Updated: Mayor picks Lawless as Edmonds’ permanent police chief, pending city council confirmation

Jim Lawless

Updated April 10 with additional details on expenses for the search firm.

Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson announced Thursday that Acting Edmonds Police Chief Jim Lawless will be the city’s next permanent police chief, pending city council confirmation.

“One measure of a person’s worth is how they perform during a crisis,” Nelson said. “This has been a crisis like no other. Acting Chief Lawless has been a steady, firm hand during a time of uncertainty. I can’t imagine a person better suited for this job than Jim.”

Lawless was appointed acting chief after longtime Edmonds Chief Al Compaan retired at the end of December 2019. After new Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson took office in January, he indicated his intent to perform a national search for a new chief.

The city council on Feb. 18 was briefed on Nelson’s decision to retain a national search firm — California-based Public Sector Search & Consulting (PSS&C) — to look for a police chief, at a base cost of $22,500 plus up to $6,000 for expenses.

City of Edmonds spokeswoman Jamie Holter said the city paid a $5,625 fee to initiate the contract, which covered initial work. The mayor also asked Acting Chief Lawless to apply for the job. “We put the process on hold early March when the pandemic became our priority,” Holter said. “Now that we have chosen our police chief, we have terminated the contract and are working on the details to close it out.”

Lawless has served as Edmonds PD’s assistant chief since 2008 and the acting chief of police since Jan. 1. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Illinois and a bachelor of arts degree with concentrations in sociology, psychology and criminal justice from Washington State University.

He is a 2009 graduate of the FBI National Academy, Session 236, as well as a 2013 graduate of the FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Seminar. Also. in 2013, Lawless was named the department’s 2013 Officer of the Year, as selected by his fellow officers

“It is my honor and privilege to have this amazing opportunity to lead the fine men and women of the Edmonds Police Department,” Lawless said. “I am very appreciative of the confidence and support of the mayor in appointing me to this position. I am also extremely thankful for the confidence and support of the city council, the members of the department and the public.”

Prior to becoming acting chief, Lawless had worked as the assistant chief for field services (Patrol) and, until recently, served as the commander of the North Sound Metro SWAT Team, comprised of officers from 10 jurisdictions, serving a population of over 360,000.

Lawless began his law enforcement career in 1987 with the Key West, Fla. Police Department. In May 1995, he relocated to Edmonds, where he began his career with Edmonds PD. In January 2002, he was promoted to the rank of corporal and in May of the same year he was promoted to sergeant, supervising various patrol squads. He has also served as a department instructor at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Academy.

“I am delighted that Acting Chief Lawless has agreed to continue his career in the service of the Edmonds Police Department and all our residents,” Nelson added.


  1. Woohoo! Congratulations Jim! Well deserved and you will make a good chief. Very happy for you and for our city. It’s an Edmonds Kind of Day!

  2. Good decision. It shows flexibility in decision making-good sign.
    Now to think about not paying champagne taste salaries on beer pocketbook tax revenue.
    No doubt the slowdown in car sales will be hitting Edmonds tax revenues hard.

  3. Talk about hitting the ground running! It is not likely that a better choice could be found anywhere. Congrats to all. Jim, I miss seeing you in the morning at HSAC.

    1. For those interested, here’s an update from the mayor’s office on the status of the contract the city entered into with Public Sector Search and Consulting to do a national police chief search: “We hired Public Sector Search and Consulting, a company nationally recognized for doing specific Police Chief searches. We allocated $28,000 dollars for the work. We paid a $5,625 fee to initiate the contract. The firm did initial work and the Mayor asked APC Lawless to apply. We put the process on hold early March when the pandemic became our priority. Now that we have chosen our PC, we have terminated the contract and are working on the details to close it out.” We will incorporate this into the story.

      1. It’s pretty clear that Chief Lawless is both the popular and logical choice for Edmonds, and the mayor should be applauded for arriving at this decision. I also think it’s relevant that every mayor’s career had to have a rookie season where big lessons are learned, and citizens need to allow for that. As more details emerge on the total monetary cost of this particular AFGO, I’m hoping that the mayor will be forthright about the process, and the costs, and the lessons learned. Transparency in situations like this not only help quash the issue, it can help build trust.

        1. Some costs could have been saved had a consultant not been retained, but I believe citizens received even greater value learning what Barbara said above: “It shows flexibility in decision making-good sign.” We now know that our mayor will change his mind when that’s the appropriate thing to do.

  4. A timely and quality decision that correctly provides our Community with a locally experienced Police Chief. And with a candidate who has the “Right Stuff”! ….CONGRATS JIM!! ……….We feel safer already!

  5. So happy to hear of this selection. This is a critical position for the city especially at this time and Jim Lawless is the ideal person for the city of Edmonds. He has demonstrated his commitment to the protection and safety of his staff and the Edmonds residents.

  6. Jim has been very supportive of the Senior Center and seniors in general. It’s not often that you look at decisions like this and can say “that’s a perfect choice”, but it is in this case. Congratulations Jim and very good job Mayor Mike.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Real first and last names — as well as city of residence — are required for all commenters.
This is so we can verify your identity before approving your comment.

By commenting here you agree to abide by our Code of Conduct. Please read our code at the bottom of this page before commenting.