King County Sheriff John Urquhart has instructed off-duty deputies to carry their sidearm with extra magazines, following the deadly Paris attacks.
The violence in Paris prompted the sheriff to request, via a letter to his deputies, that off-duty officers be armed with their service weapons and extra magazines of ammo should a terrorist attack hit the Puget Sound region.
“It’s not a policy, it’s a request,” he said.
“We are living in tough times…and certainly what happened in Paris could happen here, locally, in Seattle,” Urquhart said. “I want to make sure my deputies are willing, available and have proper equipment to fight that if it happens.”
Urquhart said that the biggest threat to the area is homegrown terrorism, and locals who decide to support terrorists organizations such as ISIS.
“What I am worried about, what causes me lose sleep at night, is a homegrown terrorist,” Urquhart said. “That’s somebody that hasn’t come over from Syria, that’s not an official part of ISIS, but has been radicalized by ISIS by their propaganda.”
“They’ve been implored to take action wherever they are, around the world,” he said. “I’m afraid of a homegrown terrorist that does something here. It’s going to be a soft target.”
A “soft target,” meaning a place or event that is not heavily defended.
And if such a soft target is hit locally, Urquhart believes that having off-duty deputies armed and prepared will greatly help the situation.
“We are all frustrated by what’s going on, mainly because we don’t know what to do. This threat is so nebulous, and yet so real. And I thought this is something we can do,” Urquhart said.
“I always tell my people to be vigilant, ‘if you see something, say something,’ all of that. But it’s not enough,” he said. “Here is something they can do. They can be ready. We have the training. We have the experience. We have the weapons; let’s carry them.”
The King County Sheriff’s Office has 700 commissioned officers, according to Urquhart. While off-duty deputies were once required to carry their service weapon wherever they went, that is not the case currently.
But for Sheriff Urquhart, it’s already a personal policy that he follows.
“I carry all the time,” he said.