Sheriff Steve Strachan is the Culture Change We Need in the King County Sheriff’s Office

His opponent a longtime King County Deputy is a documented part of the problem.

The issues at the King County Sheriff’s Office are well documented and publicized. That is why when former King County Sheriff Sue Rahr was thinking about retiring, she realized that the King County Sheriff’s Office needed a strong and proven leader to implement the culture change she started. Rahr wisely realized that when you spend whole career is inside an organization, you cannot effectively be the agent of change.

When Rahr left in March, she chose current King County Sheriff Steve Strachan to lead real reform.  The King County Council supported her choice with a unanimous confirmation.  Now that Sheriff Strachan has been appointed he must run for election to serve out the remaining year of former Sheriff Sue Rahr’s term.  Steve bid to remain as Sheriff is endorsed by King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg and every law enforcement leader in King County.

[More info: Click to review a list of Steve’s endorsements.]

Strachan served in all levels of law enforcement: Police Chief, Administrative Sergeant, Detective, School Resource Officer, SWAT team leader, DARE Officer, Patrol Officer and Jail Deputy.  Steve Strachan is the former Chief of two municipal departments; most recently in Kent.  His record in Kent was very impressive on a number of fronts including a 20% drop in the crime index in his first year.

In an interview this year, Congressman Reichert told Enrique Cerna of PBS that, “it may be time for someone from the outside to be the sheriff. Because I was the first, you know, in 30 years to be the elected sheriff, and the first internally. I appointed Sue. And she did a great job. And now, you have an opportunity for the people in King County to make a choice between someone that’s been in and someone that’s been out.”

Sheriff Strachan’s opponent John Urquhart is unfortunately a product of the culture that needs to be changed.  John spent his entire 24 year career at the King County Sheriff Office and retired earlier this year.  A recent story on KIRO TV News discussed some the concerning aspects of John’s record, including a internal investigation that determined then Sgt. Urquhart created a hostile work environment.

KIRO’s report discussed allegations of unbecoming conduct, dishonesty and discrimination that were filed against Urquhart. Urquhart misled the reporter by stating the charges were “not sustained” when in fact the charge of conduct unbecoming was SUSTAINED.   In a December 16, 2003 memo from then Sheriff Reichert to Sgt. John Urquhart says, “This performance plan has been developed to correct performance issues brought to light in IIU Investigation 02-099.  The investigation showed that you were in violation of G.O.M. section 3.00.020(1)(f) [Conduct Unbecoming]…Your past job performance showed that the way you communicated with those you supervise created apprehension, lack of trust and low morale.  This prevented you from being an effective supervisor.”  Former King County deputy Liz Johnson characterized Urquhart’s leadership style as, “it’s just intimidation and belittlement …The behavior that I witnessed from him is so bizarre, that’s what I’m saying, something wasn’t right.”

This report shows that John Urquhart not effective first-line supervisor and certainly not qualified to be Sheriff. Furthermore this is another example of the lack of accountability that occurred prior to Steve Strachan taking over as Sheriff.

In August of this year, just five months after Sheriff Strachan took office, an audit of the King County Sheriff’s Office Activities and Disciplinary Procedures was released.  This audit had been a longtime coming and reflects issues that occurred between 2005-2011, when John Urquhart was a “Senior Policy Adviser” in the King County Sheriff’s Office.  Regardless, Sheriff Strachan is not looking backwards; he is taking the recommendations proffered in the audit to heart.  He has been making changes and will continue to put the audit’s recommendations into action.

Steve Strachan has accomplished a great deal in his short time as Sheriff. When he started earlier this year, public confidence in the local law enforcement was waning and budget cuts from the recession were slashing the Sheriff’s Deputies positions.  In response to the department’s budget cuts, he evaluated and adjusted staffing costs including overtime pay.  As a result, this is the first year in recent memory the King County Sheriff’s Office will be hiring 15 additional deputies in 2013.  Sheriff Strachan is implementing his vision to develop a flexible organization of highly trained deputies who act as Leaders on the Street; leveraging community relationships and communication skills to minimize crime across King County.

Sheriff Steve Strachan is clearly the best and only choice to lead the King County Sheriff’s Office into the future.



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  1. Lillian Hale

    Urquhart is part of the culture the sheriff’s department has been stuck under for years. Urquhart couldn’t supervise a shift without screwing it up, there is no way he could supervise a department. Urquhart’s vindictive nature will tear the department apart. Strachan may be making some changes that are not working and hopefully that will be addressed but at least he is making changes. The department has to move forward and Strachan is trying to do that. Strachan is the better person for the job.

  2. urquhart dogcatcher

    Steve, if you are a deputy, thank you for what you do. But change is hard. I am not a blogger for Strachan…I am a blogger against Urquhart. Working with the County Council is part of being Sheriff. Standing on the Executive’s desk to ask for more money…and…thinking that will work reflect Urquhart’s inexperience. If Rahr had policies that Strachan is continuing, then that makes Urquhart’s claim of Strachan being the reason that the Sheriff’s Office received the critical audit a false argument. You can’t have it both ways.

  3. steve johnson

    If Rahr was such a problem why is she on the committee bringing Strachan in? She was the problem and she has appointed someone to carry on her failed policies. This article could not be more slanted. Strachan has decreased staffing to unsafe levels and been a yes man for the King County Council. It is good to know Strachan’s team has the ear of bloggers.

  4. urquhart dogcatcher

    I love this! Urquhart’s second in charge has a strict rule that if you lie you die…I guess that doesn’t matter in selecting potential bosses. And oh the fish stories that Urquhart weaves…it’s very reminiscent of the SNL character….yeah, yeah…I was the Police Officer of the Year for, uh, 20 years running…that’s right.

    If these two get in office, just open your checkbook. The lawsuits will be a-flying! A Spokane author describes Kirkpatrick as the “World’s Most Dangerous Cop.”

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