Letter to the editor: Support Jim Lawless for permanent Edmonds Police Chief job


The position of chief of police is critical to the city. Our community is most fortunate to be an active, caring community, one that strives to appreciate our culture and public safety for those who live, work, and visit us. Our police department needs to reflect high moral values, empirical driven standards, and work as guardians of the community for everyone.

In this time of crisis, it has been stressful and brought hardship to some who live among us. Amid this crisis, we are seeing an opportunity for a new mindset to address and build on citizen concerns. I join many who believe Jim Lawless will excel as chief of police, provide exceptional leadership and ensure the department embraces these values. The citizens of Edmonds are very fortunate to have such a person.

The mayor started a recruitment process for the open position of chief of police but ended that action due to the Coronavirus crisis. On April 9, 2020, he announced he would tap Acting Chief Jim Lawless as the permanent chief with council confirmation still required. In the press release, the Mayor stated, “One measure of a person’s worth is how they perform during a crisis. 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.”

The action of the mayor seemed reasonable based on unusual circumstances. But as it turns out, it would require addressing an exception to the ordinance [ECC 2.10.10 D] as there is no provision for a single candidate. Any change to the ordinance would have required agreement by the city council.

With the council voting to comply with the ordinance as it stands, it means resuming recruitment for additional names for consideration. With the mayor steadfast behind his appointment, it could be quite politically precarious to ask other candidates to come forward at this point. That said, the process should strive not to place any outside candidate or Lawless in a situation that might potentially imperil their career.

I do not believe we would find any person more qualified than Jim Lawless. We cannot exclude the value and service he has brought to our community. I make my educated choice of supporting Jim Lawless based on my extensive professional experience working with numerous chiefs and other senior-ranking command officers and government leaders at various jurisdiction levels, nationally and globally.

There are solid facts to support his nomination not only as a law enforcement officer but as a person of good character, respecting his fellow citizens; and ensuring the women and men of the department do the same. He is a long-time known quantity in Edmonds, being part of our community and joining the department in 1995. He has distinguished himself in several positions, including deputy chief.

One should never take anything for granted, no matter how right the decision is. Therefore, I ask my fellow citizen to express their support for Jim Lawless and let the councilmembers hear your voice to retain Acting Chief Lawless as the permanent chief of police. Letters, testimony, calls, texting, emails, and even posters are great ways to express your support. Thank you for your consideration of this issue.

Jay Grant

  1. I wholeheartedly agree. Why waste time and money when we have the best possible choice already? (Acting) Chief Lawless has done a stellar job, especially having been faced with a pandemic shortly after Chief Compaan retired. Make Jim Lawless our appointed police chief now!

  2. As the former Superintendent/CEO of Verdant Health Commission, I would be remiss if I did not chime in on this issue. I had the privilege of working with AC Lawless throughout my tenure of overseeing your Public Hospital District. During that time, he consistently showed up as a strong promoter of the overall health of Edmonds. He served on numerous projects with me directly related to serving the City’s most vulnerable and underserved residents. He was one of the founding members of the South County Chronic Utilizer Alternative Response Team which provided case management for those residents whose behavioral health issues and homelessness led to costly over utilization of law enforcement, the emergency department and EMS, all of which cost taxpayer dollars. He presented to students studying health policy at UW Bothell on the overlap between policing and mental health and homelessness–a presentation which I later learned was one of the most engaging and effective class lectures ever given. He spent countless hours with me and command staff from Lynnwood Police Department creating a document using a national best practice that examined the intersection of the entire law and justice system with behavioral health in order to determine where the gaps were so that program improvements could be made. There are so many more examples I could provide; however, my word count is limited.

    Collaboration moves at the speed of trust. AC Lawless has proven time and again to be a trustworthy, collaborative ally whose primary interest focuses on the community he serves. At a time when we need strong partnerships more than anything, his compassion and caring make him the ideal partner. While I no longer work in the district, I believe it would be detrimental to the City to lose his leadership of your Police Department.

  3. Respectfully, I’m puzzled why you would encourage Citizens to write their Councilmembers and ask they do something our laws don’t currently allow, retain Acting Chief Lawless as the permanent Police Chief.

    I also believe Jim Lawless can excel as Police Chief and provide exceptional leadership. We are fortunate to have such a person in Edmonds.

    However, City Council just acted on August 4th, via a motion that passed 4-3, to not change our laws. Our laws require that the City Council shall interview the top three candidates for each Appointive Officer position PRIOR to the mayor’s appointment. Mayor Nelson knew the law long before Covid. He also knew the law long before he announced his appointment in April – prior to Council interviewing even a single candidate.

    Doesn’t Council’s August 4th Legislative Act stand unless one of the 4 who voted for it makes a motion to Reconsider the August 4th Legislative Act? If so, shouldn’t Citizens who want only one Police Chief candidate first write the 4 Councilmembers and request Reconsideration of their August 4th vote (assuming writing Councilmembers is how a citizen can initiate Reconsideration)?

    There has long been confusion and uncertainty about Reconsideration in Edmonds. As I posted on July 30th, I have been asking City Council to disclose Reconsideration procedures to the public for years. Despite my multiple requests, Reconsideration procedures/policies have never been provided.

    Maybe it is time that our City Government clarifies how citizens can request Reconsideration. Reconsideration policies and procedures should be clear, not arbitrary.

    1. Council can entertain a fresh motion, perhaps with some updated parameters, and then vote to repair this massive and risky predicament we’re in. But it appears that council president would have to give permission to her bloc first.

  4. To clarify: I was explaining the circumstances of what happened and expressing my opinion. Some who do not watch all the ins and outs of the proceedings may have not understood what procedurally happened. I had received those types of questions.

    I was suggesting that citizens let Members of the City Council know they want Jim Lawless selected as the Chief of Police. This is because in the end the Council must approve the appointment, regardless of timing.

    There are ways for the Council to reconsider the issue if they so choose. Citizens can ask Council Member(s) to reconsider language in some form, but it is their responsibility. In this case we are just the voice of the community. I hope that clarifies my intent. Thank you for your confidence in Acting Chief Lawless!

    1. Clinton may be opening a door to discussing City Manager Council government. It’s COVID time; I’ve heard and seen whackier ideas. It may be a bit of philosophical or theoretical fun, if nothing else. I could see multiple commenters from this post who may be interested in discussing a stronger Council government.

  5. Thanks. One point I am trying to make is that under our current laws, City Council cannot approve the appointment unless they interview the top three (or two if they opt to interview only two) candidates PRIOR to the mayor’s appointment. So, they cannot approve the Mayor’s April 9th appointment. Such is not a legal option. As such, the Mayor tried to get City Council to change our laws after he had already acted. The Mayor’s effort was voted down, 4 to 3.

    As such, I think all that can be done now is for Reconsideration to be initiated by 1 of the 4 who voted in the majority.

    I hope you and others will join me in making a request for the policies and procedures that govern Reconsideration. Knowledge of and full disclosure of those policies and procedures would benefit all, including Councilmembers. How citizens can encourage a Councilmember to initiate something as important as Reconsideration should not be so mysterious and arbitrary.

    My understanding is that only the 4 Members of the City Council who voted in the majority can initiate Reconsideration if they so choose. As we learned from the Marsh Opinion Letter, the 3 Members of the City Council who voted in the minority should not attempt to influence something contrary to the vote of the majority.


    As such, citizens writing to those who voted in the minority may be encouraging those Councilmembers to do something they should not be doing – influence action contrary to the majority vote.

    It would be nice if the City would provide some clarity so all, including Members of the City Council, know how this type of situation is supposed to work.

  6. Mr. Reidy is totally correct on this issue. By acting as they did the City Council put both themselves and the Mayor in an untenable position. They could have saved the Mayor from himself and themselves from themselves but chose to make everyone look bad and dump on the Chief in the process. Of course the Mayor must assume some responsibility for the situation since he changed course in the middle of the voyage which has precipitated this whole mess. The kicker is, the Mayor has the final say in the choice; the Council input is just window dressing under this antiquated system of city government.

    I’ve watched this city government for at least 50 years and it has never been a particularly good one, in my opinion. It’s gone from a part-time poorly paid rather too powerful Mayor to a full time well paid, rather too powerful Mayor over the years. The only thing that will cure this mess is a switch over to Strong Council based on districts, Weak Mayor, and City Manager answerable to the Council form of government. That would be expensive and require a vote of the people so it won’t happen, at least anytime soon. I personally thank A.C. Lawless for being a very good guy and putting up with this. I see the Seattle Chief just resigned over the budget cuts so this search could get real interesting if she decides to apply for the Edmond’s position.

    1. Not saying there is zero chance Best will do that but it would be like a MLB starter in their prime choosing to leave and play ball in Japan.

      1. Or, it could be like a 55 year old, not ready to hang up her handcuffs professional, looking for a nitch in a smaller less difficult to manage arena that could take advantage of a local cry for more diversity by some on the council. If that position is open, some surprises will take a crack at it, just for the chance to be in Edmonds.

        1. You don’t think Best will have a shot at 100’s of higher level positions across the country than Chief of Police of the 27th largest city in Washington State? After running a police department of 1300 she is now looking to be in charge of 70?

          Even if she was willing to take the severe pay cut why pick Edmonds instead of the 1000 other cities around the country that are just like Edmonds, pride alone says that someone making that huge step down would do it out of state not next door.

    2. Thanks Clinton and thanks for sharing your experiences watching our City Government function over many decades. I have watched it closely for roughly 15 years and much of what I have observed has been disappointing.
      For example, City government’s failure to complete the Code Rewrite and refusal to disclose what the budgeted funds were used for and what percentage of the Code Rewrite has been executed.
      The bottom line, I think it prudent to periodically consider whether we are employing the best form of government for the citizens of Edmonds.
      This was given some thought back in 2010, 2011. The following article and the comments to the article provide some history and good food for thought:

  7. As a longtime taxpayer & citizen of Edmonds involved in city government, I would like to know Acting Police Chief Lawless’ involvement and action in the police department employee perfume lawsuit and the city settlement in the amount of $587,000 entered into January 2020.

  8. I ask that all those responsible for seeking and or making the choice for our Chief of Police to accept AC Jim Lawless for the position as our Chief of Police. He is a member of our community who has and is serving us admirably in these extraordinarily difficult times. He brings compassion, knowledge and vast experience with competence to this demanding job. We are so lucky to have him serving us in this position.
    As a resident of Edmonds, I naturally want the very best to guide us through what we face and will be facing in the unknown future. We have the best person to do this in Jim Lawless.
    Thank you,
    Ingrid Wolsk

  9. While there is strong support for AC Lawless, as many point out there is a process to be followed and the council was clear that it should be followed. Much has changed in the world of community policing. In addition, there has been much discussion about the need for greater diversity in thoughts and deeds in our community. As a result, this does present an opportunity to do a thorough search based on our community’s current and future needs for public safety in general and policing in particular. To do a legitimate search, the community must open itself to alternatives. Otherwise, no one legitimate will apply for consideration and we may miss an opportunity. As a starting point the city could reach out to Connie Best. While she may appear to be a long-shot, she may also be open to working for a legitimately welcoming and supportive community looking for new ideas for recruiting and training a police force that embraces and supports diversity. As we are all aware now, she lives nearby. And she may be looking for a position that offers a work / life balance that will allow her to spend quality time with her family (she has a first grandchild on the way). I know Connie through my work with the city of Seattle and she is a truly outstanding person. Seattle’s loss could be our gain.

    1. Carmen Best would be my choice for Snohomish County Sheriff, if citizens vote to recall the current incumbent for his missteps in office.

  10. Good point Ron, but since when does Edmond’s city government worry so much about what the citizens actually want? Watching these City Council meetings, it’s almost like Phil Williams is the unofficial manager of the city and he’s not even elected. It seems to me like the City Council here is pretty much just a rubber stamp for what the Mayor and his Directors want to happen in the City. The diverse groups of people of present day Edmonds have come to want true representation of their wants and needs but the current system is just not the means for accomplishing that task. For the citizens to actually get what they want, they seem to have to go to the streets as they did with the Connector. This trend is presenting itself again with the BLM issue. I’m certainly more liberal in my views than you are generally; but I think you and I would agree that rule of the mob is not a good thing to promote as a form of government. I just don’t think our city government works well anymore (if it ever did), but I don’t have any great answers either. I once criticized your City Council tenure for you always being on the fence, but now I realize you were probably just really searching for answers that made your input relevant.

  11. You’re right, Clint, council does not seem to pay much attention to the wishes of Edmonds citizens. I think that part of the problem with today’s council is that there are few independent thinkers; there are too many disciples.

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