With KCTS's Enrique Cerna moderating, you just knew that Wednesday morning's King County Police Chiefs Association sheriff's election forum was going to be a serious minded event.
"Change is difficult," King County Sheriff Steve Strachan emphasized at the King County Police Chief's Association sheriff's election forum Wednesday morning. "We need change in the King County Sheriff's office," admitted Strachan, but "change is tough... it's bumpy... it's hard. Change is difficult, sometimes."
Difficult is change. Difficult change is. Is difficult, change. Pretty much any variation you can think of, Strachan probably used it multiple times throughout a debate in which the one obvious point of agreement was the need for change (however difficult) within the department. The question for voters then would seem to be which candidate—Strachan or Sergeant John Urquhart, the department's longtime public information officer—would be the more effective change agent.
Describing his top three priorities as "accountability, accountability, and accountability," Urquhart warned that the sheriff's office is "on the cusp of having the Department of Justice come in just as they have done in Seattle."
To be fair, Strachan's got a point. Change is difficult, particularly in an organization with as strong a cultural identity as your typical police department. But Urquhart points out that Strachan has been the acting sheriff for the past 20 months, with little transformation to show for his efforts.
For his part, Strachan cites Urquhart's 24-year tenure in the KC Sheriff's Office to paint his opponent as the ultimate insider. Strachan came to his post from outside the office after five years as the Chief of Police in Kent and a short stint as a chief in southern Minnesota. "I've got the outside experience to come in and enact change," Strachan stressed.
Which, you know, is difficult.
Of course, speaking before an association of local police chiefs, much of the morning's conversation had to do with the contract services provided by the sheriff's office to many incorporated communities, and how better to work with the chiefs in the audience. It's an important topic, but one of which most voters understandably won't have much grasp.
No, in the end, apart from the usual partisan endorsements, most voters will cast their vote based on which candidate is perceived to have the experience and skill set necessary to lead the sheriff's office, and which candidate better shares the progressive values of King County voters. The SECB will have more to say on both candidates once we get them in for an interview.