Retired Edmonds Police Chief Al Compaan is 2022 Edmonds Citizen of the Year

Police Chief Al Compaan

“It was a busy year for nominations,” said John Rutter, who headed up this year’s Edmonds Kiwanis Club Citizen of the Year selection committee. “We had about a dozen this time around; most years it’s about half that.”

While evaluating these made more work for the committee than usual, according to Rutter, the group soon winnowed the list to two standouts. But then the real work began.

“We went back and forth for a while discussing the pros and cons of each and looking into all the details,” he explained. “But the more we went over them, the more convinced we became that our recently retired police chief, Al Compaan, was the clear choice.”

The Kiwanis Club launched the Citizen of the Year program in 1994 with its first award to Stan and Valerie Dickison. Other winners have included elected officials like Dave Earling (1995) and Laura Hall (1996), business owners like Rick Steves (2017) and My Edmonds News publisher Teresa Wippel (2019), as well as organizations like the Edmonds Floretum Garden Club (2015), the Edmonds Petanque Club (2016) and the Edmonds Food Bank (2020).

Compaan, who retired Dec. 31, 2019, spent his entire law enforcement career – more than four decades – in Edmonds.

“I’m very honored and pleased, but the award is really for the police department,” Compaan said. “The honor of this award really belongs to them, not me. I just happened to be the conductor of the orchestra – it’s the players who make the music.”

A native of the Skyway area just south of Seattle, Compaan recalls having an ongoing interest in police work from the time he was a child and admits to being a big fan of the TV shows Dragnet and Adam 12.

His lifetime in law enforcement began when he was 10 years old. His father, a dentist, arranged a tour the Seattle Police Department for his son through one of his patients, who happened to be an SPD sergeant. It made quite an impression.

After graduating from Renton High School, Compaan attended the University of Washington, where he majored in society and criminal justice. During that time, he returned to SPD’s downtown headquarters as a student intern.

By the time he turned 21, Compaan knew what he wanted – a career in law enforcement. He started taking civil service exams at various law enforcement agencies including Renton, Tukwila, the Port of Seattle, and King County hoping for a break – but the competition was fierce.

Then he spotted a newspaper ad for joint testing with the Edmonds, Lynnwood, and Mountlake Terrace police departments.  He passed with flying colors, and was granted an interview with EPD.

Compaan had an early connection with Edmonds that helped attract him to this opportunity.

“As a child, my father would take me up to the Edmonds Theater on weekends to see old time movies – Laurel and Hardy, WC Fields, Our Gang,” he recalled in a 2013 interview with My Edmonds News. “I guess that stuck Edmonds in my mind, so when the chance came up I took the test, got an interview, and was hired. I was ecstatic!”

Chief Al Compaan when he was an Edmonds Police Department sergeant in 1992. (Photo courtesy Edmonds PD)

His first job was patrolman 3rd class, the bottom rung of the ladder. Starting pay was $5.80 an hour. Over the years, Compaan was promoted to senior officer, sergeant and assistant chief. He was named acting police chief in April 2007 following the sudden death of then-chief David Stern, and was permanently appointed chief in October 2007.

During his time leading the department, Compaan — an Edmonds resident — worked to bring diversity, accountability, professionalism, honesty and integrity to the police department.

“We have to go out every day and earn the public’s trust,” Compaan stated in an interview just prior to his 2019  retirement. “It’s not a given. And if a police department has a relationship with the public we serve, we have some deposits in the bank because we have earned trust by our actions, by our words. [When we make a mistake] we need to own it, we need to learn from it, we need to be honest about it.”

Edmonds Police Chief Al Compaan presents an official police ID card to 5-year-old Sam Colquhoun in 2016. Sam, who was recovering from a life-threatening medical condition, spent part of a day at the police department. (File photo by Larry Vogel)

Under Compaan’s leadership, the department became more reflective of the community it serves. In 2009, there were five women and six officers of color serving in the EPD. In 2019, those numbers had almost doubled to nine and 12.

“I’m very proud to have had the honor of hiring many top-notch folks, bringing them into the department and enhancing the diversity,” Compaan said.

Among the accomplishments of which Compaan said he was most proud was his work to bring a culture of service, integrity, respect and stewardship to the department, as summed up in EPD mission statement: “We place service before self, with an unwavering and unbiased commitment to public safety, improving the quality of life for our community.”

Although he’s retired, Compaan notes that still has his oars in the water of law enforcement. He serves on the board of the Behind the Badge Foundation, which provides comprehensive support to Washington state’s law enforcement agencies, families and communities after an officer has died or suffered serious injury in the line of duty. In addition, he is on the board of Victim Support Services, which offers peer support and advocacy for victims of violent crime

“I’m proud as hell of this community, and the people that work in the law enforcement profession,” Compaan said. “It’s the men and women of the police department who are out there 24/7  making it happen every day. I feel very strongly that they need to be recognized, supported, appreciated and valued by the community.”

The Edmonds Chamber of Commerce is hosting a luncheon to honor Compaan Thursday, May 19, at Las Brisas Restaurant in downtown Edmons. You can learn more and register here.

— By Larry Vogel

21 Replies to “Retired Edmonds Police Chief Al Compaan is 2022 Edmonds Citizen of the Year”

  1. Congratulations and well deserved, Chief! I’m so honored to have met and worked with you. Enjoy your retirement!

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  2. Congratulations Chief! Thank you for all you have done and continue to do for Edmonds. We are so blessed that you continue to be a servant leader in our community.

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  3. Congratulations Chief! Well deserved. We appreciate your years of service and continued endeavors to make our communities safer. Excellent choice for this honor.

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  4. What a fabulous choice. Thank you Chief Compaan for your service to Edmonds. Just as importantly, thank you for being a great Edmonds citizen and for continuing to be involved. Our community is so better for your being here.

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  5. Congratulations, Chief Compann! Thank you for your many years of service and continue to serve our communities!

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  6. Congrats Chief! You have been a great citizen of Edmonds for years!! Our city is a much better place because of your leadership, skills, dedication and values. Thank you!

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  7. Congratulations Chief!!! Thank you for your many years of work in our law enforcement community, locally and state, and service to our Edmonds community.

    Thank you for your continued dedication, service and involvement in legislative efforts to change and strengthen laws enabling our PD to better serve our community.

    You are a treasure Chief Al Compaan! You are appreciated.

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  8. Congrats Chief! You set standard of service and integrity that characterize our department to this day. You are a leader and a friend to many. Thank you for sticking around for forty years!

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  9. Tell Ann that her choice for hubby has just been validated. We will come from Redmond to toast Ann and Al hugs from Jim and Nancy Crim

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  10. No one more deserving of this honor. Congratulations to you Al and the lovely lady you married.

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  11. It’s been said that a leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. Thank you Chief for being that kind of leader and dedicating your life to serving and saving others while making Edmonds not just safer, but better.

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  12. Congrats Chief Al! I have had the blessing of knowing you and Ann, and am so proud of Edmonds for granting Al this honor, which he so well deserves…..even tho he gives all credit to his fellow Police officers. Edmonds was a safer, happier place during Al’s years as Chief. Hope you and Ann are enjoying retirement……and please stay in Edmonds!!

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  13. Congratulations Al! You have made such a positive impact on so many people in so many ways. It was truly a pleasure to work for and with you for 24 years. Your legacy is significant!

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  14. Congratulations Al! Thanks for continuing to influence our great City with your wisdom and dedication.

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  15. Chief Compaan was always available and many times would simply pick up the phone when called. He responded promptly and followed up with each concern. An excellent role model for city government and service to citizens in a very demanding role. Al cares. Congratulations,
    a wonderful choice and recognition of your service to the city long overdue.

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