Letter to the editor: Why Jim Lawless should be promoted as permanent police chief


There are several key reasons why our city council should adopt the “promote from within” attitude by strongly considering promoting Acting Chief Jim Lawless to police chief.

With the support of Assistant Chief of Police Jim Lawless, a change in the direction of hiring occurred by increasing the diversity of ethnic and racial composition of the Edmonds Police Department to match the influx of newcomers to Edmonds.  Of the last 12 hires, 10 were either female or persons of color. Edmonds Police Department has recruited the best individuals to our community. The women on the department are respected and described by the rank and file as “awesome.”

Statistics show that it takes about two to three years for an external hire to build relationships. Given the tension between other communities and their law enforcement, do we want to take on that challenge here when the Edmonds Police Department has such a good rapport with the five neighborhoods that comprise Edmonds?

The men and women within the department have confidence in Acting Chief Lawless and his leadership. The example he has set and the relationships he has within the department are key to having respectful continuity between the community and the police department.

Are you aware that the Edmonds Police Department is undergoing a loss of internal institutional knowledge and community history? The long-term officers are retiring rapidly, five during 2019, three this year and six more expected to retire in 2021.  This is a critical issue that we ignore at our peril. Failing to recognize that we need to retain and transfer this valuable knowledge could result in loss of faith by new hires in their training and upward mobility. This could result in employee turnover and increased costs associated with rehiring more new officers.

Appointing Acting Chief Lawless as chief of police allows the passage of his 25 years of law enforcement in Edmonds and his community knowledge to be shared with the next generation safeguarding the department and its relationship with the community to continue seamlessly.

Consider too the value of allegiance by officers and staff. Studies show that recognition, respect and upward mobility result in loyalty and retention of the best employees.

Finally, consider the cost involved in not recognizing the talent within the department and the preparation of employees who are interested in executive leadership. Employees look for opportunity within their organization. Edmonds Police Department has had a successful history of promotion from within. When my late husband, David, was hired to be the police chief in 2001, there wasn’t anyone within the department who was interested in taking on the responsibility of chief of police. That made going outside the department a necessity. Today that is not the case. Acting Chief Jim Lawless is prepared and ready to take on this responsibility.  We currently have important components in place: diversity in ethnicity and respect between the department and the community. Edmonds deserves the best and we already have it within the Edmonds Police department.

Darlene Stern

6 Replies to “Letter to the editor: Why Jim Lawless should be promoted as permanent police chief”

    1. I wholeheartedly support the hiring of Jim Lawless as. Chief of Police in Edmonds. He brings a complete understanding of all that it means to be part of the Edmonds police family.
      We have the most highly respected and appreciated police departments in our state.
      The citizens of Edmonds trust and respect our officers and the entire police department knows what a great honor it is to serve and protect those citizens.
      If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

      Dick Van Hollebeke
      former City Council person


  1. Glad to read this clear case for promotion from within for our new police chief–thank you, Darlene! So many of us have experienced the emphasis on serving the actual community with respect and understanding from our cohesive and effective police department and so let’s keep it strong by using our resources–current police Acting Chief, for example!


  2. This decision comes down to simple logic. So far I haven’t seen one letter or comment here that disparages Mr. Lawless in any way or argues for why we should go out of house to find a chief. Logically, if you had a situation of graft and corruption going on then it would be stupid not to go outside to for the chief. If everything is going well and honest in a Police department, don’t mess with it! We are lucky to have what we have here.


    1. Right on! And we take the risk that if Jim Lawless isn’t soon permanently made chief he moves on to an opportunity in some other municipality.


  3. Well put, Darlene. I couldn’t agree more.

    As a longtime member and past president of the Edmonds Police Foundation, I have always had a very high opinion of (hopefully) future Chief Lawless. I do not know one officer or even a citizen in town who has any issues with his promotion.

    Other than our new mayor, it seems.

    Let’s not waste more money on yet another outside consultant for something completely unnecessary.


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