Urquhart ran for office promising strong leadership and accountability. Now he faces some immediate challenges that will put those promises to the test.
Urquhart said he will get to work immediately to improve accountability in the sheriff’s office, from top to bottom, making sure deputies and supervisors are monitored and citizen complaints are heard.
“My main overriding concern over and above everything is making sure the citizens of King County can trust the sheriff’s office,” said Urquhart.
Urquhart is taking office just days after the sheriff’s office agreed to pay nearly $1.5 million to the family of Christopher Harris, an innocent man left severely brain damaged by a King County deputy.
During a lawsuit, the county failed to turn over documents revealing a pattern of unnecessary force by the deputy. The people who withheld the information are still on the job.
KING 5: Should any heads roll?
Urquhart: It’s too early for me to tell. I don’t have all the details yet because I’ve been out of the sheriff’s office for almost a year.
The deputy who delivered that debilitating blow remains on the job too and Urquhart says he will stay there.
Urquhart: It’s not a question of “won’t fire him." It’s a question of "can’t fire him."
KING 5: Why not?
Urquhart: ‘Cause I wasn’t the sheriff at the time. This is three years later; the law wouldn’t let me fire him if I wanted to.
Urquhart says he will make changes called for in two recent audits that harshly criticized how the sheriff’s office polices itself. Auditors laid out a list of 25 recommendations.
KING 5: How many will you implement and when will you begin?
Urquhart: 25 and I’ll start on Wednesday.
Urquhart retired from the department a year ago, saying he was trading in his badge for a beach. Then in a surprise move, he ran against the incumbent and won.
He will face another election next fall because he is replacing the man appointed when Sheriff Sue Rahr quit.
“I knew that going in,” said Urquhart. “I’m ready for it.”
Urquhart will need buy-in from the police guild to make nearly a third of the auditors’ recommendations happen. He said he will push for the necessary changes during contract talks, which are already under way.
KING 5's Linda Byron contributed to this report.