Mayor promises answers soon on what’s next in police chief process

Mayor Mike Nelson

There will be a public statement “within the next day or two” from Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson about “the next steps in the police chief process.” That’s the word released Thursday by the city’s spokesperson, Edmonds Economic Development and Community Services Director Patrick Doherty. He had no further details.

The mayor must make at least one decision quickly. Assistant Chief Jim Lawless has held the title of acting chief since January 2020. It was supposed to be a six-month assignment while Edmonds conducted a search to replace long-time Chief Al Compaan, who retired Jan. 1, 2020. The COVID pandemic interrupted the search; the Edmonds City Council granted a waiver to extend Lawless’ acting role for a second six months, which expires on Jan. 22. What happens then? Under Edmonds City Code, the mayor may request an extension of acting directorship authority from the city council, in increments of no more than six months at a time, to allow the recruiting process to continue. After the initial six-month term, each extension of the acting directorship shall be subject to city council confirmation.”

Will Nelson ask the council for another extension? The mayor has not made himself available for interviews and city spokesperson Doherty said he also he has no answer to that question.

 The mayor said Dec. 15 that he plans to begin a new national police chief search. “We will provide details about the new search process once that has been determined,” Doherty said.

Last year, the city hired California-based consulting firm Public Sector Search & Consulting, which states on its website it is “the only search firm in the U.S. to focus exclusively on recruiting police executives.” The company’s initial contract with Edmonds totaled $28,500; the city paid out only $6,422 because the search was cut short when the COVID pandemic hit. Doherty says no additional firms were retained. It is not yet known how the city recruited candidates when the search resumed in September 2020. We have asked if the money left over can be used this year, or if the city must request new funds. We have had no reply on that yet.

Some Edmonds residents are not waiting for a new police chief search. A group took to the streets at Westgate Dec. 31, urging Mayor Nelson to resign or face a recall election over his handling of the police chief search. Denise Cooper organized the gathering, borne from what she calls her frustration at Nelson’s actions: “I  do not believe the mayor has been a good leader; he seems to find divisiveness instead of discussion,” she said.

Petition organizers Rod Schick and Rebecca Anderson collected signatures and passed out blank petitions during the Dec. 31 rally. (File photo by Larry Vogel)

Residents Rod Schick and Rebecca Anderson stopped by the rally to share with the others a petition drive they have launched, also asking the mayor to resign. Said Anderson: “I don’t think the mayor has been transparent. We thought this (the petition) was the fastest way to involve residents who are frustrated with the police chief hiring process and want to make their grievances known.”

Their online petition at has gathered more than 370 signatures. It is not a recall campaign. Anderson said they plan to present the signatures to the mayor and city council within three weeks. “We don’t want this to go away and it’s not over yet,” she said. “Public safety is so important to all of us; how do we get the mayor’s attention?”

— By Bob Throndsen

10 Replies to “Mayor promises answers soon on what’s next in police chief process”

  1. The Mayor’s refusal to respond to multiple requests for interviews warrants another review of the City’s Code of Ethic’s, adopted by City Council on June 2, 2015:

    Code of Ethics

    The purpose of the Edmonds Code of Ethics is to strengthen the quality
    of government through ethical principles which shall govern the conduct
    of elected officials and appointed citizen volunteers serving in an official
    capacity (i.e. Boards and Commissions).

    We shall:

    • Be dedicated to the concepts of effective and democratic government.

    • Affirm the dignity and worth of the services rendered by government and
    maintain a sense of social responsibility.

    • Be dedicated to the highest ideals of honor and integrity in all public and
    personal relationships.

    • 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.

    • Seek no favor; do not personally benefit or profit by confidential information
    or by misuse of public resources.

    • Conduct business of the city in a manner which is not only fair in fact, but
    also in appearance.


  2. This recall needs to happen of Mayor Nelson. Let’s give this our full support. And I question paying a CA firm $28,500 to do a search for Edmonds. Thank goodness the search was cut short and we only paid out $6,422. This entire process needs to be questioned and our Mayor and City Council held accountable. Covid has allowed many things to go unchecked.


  3. A list of the many law enforcement professionals and Edmonds residents that have written in support of Acting Chief Lawless should be compiled and submitted to the Mayor. Additionally the criteria used in the decision making process should be stated, weighted and disseminated.


  4. Anxiously awaiting for the Mayor’s response to the many selection process questions but his past motives appear that he and his minions are hell bent on forcing there agenda with a candidate that supports there far-left leaning ideology. There focus is so self-centered that conformity is foreign to making a rational decision for the betterment of all people………..hopefully I am wrong, but I doubt it. We shall see. Bruce Green


  5. The mayor is running a closed office…with the minimum of communication with the citizens. Why does it take so long to speak?


  6. The mayor is in a pickle. He surely knows that any candidate with lesser credentials than the one he rejected due to his skin color, will be subject to unbearable scrutiny. Best of luck to him in finding a candidate better qualified than Chief Lawless. I would gladly accept that candidate, I have no intention of supporting less.


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