Written feedback reveals what community, law enforcement panelists thought of police chief candidates

A My Edmonds News investigation got its first look Monday at the written feedback from two public panels that interviewed the candidates for police chief. This represents just a fraction of the records we have requested from the city; more is yet to come. On Monday, the city turned over to My Edmonds News the results of the community and law enforcement panels that interviewed Sherman Pruitt and James Lawless.

Police chief finalists Jim Lawless, left, and Sherman Pruitt.

Members of both panels thought each candidate was personable, well-spoken and brought ideas to their discussion. The community panel did not address Pruitt’s police leadership experience; the law enforcement panel thought his lack of management experience in a larger city could be a challenge.

Names of panel members were not attached to any of the comments they made.

The law enforcement panel mentioned one thing about both candidates. About Pruitt, a panelist said: “I wish we knew what was wanted from the Mayor. Does the Mayor want to start over?” Another echoed the same question about Lawless: “Would have been nice to know what the Mayor was looking for.”

These interviews on Nov. 6 were held before career and personal issues came to light on Sherman Pruitt. Our story last Friday revealed for the first time that City of Edmonds Human Resources Director Jessica Neill Hoyson had been told in mid-November of the existence of domestic violence issues in Pruitt’s past and that the City of Seattle Police Department had fired him when he was a rookie officer in training. Neither panel would have had that information. We have also been told that the city provided questions to each panel; we do not yet know what those questions are.

Community panel members included 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 and Shubert Ho, business owner.

Law enforcement panel members included 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 and Sgt. Ken Krystal, Edmonds Police Officer Association.

Sherman Pruitt

On the strengths Pruitt could bring to the police chief position

Community panel members said:

  • “Incredibly likeable and he is very reasonable.”
  • “He would have empathy for POC in the community.”
  • “Feels like he would nail community engagement.”
  • “Could see his heart for the people and the work.”

Law enforcement panel members said:

  • “The first question stood out in him taking the bull by the horns and his ability to create such a diverse department.”
  • “Genuine passion. Good communicator. Would represent the agency very well.”
  • “Cares about his people, cares about training.”
  • “He has been at the forefront but it’s a different, smaller scale. Overall, given his experience he did a good job.”

On the challenges Pruitt could face:

Community panel members said:

  • “Community doesn’t handle change well and that would be something he would need to navigate.”
  • “Would the community allow him to be successful?”
  • “May have issues with the scope of the job at a bigger agency.”
  • “Would he be tokenized as a person of color?”

Law enforcement panel members said:

  • “Level of experience and department size is lacking.”
  • “Lack of Labor Relations experience is concerning, behind the curve.”
  • “Best next step for him would be to become an Assistant Chief somewhere to get the experience he is lacking, and he could easily be a Chief in a few years.”
  • “All his examples were at a different level than I would expect from a police chief of an agency like Edmonds.”

~ ~ ~ ~

Jim Lawless

On the strengths Lawless could bring to the police chief position:

Community panel members said:

  • “Has been part of creating a culture around officers supporting the community and not just fighting crime. “
  • “Cares about Edmonds.”
  • “Discussion on the things he would change paralleled what is happening now in society.”
  • “Knows and understands how the department has grown and how it will need to grow.”

Law enforcement panel members said:

  • “He has a very good handle and feel for internal culture and agency issues.”
  • “Great work with diversity of the department.”
  • “Great job communicating with the public on sensitive issues.”
  • “Being a team player, understands the importance of the neighbors and collaborations with other agencies.”

On the challenges Lawless could face:

Community panel members said:

  • “Haven’t seen him connect with the community in the same way the previous chief did.
  • “Will he be able to pivot and make the necessary changes to the department?”
  • “The answers Chief Lawless gave to community policing and engagement do not seem to reflect what the reality is.”
  • “Sometimes, being in something for so long you can’t see what needs to be changed.”

Law enforcement panel members said:

  • “Nothing, based on what was said.”
  • “Jim is open to change but can be a bit rigid in some of his beliefs while still understanding the need to find a balance.”
  • “I’m not sure how much Jim has directly been involved with staffing besides trusting his staff to do their job.”
  • “In regard to the school resource officer that was removed without a discussion, I might have reached out (to the School Board) for a meeting.”

~ ~ ~ ~

See the full community panel remarks here and the law enforcement panel remarks here.

The panels were not asked to submit recommendations on the candidates when their feedback was submitted to the Human Resources office and to the mayor.

— By Bob Throndsen

6 Replies to “Written feedback reveals what community, law enforcement panelists thought of police chief candidates”

  1. Thank you for confirming what was said during the last Black In Edmonds about what the community panel was asked and that we didn’t say one candidate should be picked over the other. Also appreciate being able to see what the law enforcement panel’s comments were. I’ve been curious about that.


    1. I’ve been real curious about How Mr. Lawless has been told or asked to utilize the police department? Obviously there is a problem in the way Mike Nelson wants the police to enforce…or something. I want to know what that is.
      As far as Mr. Pruitt is concerned…well CLEARLY race is not the issue for me, but as a woman…domestic violence situations in his past that apparently women were hurt? I am leary because of that and he doesn’t have much impressive experience…resume..
      Heck yesterday I thought we were doing an 8 month world search for a new chief, and asking Lawless to fill in. HAHAHa. Oh boy! You all crack me up.
      Love you Alicia Crank…Get that council seat. If you want it I want you there. Deb.


  2. Looking at the comments from both panels, I too wonder what the Mayor was looking for in a candidate. Experience did not seem to enter into the decision. So Mayor Nelson what were/are you looking for in the Police Chief?


  3. Our mayors decision making process has always been based on what serves his political future better.
    Edmonds Lacks Leadership and the People of Edmonds Deserve a Better Future.


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