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Are Former Peace Corps Volunteers Willing to Carry a Gun and a Badge?

Peace Corps
A Peace Corps Volunteer in Ecuador.

The King County sheriff wants to make his police force more culturally aware. So he’s come up with a plan that includes putting former Peace Corps volunteers on the payroll.

Sheriff John Urquhart says the force is “becoming more male and more white every single year," and that's a problem because the force should better reflect the increasingly diverse community.

"And that means we need all colors, we need all races, we need all genders, and we need LGBT, you name it,” Urquhart said.Like many police departments, the King County Sheriff’s Office does recruit women and minority candidates. But the hiring process still tends to favor more traditional applicants.

That’s because the state requires King County to hire off a civil service list. You get on the list by taking a test, but if you’re a veteran who served in a war zone you add an extra 10 percent to your score. If you were in the military but not in a war zone, you add an extra 5 percent.

Urquhart says King County is getting a huge influx of military vets applying right now. He’s quick to say there’s nothing wrong with that, but it doesn't result in a lot of non-traditional applicants on the list.

In order to diversify the hiring pool, Urquhart has expanded the types of applicants who get bonus points on their civil service test.

“You can get an extra ten percent if you served in the Peace Corps or if you speak a second language that we need in the sheriff’s office in King County, so Latin doesn't count ” he said.

Urquhart says languages that will count include Spanish, Laotian, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Chinese and Somali.

The first hires under the new system could be on patrol in King County in about a year. Urquhart says with attrition and new hires approved by the county, his office expects to hire 40 new deputies next year.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.