New King County, Wa., Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht wants to bring unity and healing to an office bruised by sexual-misconduct allegations leveled at former Sheriff John Urquhart and scarred by what several deputies say has become a toxic work environment, the Seattle Times reports. “The night of the election and in the days after that, as things became more clear I would be sheriff-elect, there was a deep sigh in the organization,” Johanknecht said of her November upset in unseating Urquhart, who was elected in 2012. Johanknecht, who has worked in the office for 33 years, has embarked on a crash course of what it means to run a 1,000-person law-enforcement agency that provides police services to a mix of urban and rural communities.
Urquhart, who has vehemently denied allegations of sexual impropriety, has refused to speak to Johanknecht. Johanknecht (pronounced “Joe Hank Nick”) has a reputation as a hardworking straight arrow, said Sue Rahr of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, who served as King County sheriff from 2005 to 2012. Johanknecht supports Initiative 940, a proposed statewide measure that requires specific mental-health training, de-escalation training and rendering first aid. She favors more in-service scenario-based training for deputies in dealing with people in crisis, and plans to equip deputies with more less-than-lethal tools like “beanbag” rounds in an effort to reduce lethal-force situations. She opposes safe drug consumption sites, saying that all deputies should be equipped with overdose medication and more “on-time” treatment be available to those in need or crisis. She backs equipping deputies with body cameras, while acknowledging that work with the American Civil Liberties Union and community is important to successful programming.