File photo by Steve Shay
New King County Sheriff John Urquhart sees the Newtown, Ct., tragedy as a "catalyst" for positive discussion on armed guards and police with guns in our schools. He is pictured here on Sept. 18 during his successful campaign at a North Highline Area Council meeting.

Sheriff Urquhart advocates for more school resource officers; Says Newtown tragedy has resulted in constructive discussion on guns

John Urquhart was sworn in as King County Sheriff Nov. 28, 2012. The former sergeant defeated incumbent Sheriff Steve Strachan with over 56 percent of the vote. Urquhart served as deputy most of his career in the Burien precinct, and patrolled South Park, SeaTac, and Boulevard Park.

Sheriff Urquhart shared some thoughts with the Highline Times on the hot topic of guns in schools.

"I don't have any problem with law abiding citizens having guns. It's a constitutional right and I'm sure not going to criticize that. Obviously we go after the citizens who aren't law abiding. There are lots and lots of laws on the books to enforce those laws. Some may get tweaked. But everybody's talking about gun violence in schools.

"I think Newtown (the recent tragic grade school shootings in Connecticut) has ended up being a catalyst for discussion, and discussion is a good thing. We need to talk about guns in society and we need to decide what to do. It's an appropriate discussion to have. And certainly because of Newtown this is the right time.

"As far as the national gun control debate, depending on who you want to talk to they'll come up with a cause and effect to support their argument. At this point in time I don't think that's helpful. We as a society don't do a good enough job of keeping guns out of the hands of people who are mentally ill. I would like us to do better. I don't have the answer to it. That's the discussion we need to have."

The Highline School District has armed security guards as well as school resource officers.

"School resource officers are police officers assigned to specific schools. Their main role is to mix with the students, to mentor students, to break down the walls between kids and police officers. The students have a police officer they can talk to, and vice versa. We have about a dozen school resource officers in schools around King County. I would like nothing better than to expand our role in middle schools and especially high schools. I think it's incredibly valuable. It's a tried and true program. It works on a whole bunch of different levels. That's what I'm going to advocate.

"Then there are armed, or unarmed, security guards in schools. Highline School District, for example, has armed security guards. I'm not going to weigh in on whether I think they should or should not be armed. That's up to the individual school district as to what they want to do. We may consult with them privately. Schools are perfectly capable of making those decisions."

Contrary to recent reports in other media, Highline Public Schools has not announced a change to its school security model and has not announced plans to disarm its security guards. Superintendent Susan Enfield is expected to announce her recommendations on the subject shortly.

We enc