly urge you to go online and read the reports.” He added that while Strachan has been in office for the past 20 months, the problems are continuing.

The report also recommends the Sheriff’s Office make deputies record a statement immediately after a use of force incident, instead of giving the officer 72 hours to write a report.

Strachan, who moved to the Sheriff’s Office after serving as chief for the Kent Police Department, said he knows there is work to be done, but that is why he is there.

“I knew when I came in that we needed to be better,” he said. “There is much work to do, but that’s why I came here. We can be ahead of the curve and the public expects that.” He said he has created a business plan for the future of the department that will be used to help guide them, and to fix the issues facing the office as a whole.

“We’re going to focus on what we’re doing,” said the Sheriff. He added that while his opponent says in 20 months on the job he has not accomplished what needs to be fixed, the issues facing the department are from long standing policies and procedures, which existed when Urquhart was a member of the department.

“I don’t want to go backward,” said Strachan. “I want to focus on the future.”

Urquhart, who has proposed many things similar to the reports recommendations, said he has a vision of the Sheriff’s Office and part of that is a group of officers who don’t just sit in their cars driving through neighborhoods.

“I don’t think the Sheriff should be an occupying force,” he said at the lunch. “Deputies need to interact with people and not just sitting in their cars on their laptops. You have to get out of the car.”

A community member asked the candidates when the shift happens from reacting to crime to preventing it.

“How we get ahead of the crime part is getting the system fixed and on track,” said Strachan. “The Sheriff, as an elected position, has the unique ability to open conversations about different things and that is the perfect place to do just what you said.”

Learn more

To learn more about the candidates, visit their websites.

• Steve Strachan – stevestrachanforsheriff.com

• John Urquhart – johnforsheriff.com


 

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