Mayor to seek council authorization for Edmonds police chief search

Acting Police Chief Jim Lawless (2017 file photo)

Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson announced Friday he plans to hire “a reputable recruitment firm” to lead a search process for a new police chief, following the retirement of Chief Al Compaan.

Former Assistant Chief Jim Lawless is now filling the position of acting chief.

Nelson’s proposal will require budget authorization from the city council, and the mayor said he will present a proposed recruitment process to the council in the coming weeks.

“We will have an inclusive and transparent search process that considers the very best internal and external candidates,” Nelson said. “We intend to have participation from a wide variety of community stakeholders, including police employees and members of the public.”

Lawless will continue as acting chief during the recruitment process, Nelson said.

The mayor added that the search firm currently under consideration specializes in police executive searches and has successfully completed other police chief searches in the region.

Nelson said he hopes a permanent police chief will be in place by June 1.

  1. Why should taxpayers’ money be spent on this needless action? Jim Lawless is fully qualified to permanently fill the police chief position. I urge council members to vote against spending funds to hire a recruitment firm.

  2. Jim Lawless is qualified and the promotion in our community should come from within the department. I fail to understand the need here to go outside. Please don’t spend time and taxpayer money needlessly on this process.

  3. Mr. Nelson will need to present a case to the Council as to why a recruiting firm to find a police chief is a necessary expense. In other words what is the cost benefit to the citizens of taking this action as opposed to just using in house HR staff to make the search? What will a recruiting firm do, that an HR director can’t? Nelson needs to convince everyone this isn’t a waste of money. That will not be easy I suspect.

  4. Good question Mike, I think this is correct but may not be totally complete without more research. But it may give insight to if we went outside or promoted from within.
    HR: Not sure how Debby H got the job, but when she was fired, we promoted from within, and the current Director was hired from the outside.

    Public Works: Phil Williams hired from outside 9 years ago, His predecessor? Do not recall.

    Parks: Carrie Hite hired from outside. Current plans to replace?

    Economic Dev: Stehpen Clifton, from outside I think? Patrick D, was outside

    Planning: Lyle Chrisman?? Duane Bowman? Shane Hope, hired from MLT.

    Fire: Tom T until we decided to subcontract fire services and same about $2m a year.

    Police: David S, outside or inside? Chief Al C, promoted from within. 40 years from rookie to chief to retirement!

    So we have promoted from within and gone outside.

    One of the key things not currently being discussed. “Is this the time to review how we provide police services? Should we work with our neighbors like Esperance, Woodway,Lynwood, MLT and other south county entities to create a new model for police functions. This could potentially same money, change the physical location of the police facilities and free up valuable space” We did it for Fire much to our benefit maybe it would work for Police.

  5. Great point Darrol. If we don’t need an “Edmonds” fire department, why do we need an “Edmonds” police department? Why not an all South County Police Dept. and eliminate another city beuracracy here in town? Sargents and Captains are less expensive than Chiefs and Asstant Chiefs. I would suspect buying 20 police cruisers at a time might be cheaper than 5 at a time. Economy of scale and all that. We could even just contract with the County for services like some North County towns do.

    1. A consolidated police department could be a good thing, but that would take considerable time to pull off so we need to proceed with the naming of a police chief. It took about one year to do the fire deal; a police deal would probably take longer because we’d be starting from scratch. as there’s not now a police group comparable the FD1 that we contracted with.
      The city needs to get on with naming Jim Lawless the permanent chief and not needlessly waste money and time with a recruiting firm.

  6. Just appoint Lawless Chief pro tem and petition the County Council to contract with the Sherrif’s Dept. I think that’s what Stanwood did. If it takes a year, it takes a year. Edmonds police should qualify to transfer to County Deputy status with little problem so lay offs could be a non issue. Could be a prime opportunity time to make this change to save some tax payer money.

  7. I don’t think we should merge with the County for police services. County officers are stretched too thin with boundaries from near Stanwood to Edmonds and east to Gold Bar in the south and Darrington in the north. The way they function is also different. County officers have to be used to patrolling and working on their own. Edmonds officers do not.

    Also, I’m not really sure that there is a tax savings. Taxing agencies have limits, and if you add another taxing authority, the City can keep its limit and the new agency can tax also.

  8. Point’s well taken Tina. I’m not necessarily advocating a switch to contracting out police, I’m simply suggesting that this would be the time to look at such a move since we seem to feel that contracting out Fire was a smart move economically. Simply appoint the guy who is holding down the fort now, and spend the time it will require to analyze all the options.

    Personally, I’m skeptical that it was all that smart to give up our local control and identification as Edmond’s Fire, but if it really saved the 2 million $’s claimed it probably was the prudent move. The same might be true of Edmond’s Police and the possibility should be looked at from a pure economical standpoint. I doubt the average citizen would notice much change in how things law enforcement are done any more than we notice how things Fire are done.

    I did have one personal experience at an Edmond’s old car show (as an exhibitor) involving a fire dept. decision that I think would have been different if they were City vs. South County Fire. In the great scheme of things, however, it was nothing.

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