Two finalists announced for Edmonds police chief

Jim Lawless
Sherman Pruitt

Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson on Tuesday announced that he has selected two finalists for the the position of Edmonds Police Chief — one of them Acting Police Chief Jim Lawless. The second candidate is Sherman Pruitt, current chief of police, director of public safety and emergency management services, with the Sauk-Suiattle Police Department.

“Both candidates bring a wealth of valuable experience,” Nelson said in announcing the finalists.

The two were chosen after a nearly two-month application process, and will now participate in two interview panels — one comprised of community members and the other of law enforcement officials — during the week of Nov. 2. There will also be an online public forum Monday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. Residents who are interested in submitting questions for the forum should send those to Jessica.neillhoyson@edmondswa.gov no later than Wednesday, Nov. 4.

Prior to his assignment as acting chief, Lawless was the assistant chief of police – field services with the City of Edmonds for 12 1/2 years, and was named acting chief after longtime Police Chief Al Compaan retired in December. Lawless has worked for the City of Edmonds for 25 years, and has over 33 years’ experience in law enforcement. He holds a master’s degree in public administration, a masters certificate in law enforcement management and a bachelor of arts, social sciences (magna cum laude) with an emphasis in sociology/psychology/criminal justice. He is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy.

In Pruitt’s current position, he supervises and manages the police department, fish and wildlife enforcement and emergency management services. Prior to his current position, Pruitt — who has been in law enforcement for 14 years — was the interim chief of police with the Tulalip Police Department. Prior to entering law enforcement, Pruitt served in both the Marine Corps and the Washington Air National Guard for 20 years in total. He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration and is a graduate of both the Chief of Police Command Executive Academy and the Criminal Justice Executive Leadership Management Training.

According to the city’s announcement, the initial four-week Chief of Police posting received 16 applications. Of those, 12 were selected as meeting minimum qualifications, and were further reviewed by the city’s human resources director with respect to the specific qualifications for police chief.  Most candidates failed to exhibit sufficient command staff experience, having only corrections experience, and/or having worked in agencies much smaller than the Edmonds Police Department, the city said. After that review, three candidates were forwarded to the mayor for his review — and he approved all three candidates to proceed in the process.

Once the candidates were notified they had been selected for further consideration, one withdrew from the process, the city said. As a result, the position was reposted for three additional weeks with the intent of obtaining another qualified candidate — so there was a slate of three candidates for Edmonds City Council consideration. The three-week posting resulted in five additional applicants; however, none of them met the qualifications to move on, the city. said.

Community panel members selected to interview two finalists inlude:

Dr. Gustavo Balderas, Superintendent Edmonds School District

Darnesha Weary, community member

Sekou Koné, Diversity Commission member

Alicia Crank, community member

Owen Lee, Youth Commissioner member

Richard Taylor, community member

Jan Flom, Swedish Edmonds Nursing Director

Shubert Ho, business owner

Law enforcement panel members include:

Dan Templeman, Everett Chief of Police

James Nelson, Lynnwood Chief of Police

Shawn Ledford, Shoreline Chief of Police

Ross Sutton, Edmonds Police Officer Association President

A second representative to be determinef from the Edmonds Police Officer Association

Edmonds City Code provides for city council interviews of two or three finalists.  The council must approve having only two finalists to interview, even in cases when enhanced recruitment efforts have yielded only two finalists, the city said. After their interviews, the council will provide their input to the mayor, who will make his final appointment decision based on input from council, the panelists and the public forum — plus his own interviews.

Nelson’s appointment is subject to council confirmation.

The selection of Lawless as a finalist comes after the city council in August rejected efforts by Nelson and his administration to amend the current city code requirement for the mayor to bring three candidates before the council for director positions. That proposed change would have paved the way for Nelson to permanently appoint Lawless, who was the mayor’s choice for the permanent police chief job.

Even though Nelson had come into the mayor’s office in January announcing he would open up a recruitment process for a police chief, he explained in late July that he chose Acting Chief Lawless after watching the long-time Edmonds police veteran in action during the COVID-19 crisis. Nelson also said he was “very doubtful” the city could find candidates “that will fill the need and immediacy during this crisis. He (Lawless) is the best person for the job.”

 

40 Replies to “Two finalists announced for Edmonds police chief”

    1. Sherman Pruitt would not only brings diversity to the Edmonds community and law enforcement but also brings a wealth of knowledge and leadership. I’ve known him since he was with Tulalip law enforcement to his interim chief position there and now at his current position. He truly cares about his community and would be the best fit

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  1. Chief Lawless certainly seems to be a perfect fit for the job. His long service to Edmonds and his impressive credentials speak volumes!

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    1. Chief Pruitt has worked tirelessly to help his community come together. He is the impidamy of community Policing. He loves working with the youth to help bring change for the better of their future. He would make an amazing addition to the Department. He is an Officer’s Chief.

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  2. Both of these candidates appear to be well suited for the job. I look forward to the public forum and appreciate the effort Edmonds has put into finding a new police chief. This position deserves this level of review.

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    1. I feel Sherman Pruitt would be an amazing leader. With his years in the military and 16 years in the police force, gives him the knowledge and experience with listening and leading.
      Sherman Pruitt volunteered to be a coach at the Boys and Girls Club. Not only did he teach the kids the skills and techniques needed to play, he also thought respect, good sportsmanship and what a true definition of TEAM. Not only did the players look up to him, the parents did as well. Respect is what stands out to me about Sherman. He is a family man, a community volunteer, a man that will put his heart and soul into making any community he serves better, stronger and safer. Edmonds would be lucky to have Sherman Pruitt as Chief of Police.

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  3. I was hired and worked for Sherman at Tulalip. By far the best boss I have ever had. Does what is right, cares about and listen to the community, and always supports his officers and department. He’d be a great selection!

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    1. Pruitt was my my Sgt when he was at Tulalip and as a dispatcher, I knew I could always rely on his support and managing the calls Officers were sent to. He did a great job interacting with the community from the elders to the children. I feel that the City of Edmonds has 2 fine candidates to choose from and I wish Pruitt the best.

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  4. I believe Jim Lawless is the best and only choice. The council has not treated him well. Chief Lawless has served our city well for many years and was responsible for a smooth transition when Chief Compaan retired and COVID landed. To select anyone else would be shameful for our town. Appoint Jim Lawless for Edmonds Police Chief.

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    1. Sherman Pruitt is not only a veteran for 20 years and served, upported and kept the community’s he kept safe for 16 years as an officer he is an example to many
      He volunteered many years as a coach, my son was lucky enough to be on his team when he was 8. Sherman Pruitt taught more than just the skills of the game, he taught respect, honor and good sportsmanship. He was an example to many of the parents as well.
      I know Sherman Pruitt will be an asset to the Edmonds Police force. He will be a leader that others will be honored to follow.

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    2. May I ask why you think the City Council has not treated him well?

      Mayor Nelson issued a Press Release on April 9, 2020 that he was appointing Acting Police Chief Jim Lawless as the City’s next permanent Police Chief. At the time he did so, it was well known that the City Council had to interview at least two candidates PRIOR to the Mayor’s appointment. The Mayor’s April 9th appointment was not the fault of Mr. Lawless or the fault of the City Council. Mayor Nelson knew the law, ECC 2.10.010 (D), as clearly disclosed in the February 18, 2020 City Council Agenda Packet.

      The City Council did not have the legal option of confirming Mr. Lawless as Police Chief after Mayor Nelson announced his appointment on April 9, 2020.

      After acting contrary to our City laws, Mayor Nelson tried to get the City Council to change the related law after the fact. This effort is documented in the July 21, 2020 City Council Meeting Agenda Packet.

      While this was going on, the acting directorship expired and was deemed vacant effective June 30, 2020. The City Attorney confirmed this during the July 21, 2020 City Council Meeting.

      Now we are at a point in time where the Mayor has identified two candidates. As the article states: “The council must approve having only two finalists to interview, even in cases when enhanced recruitment efforts have yielded only two finalists, the city said.”

      Hopefully the next step in this long process is for the Mayor to ask the City Council to consider and vote on the required waiver. This waiver requires a super majority, a majority plus one of the full City Council.

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      1. Thank you for summarizing the situation. I believe that the city’s policy is dumb. When one fully qualified candidate has been identified it is asinine to search for additional candidates.

        I fail to see how Mr. Pruitt is qualified to be Edmonds Police Chief. This article indicates that he has spent only 14 years in law enforcement. That’s an exceptionally short period of time to progress from the bottom to the top. Perhaps that was ok for the small community of Sauk-Suiattle, but Edmonds has about as many city employees as Sauk-Suiattle as total residents!

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        1. You are welcome Ron. The City Council that adopted this law may have felt strongly about it as evidenced by the fact they required a super majority to waive the three-interview requirement and only interview two candidates.

          There is interesting discussion of this topic in the January 7, 2014 City Council Meeting Minutes. See Pages 15-18 of those minutes. Following are a few excerpts:

          “Councilmember Fraley-Monillas referred to the Council’s confirmation as a rubberstamp and asked why the Council interviews candidates at all if the Council can only say yes or no and the Mayor makes the final decision. Mr. Taraday answered confirmation is a significant power. He provided the example of President Obama’s inability to appoint appellate court judges because the senate will not confirm because of the filibuster. The Council has that same power to not confirm an appointment; the Mayor cannot hire without the Council’s confirmation.“

          “Councilmember Fraley-Monillas commented that if it is a true confirmation process, it would be better to have more choices than less. In her 30+ years of experience in government, the appointing authority consistently had a choice of three top candidates. She supported the Council interviewing three candidates.”

          “Councilmember Fraley-Monillas said if the Council only interviewed one candidate there was no purpose in having a confirmation process.”

          I recommend reading the full minutes to prevent anything being taken out of context. I selected the above three excerpts as they seem relevant.

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        2. Ken: Thank you for this info.

          The city’s hiring process is very bureaucratic which is understandable with the origin of it known. I had more than 1,000 people in my organization so I’ve had considerable experience with the hiring of people for very senior positions. Once you have found a fully qualified candidate it’s a waste of time and money to consider any others.

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        3. Hi Ron – I am simply pointing out what the law is now. Should City Council consider another update to this Code Section in the future, citizens will have a chance to weigh in on the matter.

          On a related topic, hopefully the significant code rewrite needs will receive some attention during this budgeting cycle.

          This topic brings back memories of my Guest Column written back in 2012. I made comments to that column out into 2013:

          https://myedmondsnews.com/2012/01/guest-column-thoughts-about-city-officers-and-the-edmonds-city-code/

          Some people (probably very few!) might find that Guest Column and related comments to be of interest. For me, reading it again this morning was quite a trip down memory lane.

          I wish Mayor Nelson would explain why he acted as he did on April 9, 2020. On July 9, 2019, he was one of seven Councilmembers who voted unanimously to waive the three-interview rule and only interview two candidates for the vacant Human Resource Director position.

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  5. By all accounts, the Edmonds Police Department is an excellent and well-lead organization that serves our city very well. If there were problems or issues large enough to warrant a change in top leadership, surely we would know about them by now.

    Mayor Nelson was correct last spring when he selected Jim Lawless to be permanent chief. I trust he will stay with that decision and that city council will promptly confirm it.

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  6. I always know that when I have a question or problem I can reach out to Chief Pruitt. I have confidence and trust in knowing that he will always give me honesty and respect. His intelligence, respect and calmness Has always made me feel comfortable in knowing I can put my trust in him.

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    1. Sherman Pruitt would me a welcomed addition to the Edmonds Police Department and the city of Edmonds. He is an honest upstanding person with strong community and family values. He is a great choice for Police Chief of Edmonds.

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  7. We are fortunate to have two eminently qualified candidates for the position. I trust that the panelists and council will approach the interview and selection process with an open mind, and without any bias or pre-judging whatsoever (that is the very least that is owed both candidates). I personally would be thrilled to have either Acting Chief Lawless, or Chief Pruitt as our permanent chief, and I thank both of them for offering up their candidacies.

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  8. Sherman is the MAN! We need more police officers like him. With all the narratives being followed in today’s media Sherman stands tall and treats everyone with respect and is a very honorable man!

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  9. Sherman Pruitt is a great man, police officer and mentor. I believe will be a perfect fit for Edmonds due to his diverse background.

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  10. Sherman Pruitt has the ability to win our hearts. He is a great family man who has compassion, structure and speaks truth. He is the ideal Cheif you want running your city. You want someone who can win the hearts of the city. He’s trustworthy and he delivers results. He has a great family to back him with support and the community knows he’s the man for the job. We need him and his values in this most diverse world, especially right now.

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  11. On one hand we are saying Mayor Nelson was correct in changing the process and making the acting chief permanent. On the other hand we are saying Mayor Nelson broke the law in doing this and the process should have been followed. It can’t be both folks. These are mutually exclusive postulates. This is why the “Court of Public Opinion” is a lousy place to try to make important decisions like this and none of these comments are worth much, in reality, as to our best choice for the position.

    It appears that we have now chosen the process over the arbitrary appointment, so we owe it to both these fine gentlemen to openly and honestly weigh their qualifications and pick the most qualified in the end. When we do this fairly, I think the choice will become somewhat obvious. Many qualifications are, in fact, quantifiable and that’s what counts.

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    1. Mayor Nelson’s decision to make the appointment of Jim Lawless permanent was by no means an arbitrary decision. He made that decision after observing that Lawless could very satisfactorily do the job.

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    1. Ron, happy to give you well reasoned over arbitrary but that doesn’t change the fact Mayor Mike was circumventing code with his decision. In a way the Council saved his bacon by not giving in on this, which could have been a recall issue for the Nelson detractors in town. It’s much better this way for all concerned, if handled as a fair comparison of qualifications. Pointing at facts is much stronger than pointing at opinions.

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  12. I worked at Edmonds PD for over 33 years, 35 years total in Law Enforcement. When Chief Lawless was first hired he actually worked for me on patrol. Over the years I had personally observed his rise to sergeant then assistant chief, it was then my turn to work for him. Not only was Chief Lawless a fair and honest person to work for, he pushed himself to improve. This was indicated by his working on his masters degree while still leading our patrol division in a suburb manner. He is not only more than qualified but his dedication to our department and the City of Edmonds is unparalleled. Chief Lawless will make a great permanent Chief for Edmonds.

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  13. If we want the Mayor to always have the absolute final say in hiring and firing then that needs to be the code. If we want the Council to have the final say, then that needs to be the code. What we have now is just confusion over who has the power to do what. Ron W. seems to favor the private business model of the CEO having the final say in such matters. The council seems to feel that the public business should be approached differently than how a private business might operate in personnel decisions. You either have broad based democracy or you have strong man rule. The hybrid model for both Edmonds and the country as a whole, just doesn’t seem to work anymore because we are all so sure we are always right. My contention here is that the right thing to do is judge these two gentlemen on their quantifiable qualifications, and choose based on that. I could be wrong about this.

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  14. It’s been said that, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten” Nothing can be more factual when choosing the right person to lead a Police Department. I’d like to remind the powers that be, to resist the temptation to fill a vacancy with a familiar face, (such as a 25 year employee of the City) as opposed to openly evaluating both candidates independently, with clear and concise assessments of each candidate’s professional and personal integrity. The citizens of Edmonds deserve that. Mayor Nelson himself said, “Both candidates bring a wealth of valuable experience” Having worked for Chief Pruitt, I can assure you that statement is not only accurate, but an understatement. Chief Pruitt is a combat Veteran who supports his rank and file because he knows the hard work they do because he has personally made those sacrifices. That my friend, is how you climb to the top in 14 years. Respect, honor, transparency and leadership have been the cornerstone to Chief Pruitt’s success. This will be evident, come the public forum in November.

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    1. Jim Lawless has decades of service and experience as a law enforcement officer in Edmonds and has worked his way up in the ranks from patrol officer to Assistant Chief and now acting Chief. He knows our community and it’s citizens. He deserves to be our Chief of Police. From personal experience I know Jim to be an honest and honorable leader. Service to our community should mean something and I hope our Council members feel the same. Please confirm Jim Lawless as our Chief of Police.

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      1. Confirmation of anybody as Police Chief is not possible yet. The Mayor’s April 9th Appointment was premature and not allowed under our Code.

        I think the next step in this process is for City Council to vote to waive the top three candidates requirement and only interview two candidates.

        Assuming a super majority of City Council votes to do so, then the process can move forward.
        Panel interviews of final candidates seems to be a new step – my memory is that panels have occasionally been used to help determine the final 3 or 2 candidates in the past.

        After the City Council completes its interviews, the Mayor can announce his Appointment. The City Council then votes to confirm or not confirm. As City Attorney Taraday said in 2014 – the Mayor cannot hire (Appointive Officers) without the Council’s confirmation.

        Appointive Officers include all director-level positions in the city’s adopted budget, including the police chief.

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    2. “Chief Pruitt is a combat Veteran who supports his rank and file because he knows the hard work they do because he has personally made those sacrifices.”

      In today’s environment would that not be considered a negative by the BLM/Antifa crowd? Though at the same time I could see the same people make the argument of systemic racism if Pruitt doesn’t get the job. Will be interesting to see which point matters more to them.

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  15. I agree. It would be great to never hear about “systemic racism” in any context at all want so ever. It’s a bunch of nonsense. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,

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