Jim Lawless says he won’t be applying again for permanent police chief job

Jim Lawless

Updated at 9:10 p.m. Thursday with information from a Facebok video posted by Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson.

Acting Edmonds Police Chief Jim Lawless said he won’t be applying again for the job of permanent chief, stating that it’s time for the community “to begin to heal.”

“The time has come for us all to look towards what is next for the Edmonds Police Department and move forward,” Lawless said in a statement to the community Thursday. “The mayor will be conducting a national search for the next Chief of Police for the Edmonds Police Department. It is my belief that the smoothest transition possible is what is needed for the department and the community to begin to heal.”

A longtime assistant police chief, Lawless has been serving as acting chief for the past year, following the retirement of veteran Chief Al Compaan Jan. 1, 2020. During that 12-month time span, Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson started one national search, then — after that search was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic — stated that he intended to hire Lawless without a search. But the Edmonds City Council rejected that idea, so Nelson conducted a second search that produced two finalists: Lawless and Sauk-Suiattle Tribal Police Chief Sherman Pruitt. Nelson offered Pruitt the job, but that job offer was rescinded after application discrepancies came to light, and the mayor in December said he would conduct yet another search.

Nelson has not conducted media interviews on the police chief topic. But the mayor did release a six-minute video on the Edmonds City Government Facebook page Thursday afternoon — prior to Lawless issuing his statement — announcing that the city has selected a search firm — the International Association of Chiefs of Police — “the world’s largest and most influential association for police leaders,” Nelson said.

Nelson began the video by stating he wanted to address “the dangerous divisiveness and polarization sweeping our nation.” He then compared to it to what is going on with the police chief selection process in Edmonds, adding “we’ve seen how far some will go when they don’t get their way.”

“At the local level we are seeing targeted and coordinated attacks of hate, bullying to undermine our democratic principals and our rule of law,” the mayor said. “A small group of local people spreading fear and lies, trying to tear our city apart. In the end no one wins. We all lose. Because we all rise and fall together. It is time we move forward.

“I was elected by the majority of you to make positive change, not maintain the status quo,” Nelson said. While “we can all agree we want a safe community to live in, there are community members — people who are Black, people of color and others who do not feel safe in our city, who at times do not feel safe from the police,” he added. Choosing the next police chief is one way to “create a community that is safe for everyone,” Nelson said.

Nelson also spent time talking about how he plans to involve the community in the police chief selection process, along with a detailed candidate screening and evaluation process, all of which he estimated will take several months.

You can watch the mayor’s entire message via the city’s Facebook page. There was no written statement accompanying it for us to include here.

Meanwhile, as the latest chief search goes on, it’s unclear what will happen to Lawless’ acting chief assignment, which expires on Jan. 22.

Here’s the full statement issued by Acting Chief Lawless:

To the Edmonds Community,

The time has come for us all to look towards what is next for the Edmonds Police Department and move forward. The Mayor will be conducting a national search for the next Chief of Police for the Edmonds Police Department. It is my belief that the smoothest transition possible is what is needed for the department and the community to begin to heal. I will forever be grateful that for the past year plus, I have had the honor and privilege to lead the amazing women and men of this regionally respected law enforcement agency. However, I will not again apply to be the permanent Chief of Police and I accept that it was not meant to be.

As I have already stated, it has been my honor and privilege to provide direction and leadership for our staff and this wonderful community that is Edmonds. I have been incredibly impressed (but in no way surprised) by the continued professionalism and sacrifice of the women and men of your police department during this time of uncertainty and transition. The most diverse department in our city has continued to do their job at an exceptionally high level this past year, no matter what has been put in front of them. As women and men of color, diverse ethnicities and religions, and members of the LGBTQ community, our staff is representative of those we so proudly serve, our community.

So, I ask that we all move beyond the recent events and focus on what is to come. No matter where you have stood on this issue, your police department needs a nationwide pool of qualified law enforcement leaders from which to choose your next Chief of Police.  Those who apply will see that your police department is a trusted and professional organization that is ready to continue moving forward with a fantastic new generation of officers, supervisors and leadership. Let’s join together to attract the most qualified, sought after candidates a city could ask for. Your Edmonds Police Department is ready to move forward. I ask that you please join us on this journey.

Jim Lawless
Acting Chief of Police

  1. Sorry to hear this news but I get it- I wouldn’t want to be under this mayor and council’s thumb.
    This whole ordeal has been an embarrassment to our fine city and our great police department. Thank you for your service Jim we all wish you the best!

    1. So now we are going to pay again, now to begin a national search. It might be best that our mayor not talk for the rest of his term. I hope the mayor does not limit the search team in any way. I am surprised our mayor is not doing an international search for a police chief. An international search might produce a very good prospect. This individual may not speak Engish, that is ok, we would just hire a translator. Religion, and gender do not matter. There are hundreds of religions. There are over 64 terms and identity and expression. It might be a good idea to look in India, wonderful people and an amazing country. I hope our mayor does not go the paint store and come out with a color key of the complection of the person he is looking for. We have come to the point that our little town wants to achieve national and international attention. Let us hire a good person of some color, of some religion, and of some gender that will enlighten all the racists of Edmonds. But please do not let the candidate be a christian white man, we all know better and are now awoke. It is complicated to hire a police chief in a small town when you want to be a big city. There certainly is some truth in what I have said, and sprinkled with a little British humor.

      1. Fair play to you Carl. This whole process has been a joke from the beginning. Jim Lawless is a fine man a true gentleman. He has taken the department and moulded it to a more diverse, respectful and highly trained department. We have more persons of different color, religion and sexual orientation than ever before. More so than any other chief ( all due respect to both Hickory and Compaan they too were good men). This current Mayor is trying to portray the department as a bunch of racists with Jim leading the rally. That is so far from the truth it makes me sick. Jim Lawless is a champion for diversity and knows how well oiled his department can run when you have people of all colors and sexual orientation and religion sharing ideas and coming up with ideas that benefit everyone. People simply need to understand that no matter what color your skin is, whom you pray to or sleep with at night…at the end of the day it must be the most qualified person put forth to run the city. Nothing else matters in regards to the aforementioned issues. THE BEST MAN OR WOMAN period. Why is that such a hard concept to grasp. They have a beautiful woman doing a lot of the recruitment with some assistance and she is picking candidates that are the best no matter what. All this buffoonery, while an important process indeed, if done right Lawless would be chief and this would be behind us. Please remember to #DROPTHEMIC AS ELECTIONS COME AROUND. Cheers to everyone white, black, brown, gay/lesbian and let’s hope, since we lost the best candidate we can get someone to help our deeply troubled city.

      2. Thank you Bob Rinehart for your post…my sentiments exactly. It is a sad day for Edmonds…Jim is a fine example of what we hope our sons will become.

  2. What a poor victim the mayor is – is there anyone else he can blame? It would be nice if he would just own the failure of his police chief selection process, but sadly, too few politicians will do that.

  3. Jim Lawless served with honor and integrity, and departs with grace and dignity. In these uncertain times we in Edmonds have been fortunate to have such a fine example of how one should conduct oneself in a position of trust. Thank you, Sir.

    1. Another sad day for Edmonds. Jim Lawless has served our city with honor and integrity. Something that cannot be said about Mayor Nelson.
      The Mayor has made it clear he wants an outsider to run EPD because he thinks doing so will change the feelings of people who dislike or fear police. I doubt he will obtain that result. Has it worked in Seattle? No. What offends me is the apparent assumption of Mayor Nelson that EPD is plagued by racial bias. Where is the evidence of such bias? Where are the civil rights lawsuits against EPD based on racial bias? To my knowledge there have been none. Former Chief Compaan and Acting Chief Lawless have always run a fair and unbiased police department.
      We need an experienced, competent unbiased leader for EPD. Race, gender and ethnicity of our next Chief should not be factors in his or her selection.

  4. Chief Lawless – thank you for your service to this city. Your commitment to diversifying the police force and addressing issues straight on is well-known and respected – not just in this city but throughout the region.

    The Mayor was elected in a city of 43,000 people with 8721 votes. The Mayor did receive the greater number of the 15000 people who voted by 1025 votes.

    I look forward to the day when we can get back to fair play, race neutrality, free speech, and free association. I also look forward to the Mayor selecting a best-fit, best-qualified candidate and not one who has a past record that did not measure up to the present acting chief’s record.

    I appreciate the Mayor addressing those who offended and have targeted some of the city’s benevolent contributors of both time and money to important causes in this city.

    It is time to move away from identity politics. And it is time that we condemn the “summer of love” 20+ days of occupation in Seattle (CHAZ) as well as the storming of the Capital. The Mayor is right – “we’ve seen how far some will go when they don’t get their way.”

    1. I agree on getting back to fair play and race neutrality, well said. I’m at a loss as to where our free speech and free association has been affected by government, especially in Edmonds.

      1. Don – take a look at what is happening with selective censorship and individuals being targeted because of their association with groups..

        1. Mr Schindler – I found a story about where the government took away freedom of speech away from some pedophiles, which I would support them doing. Also there are plenty of examples where the private sector restricts access to digital platforms when the rules are not followed. I’m assuming that would be true on this website as well. No shoes, no shirt, no service.

          I hope you regain whatever freedom of speech that’s been taken away from you.

  5. Mr. Lawless, thank you for your heart felt letter and more importantly for your service to Edmonds. I know this was not an easy decision for you to make and I truly appreciate your professionalism. It’s very obvious to me that you are a man of integrity and good character, a man who takes the high road even though he was mistreated and embarrassed. That is not an easy thing to do.

    Compare that to what the Mayor just posted on Facebook and you will see a completely different type of person. A person who never addressed why he made the decisions he did. A person who equates the horrible events that happened at the Capital to what is going on in our city. A person who talks about divisiveness created by “certain people” when his council president started the division with the name calling and stereotyping comments of the people who live in Edmonds.

    There is no division in Edmonds Mr. Mayor. There is a lack of leadership and transparency. The COP process you oversaw hurt the lives of good people like Mr. Pruitt and Mr. Lawless. It tarnished two good men and it didn’t have to come to that. I have not heard you publicly apologize to either Mr. Pruitt or Mr. Lawless or their families. Maybe if you had done this there would be a lot more healing going on. But now you have dug in and started a whole new 5-month process without mending the first one and the people and families you hurt along the way.

    What Mr. Lawless just did was courageous and humble. Compare and contrast that to what the Mayor just posted on the city FB page and you decide who really wants healing on our city.

    1. Great reply and I second everything you say but I want to add that we need to be sure to not see this Mayor elected again to office when his time is up. His thinking is just not the kind of thoughts we want here in Edmonds and he keeps making these comments about all these various problems that Edmonds doesn’t really have. The only problem Edmonds has is a mayor and certain council members that create all sorts of division between people.

      I also want to thank Lawless for all that he’s done to help create a superb police department. I would agree it is time to retire after this disgraceful performance by the mayor. Thank you for your service and we wish you the very best as you go forward in life.

      1. “His thinking is just not the kind of thoughts we want here in Edmonds … ”

        Phillips, I too am a resident of Edmonds. How do you know what I think, and more to the point, when did you get license to start speaking for me? This is a diverse town of diverse opinions, not some creepy German town in Paraguay where everyone “shares” the same “thoughts”. You are of course free to express your own opinions, but make sure to keep me out of your “we”.

        1. Paul,

          I agree with you and I appreciate diverse opinions and perspectives! How boring would life be if we all agreed? We also couldn’t learn from each other.

          I’m clearly not part of the “we” on MEN, but I won’t allow anyone to remove my voice.

          Thanks for having the courage to express yourself!

      2. Ward. See link below that calls for Mayor Nelson’s resignation for his handling of this situation. It’s obvious that he doesn’t know what he is doing and has now hired two search firms and used a lot of our money in the process. He still has not apologized to either Mr. Pruitt or Mr. Lawless. And now he is using Facebook to make a statement instead of going to the local My Edmonds News and doing an interview as to why he did what he did. It’s obvious that he is hiding from any people that have questions for him and just wants to make statements on Facebook and equate what is happening in our city to what happened at the Capital. Sounds like a lot of deflection to me.

        It’s obvious someone gave him some talking points. He may want to consider hiring someone else to help him with this kind of stuff. My first advice is apologize to Mr. Pruitt and his family then apologize to Mr. Lawless and his family,. That would be a good first step.


        Drop the Mike!!

  6. Thank you for serving as Chief of Police, Chief Lawless. I hope you stay on at the dept. It seems you did not say if you were staying with the dept. or not.
    As for the mayor…blasting a “small group” for disagreeing with you doesnt make them wrong.
    It means that they just don’t agree with either the methods used for selection process….or the possible outcomes of a very flawed process.
    Your silence for many weeks is what bothers me the most actually…I. will never vote for either you, or a few members of the council, again.

  7. Acting Chief Lawless is a class act and would have continued the excellent reputation of the Edmonds Police Dept. It is truly unfortunate the Mayor and the Council could not see that; this is a great lost for our city. Acting Chief Lawless, thank you for your years of service to Edmonds, for your integrity and your leadership.

  8. Thank you Chief Lawless for your kind professional words to the community. You conducted yourself as a leader of the department with integrity, honesty and therefore are Chief in our thoughts. Thank you for the continual communication to the community during tense times when we expect our leaders to communicate and the leader of our city went silent.

    We have nothing but respect for you and everyone at the entire Edmonds Police Department. We wish you well in whatever you choose.

  9. Thank you Chief Lawless. You have proven yourself a man of integrity, a man who cares for his community and for the Edmonds Police Department. I’m hopeful you will stay in Edmonds and continue to be the peacemaker and caretaker for the department. Thank you for your dedication to our community.

  10. Thank you for your integrity and your dedicated service to our community, Chief Lawless. It has been sad and frustrating to watch this process play out.

  11. Thank you for your service Mr. Lawless and for your courageous, humble example of what leadership looks like.

    Mayor Nelson, you were elected to be the chief executive and administrative officer of the City, in charge of all departments and employees, with authority to designate assistants and department heads. You were elected to see that all laws and ordinances are faithfully enforced, and that law and order is maintained in the city.

    Instead of doing your duty, on April 9, 2020 you violated the City’s law governing how many candidates City Council must interview prior to your appointment of a permanent Police Chief. You then tried to get the law changed after you had violated it.

    While in the middle of the mess you created, you missed the expiration of the acting Police Chief appointment on June 30, 2020. History shows what followed that.

    Please tell all of us what your plan is to do what the City’s Code of Ethics requires you to do:

    -Recognize that the chief function of local government at all times is to serve the best interest of all the people.

    – Keep the community informed on municipal affairs and encourage communications between the citizens and all municipal officers. Emphasize friendly and courteous service to the public and each other; seek to improve the quality of public service, and confidence of citizens.

    Also, please disclose what your policy is when a citizen emails you at the email address provided you by our City Government and its taxpayers. Inform us if you respond to any emails. If you do so, please disclose how you determine which citizen emails you will respond to and which citizen emails you will not respond to. Thank you.

  12. Right on Ken. Vivian Olson once referred to the proceedings of the Edmond’s City Council as “Amateur Hour.” AFM immediately attacked her for saying that; and Vivian, being the intelligent and gracious person she is, immediately apologized for her remarks.

    Guess what, Ms. Olson, you were right in the first place. It is “amateur hour” which applies to the whole Edmond’s City Government, not just the Council. The Council has an excuse though. They are full time workers getting part time pay and very little appreciation for what they do.

    The mayor has no excuse. He is getting relatively good full time pay for a full time job and has a tremendous amount of leeway in terms of his influence and actions. The mayor was elected to run a relatively small town efficiently and fairly. He has failed at both.

    Stick around Mr. Lawless, this mayor needs to be replaced in the next election. Better yet, we need to blow up this antiquated system of City Government and get some true representation and good over all management. An appointed city manager and a competent full time City Attorney would be a good start toward some sanity.

    1. Great comments Clint.

      I wonder if Mr. Lawless would consider running in the next mayoral election? Just a thought.

      Why? Because the way in which he has conducted himself during this mess, leads me to believe that he would serve Edmonds exercising the same attributes he has displayed in while working in the city’s police department: with professionalism, integrity, truthfulness, inclusion and compassion.

      Thank you Mr. Lawless.

      PS – https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/drop-the-mike

      1. Good plan. Looks like Our current mayor only won by a little over a thousand votes. I bet Mr. Lawless could do it. And it also looks like many didn’t vote…..next time that will be different.
        When all people here realize that Edmonds is using its come hither smile, and using its words to pretend they REALLY care…what they care about is themselves. I’ve owned here for 30 years. I have watched, I have seen the lack of diversity. I have experienced the shun…I am white…Its the entitled many here not necessarily racist as people think…just So entitled…they are trying to protect themselves..not love and include others. Open your eyes. Look at the stores…look at the employees..look…you won’t find what you are being promised. You are now security guards for the elite. You won’t like it long.
        GOOD LUCK.

  13. Great news! Now we can finally move on!
    I’m looking forward to a COP who treats ALL humans equally!
    Thank you, Adrienne, and the council for standing your ground against bullying citizens!

    1. Ya know. I have never heard, or seen any different treatment of people here by the police. I have seen aggressive action. Like…dont run stop signs…make sure your tail lights work…don’t speed…but this was everone not just people of color. I remember when I first moved here people told me…white bowl people ha…that Edmonds was a safe spot and their kids knew better than to commit these offenses. I thought that was very smart. Taught their children to respect the law, and others.
      So is it that our police have hurt or shot people…or is it that people WANT to ignore laws, that are for everones safety??? NOW THERE lies the rub. Tell me someone…I hate smoke and mirrors.

  14. I just heard the mayor’s statement on facebook. I haven’t laughed this hard in a long while. Danny DeVito, I love that guy. I just look at him and start laughing. He’s a talented comedian. Mike is doing this for me now. It’s lightning in a bottle.

    1. Yeah…he thinks he is transparent…2 months to find a police chief….this dude really likes to spend the bucks. Our bucks…I had a good laugh myself.

  15. I understand that Chief Lawless and Chief Compaan have done a good job in Edmonds. I thank them for their service. It is not an easy position. However, Chief Compaan was not a strong advocate for gun safety laws and legislation. And in some cases that might translate into a bias approach to law enforcement. I am pleased to see our Mayor and Council continue to look for a police chief who is more balanced in their approach to law enforcement. This current agressive environment that we are experiencing is not a time to turn our backs on gun safety. Dialogue is good but bullying is not. This is still a democracy. We elected these officials. Lets let them do their job.

    1. I feel compelled to weigh in on the comments by some of you who are supporting the most divisive, self-centered, incompetent mayor we have ever experienced in our beautiful city. This latest stunt of posting a video on FB blaming citizens of Edmonds for his failures should be the last straw for all of you. If he’s so great, why has he hid behind his glass wall office with no comment about this latest fiasco? No comment in the Beacon, no interviews, only scripted ones on tape. We all know he loves the media attention with all of his past media events so why the silence now? Why did he give himself a 4% raise when businesses in the city are closing and his lack of leadership so undeserving? Why are you accepting this? Edmonds citizens voted him in by a narrow margin. Many of whom are now wishing they haven’t so don’t insult us with comments that he’s being supported by the majority. We need to recall him and elect a mayor whose agenda is to represent the community and not themself. Wake up Edmonds and recall MIke Nelson – the worst leader we have ever had!

      1. I am trying to stay out of this bun-fight (mainly because I can think for myself and I don’t pretend to speak for anyone else). You however don’t have to deride people simply because they don’t share your viewpoints. If you think that a “recall” petition is warranted, then have at it. Nothing stopping you. I do note that the “current” (non-binding) “Drop the Mike” petition appears to have fizzled out at around 475 fervent supporters (something shy of a “mass uprising”) – perhaps you can do better?

        1. Paul,
          I’m not sure who you think has a bun but I can assure you I do not. Man-buns are in so maybe you meant your comments for someone else :). I’m well aware of the recall petition and support it. I’m also aware there are many citizens who have not heard about it yet. My comments were not meant to deride others who have a different point of view. They were meant to share a very compelling, fact-based situation we all find ourselves in based on lack of leadership and costly mistakes Edmonds citizens are now paying for. The fact there are so many comments on this topic must tell you something is clearly wrong.

        2. Kim, I don’t for a minute wish to suggest that there isn’t a controversy here (there is), but I also note that it is in large part the same names chiming in on these threads with the same message, over and over (and for me, the volume of their messaging does not make their messages any more compelling). Far too often these people seem to think that they speak for the entire community (they don’t), and far too often they assert that there is a consensus to their outrage (there isn’t).

          It is of course entirely appropriate to express one’s own opinion on this issue (we should all welcome that), but it isn’t at all appropriate to hector others as if they don’t understand the issue, or to criticize them for not being ad idem with you. If you think that a recall petition is warranted, then by all means start one. At least that would be something substantive to your indignation, because all we have right now is noise.

  16. An astute decision by Mr. Lawless, who in their rational mind would want to be associated with a liberal/leftist partisan hack mayor.

  17. Thank you Chief Lawless for your enduring professionalism and leadership. You’ve helped create a revered police department with outstanding diversity and integrity, and a legacy of fair and equitable police practices.

  18. Important information to know about the diversity both COP Compann and now Interim COP Lawless were promoting in the Edmonds Police Department.

    Here is a quote from Detective Govantes (an African American Police Officer) from an article in MEN written on February 28, 2020:

    Govantes said she is proud to be doing her part — in her recruiting role — to help the Edmonds Police Department become more diverse, both in terms of hiring more people of color and more women.

    “Since I’ve been here, in four years it has drastically diversified,” Govantes said. “So many women. So many people of color — Blacks, Asians, Hispanics — in the short period of time that I’ve been here.”

    As of December 2019, the department’s 58 commissioned officers include nine who are women and 13 who are non-white. That’s nearly double the number of women (five) and officers of color (six) since 2009. It was an effort championed by long-time Edmonds Police Chief Al Compaan, who retired in December, and is continuing with the tenure of Acting Chief Jim Lawless, who is also strongly committed to the effort, Edmonds police spokesman Sgt. Josh McClure said. “People of color need to know that they are going to be accepted in a department, and Edmonds is 100% accepting,” Govantes said. “I’ve never once felt where I was out of place. I never ever felt that I’m being treated differently.”

    Here is a link to the entire article.


    Did the Mayor and 4 council members not take this into consideration. The Edmonds police department was doing this long before Mayor Nelson arrived on the scene. Do you think because it wasn’t his idea and could not take credit for it, that he had to start the process over with a new COP?

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