She was a SWAT team leader. Now she wants to be sheriff | KUOW News and Information

She was a SWAT team leader. Now she wants to be sheriff

May 16, 2017

The first woman to lead King County's SWAT team wants to be sheriff. 

Major Mitzi Johankneckt says after 32 years on the force she's qualified to take the sheriff's office in a new direction. She's challenging incumbent John Urquhart.

Johankneckt grew up in Burien and West Seattle. She says she has held a leadership role in every division of the King County Sheriff's Office, including the SWAT team.

Johankneckt says if elected sheriff, she would get more community input on crime activity and work on social justice issues within the Sheriff’s Department.

She says recent sex abuse allegations against Urquhart influenced her decision to run.

"I want to return the department's focus to addressing crime and traffic issues impacting the quality of life," Johankneckt said. "The distractions have got us away from that."

A former deputy accused Urquhart of rape in 2002, which he denies. The statute of limitations for the deputy to file a lawsuit has passed.

In 2014, according to The Seattle Times, a sergeant in the department brought a claim saying: “Female officers are expected to sit back and take it when it comes to: derogatory and sexist remarks made about being a woman in law enforcement, sexual harassment in the workplace, offensive and crude remarks about women, and basic good old boy attitudes toward women in general.” 

In the race for sheriff, Johankneckt said she brings a new perspective as a lesbian married to her longtime partner.

"People of color and women in our community being underrepresented in the sheriff's office are very near and dear pieces to my heart," she said, "and I want to effect change."

She'll face a tough election battle against her boss. Johankneckt has raised a few thousand dollars. Urquhart had nearly $60,000 in his campaign fund as of May 11.

In a statement, Urquhart’s campaign said no one is better suited than him to stand up to the Trump administration. The statement said he is one of the most progressive sheriffs in the country on LBGT rights and drug reform.