King County Sheriff’s Office veteran named Edmonds acting police chief

Michelle Bennett

Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson on Wednesday announced that he has appointed King County Sheriff’s Office veteran Michelle Bennett to serve as the city’s acting chief of police, effective Thursday, March 18. Bennettt will replace Acting Chief Jim Lawless, who is resigning to take a job as assistant police chief in Marysville.

Bennett will serve as acting chief while the city conducts its recruitment for the next police chief — a process that is estimated to take several months. Under city code, her appointment can run for six months or until the new chief is hired, whichever is sooner.

Bennett worked at the King County Sheriff’s Office from 1990 until 2021, during which time she served as chief of police for the City of Maple Valley from 2004 to 2014 and the City of Sammamish from 2016 to 2019. Both the cities of Maple Valley and Sammamish contract with the King County Sheriff’s Office for police services.

“Michelle Bennett will bring a stability to the City of Edmonds during this transition period,” Nelson said. “I am excited that Ms. Bennett has accepted the position of Acting Chief during a time when her knowledge, experience and insights will be of great value to the Edmonds Police Department.”

Bennett received a bachelor of arts degree in law and justice, a master of science degree in psychology/organizational development and behavior, and a doctorate in education, with an emphasis in curriculum and instruction.  She is a graduate of the Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command and of the FBI National Academy. In addition, Bennett has taught criminal justice classes since 1998 in Washington state colleges, as well as for the School of Police Staff and Command for Northwestern University.

According to the city announcement of her appointment, while Bennett is a fully commissioned officer with the Washington Criminal Justice Training Center, her role with Edmonds will be as a noncommissioned chief administrative officer for the department. In this capacity, she will have all the authority of the police chief, with the exception of arresting authority.

“The intent is to have her serve as the chief administrative officer for the department in an ‘acting’ capacity – not a fully commissioned officer,” city spokesperson Patrick Doherty said  “She is currently a retired officer and would have to come out of retirement to be a commissioned officer, which is not required” for the acting position, he added.

Lawless said Wednesday that Bennett “brings a wealth of knowledge and experience with her given her 31 years of dedicated service with the King County Sheriff’s Office. I have known Chief Bennett for years and have seen firsthand her drive and determination in serving the community and fostering strong relationships with all stakeholders, both internally and externally. I could not be more excited for her personally, for the Edmonds Police Department and for the Edmonds Community as a whole. She will serve you and the amazing women and men of your police department well.”

A 25-year Edmonds Police Department employee and long-time assistant chief, Lawless has served as acting chief in Edmonds since January 2020. During the 12 months since Lawless’ acting chief appointment, 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 Chief Sherman Pruitt. Nelson ultimately offered the job to Pruitt — but that offer — approved by the city council on a 4-3 vote — was withdrawn after discrepancies were discovered. Nelson then stated he would be conducting another national search and Lawless announced Jan. 14 that he wouldn’t be applying again.

The Edmonds City Council on Jan. 18 extended Lawless’ appointment for six month.

 

  1. I would like to personally welcome Chief Bennett to the Edmonds Police Department. Chief Bennett brings a wealth of knowledge and experience given her 31 years of dedicated service with the King County Sheriff’s Office. I have known Chief Bennett for years and have seen firsthand her drive and determination in serving the community and fostering strong relationships with all stakeholders, both internally and externally. I could not be more excited for her personally, for the Edmonds Police Department and for the Edmonds Community as a whole. She will serve you and the amazing women and men of your police department well.

    Acting Chief Jim Lawless

    1. Welcome acting Chief Bennett, and thank you acting Chief Lawless for your dedication and support to this community. We wish you all the best, and know that your time and dedication was appreciated.

      I appreciate that we were able to get such an experienced and respected Chief to help lead our city during this time of transition.

      All the best to both of you.

  2. Congratulations to Interim-Chief Bennett. Excellent to have her leadership in the transition. Let’s do the search for our next Chief-of-Police throughly and thoughtfully this time.

  3. With Edmond’s rapid growth, comes more crime. As a long-time resident, I want to welcome Acting Police Chief BENNETT !

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