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Sheriff John Urquhart responds to flip-flop allegations

King County Sheriff John Urquhart (AP)
LISTEN: Sheriff John Urquhart responds to accusations of flip flopping on issues

Sheriff John Urquhart is responding to flip-flop allegations that he switches his messages depending on his audience.

“I don’t flip-flop,” Urqhuart told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson. “Do I change my tune? Do I tailor how I say things to different audiences? Of course. I do that on a regular basis. I think most people do that. I talk differently, and you use different arguments depending on who you are talking to, depending on what you are trying to accomplish.”

RELATED: Urquhart says black lives matter

The allegations sprung from a story in The Stranger that includes video of Urquhart at different speaking events, seemingly saying one thing and then another. Urqhuart said it’s a classic case of taking snippets of audio and placing them out of context.

“It’s the Stranger and my opponent pulling out snippets of audio and not putting them into context,” he said.

“When they are taken out of context and they are not explained … sure they are going to sound like something pretty stark,” he said. “There’s no flip-flop here.”

Flip flop: ICE

In one video clip, Urquhart says he would never call ICE — Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Yet in another clip, at a GOP barbecue, he says there is nothing preventing him or his deputies from calling ICE if “so-and-so is down the street. He’s an illegal alien; he’s a rapist; he’s a murderer; he’s a cartel member and go pick him up. I’ve done that, and my deputies can do that today.”

So which is it?

“It’s both,” Urquhart said. “What they left off of that interview is they asked me if I ever called ICE. Yes I have, when I was a narcotics detective. When I was saying “never calling ICE” the question was more interference to the Sheriff’s Office in general … would I encourage my deputies to call ICE on somebody? And the answer is no. But what I told the 45th Republicans … if we have a murderer, if we have a rapist, if we have a cartel drug member out there, or OJ Simpson – I’ve also used that example – I would call ICE on them. I can’t prohibit my deputies, by federal law, from calling ICE. I can not encourage them to do that and I’ve said that all along as well.”

Urquhart also doesn’t call ICE when somebody is in jail, he said, because they don’t inquire about immigration status at their level.

“(The Stranger) asked me, ‘Have you ever called ICE?” Yes. Then at some point, not long after, they asked ‘Would you ever call ICE?’ I looked at that from the standpoint of if I would ever encourage my deputies,” he said. “Did I misspeak? Probably. But that’s when I said never.”

Flip flop: Safe injection sites

The Stranger also points to video of when Urquhart spoke about safe injection sites. Urquhart has said that safe injection sites are a “good idea” in a “good spot,” and that the mayor, The Seattle Times, and county officials agree.

But video also shows Urquhart at a forum in Ballard on Sept. 12 saying “safe injection sites, I think it’s a horrible idea,” and that it’s terrible to allow folks to use heroin.

“Both sides have taken that out of context,” Urquhart said. “What I said to The Stranger is that they are a good idea for downtown and Pioneer Square. I don’t think the county should be ramming them down the throats of Bellevue, Renton, or Federal Way, or Auburn, because they don’t want them … that’s what I said there and the exact same thing I said to the Ballard forum. But you have to listen to the whole thing, you can’t just pull out a couple words there.”

The sheriff said that safe injection sites are a terrible idea and that he personally doesn’t support allowing people to use heroin. But he also says there are no alternatives.

“I work at 3rd and James, people are dying in doorways and in alleys,” he said. “We have no other alternative. Yes, they are a bad idea. You think they are a bad idea, I think they are a bad idea, but we have no other alternative to save lives. That’s what I’ve said all along.”

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