Sheriff takes another step back to roots in naming undersheriff
Seattle Times staff reporter
Things haven't been the same since Ray Carroll was around.
He was King County's assistant sheriff in the early 1950s, when about 75 deputies walked the streets and colorful Sheriff Harlan Callahan ended up in the slammer for evading his taxes.
Since then, the Sheriff's Office has had, well, a midlife crisis. It changed its name a couple of times. Tossed out its old way of leadership. Fumbled with its role in the world. And as far as anyone can tell, there hasn't been a new assistant sheriff or undersheriff in town for at least 30 years, and probably 50.
"Definitely, there was an identity crisis going on," Sheriff Dave Reichert said.
Reichert has been trying to bring the Sheriff's Office back to its roots. And on Friday, he swore in a new undersheriff: Patrick Lee, who will oversee day-to-day operations.
Lee, 46, who worked in the Everett Police Department for 22 years, will make about $108,000 a year.
Second in command
He will be the second in command, and he'll supervise preparing the budget, which is now about $85 million a year. Lee also will negotiate contracts and represent the sheriff in his absence.
It's quite a job. The office now employs more than 1,000 workers who help enforce the law for about 1.8 million people roaming around the county's 2,200 square miles. The deputies patrol the dwindling unincorporated area, and they also provide law enforcement under contract for 13 cities, from Beaux Arts to Woodinville.
The new hire will free Reichert to spend more time working with politicians and other law-enforcement divisions, trying to get a handle on things like "unfunded mandates," the scourge of law enforcement, before the Legislature passes laws that demand more toughness on crime without dishing out any new money.
Reichert estimates he'll now work 12 hours a day instead of 16.
"This gives the Sheriff's Office an opportunity to step back and take an overall inventory of where law enforcement is heading in King County," Reichert said.
This is where it's coming from: The first King County sheriff was elected in 1852. Voters continued to pick sheriffs until they decided in 1968 to change the charter. Then the Sheriff's Office became the King County Department of Public Safety. The sheriff became a "sheriff/director." Some of the old-time deputies didn't want to trade in their old badges because they didn't like the new operation.
"People would say, `When are you going to collect my garbage?' " said Reichert, who joined the department in 1972. When he'd call law-enforcement officers in other cities and identify himself as an officer with the Department of Public Safety, "They'd go, `That's a little bit goofy.' "
The Department of Public Safety focused on policing the unincorporated areas. It contracted with only one city to provide law enforcement. It didn't network all that much with other cities.
In the late '80s, after years of mumbling, the department changed its name again, to the King County Police Department. That was seen by the officers as a step forward.
Finally, voters decided in 1996 to go back to electing the sheriff. In March 1997, Reichert was appointed, and the next fall voters elected him.
"Right away, people asked, `When are you going to appoint an undersheriff?' " Reichert said.
But the sheriff wanted his hands on everything. He met with officers and with politicians. He started phasing in changes, such as going back to the name "King County Sheriff's Office." Badges and patches were designed. The new name was phased in. You still see the rare "King County Police" sign.
Focus on coalitions
Reichert has started focusing more on working with area cities on coalitions against crime and on ways to share crime information.
Always, Reichert had his eyes out for an undersheriff.
They finally landed on Lee, who has spent the past year as the commander for the state Criminal Justice Training Academy in Burien, which trains recruits. Lee helped beef up the center to give officers 720 hours of training instead of 440 hours.
In the 22 years Lee spent in Everett, he worked in intelligence, as a narcotics investigator and as a supervisor for an education program about drugs. Colleagues describe him as meticulous, focused, bright and energetic.
People also said he's a talker.
"I'm going to ask that Pat just say a couple of words," said Reichert to the crowd at Lee's swearing-in ceremony, and the crowd started chuckling.
"The timer's on," cracked an Everett officer.
Lee, flanked by his family, talked about his commitment to family. He also said he wanted to respect the customs of the Sheriff's Office.
"I am so excited to see the faces of my new family - the King County Sheriff's Office," he said.
After Lee was sworn in, he and Reichert embraced. Family and friends hung leis around Lee, who was born in Hawaii. Photographers snapped his picture.
"I'm so impressed with Pat myself that I've just started to carry around a picture of him," said Reichert, holding up a sheriff's newsletter with Lee's picture. "I want to get this in color so I can put it in my wallet."
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