Lake Stevens police undergo shakeup at the top

LAKE STEVENS — After two years of controversy, the Lake Stevens Police Department is undergoing major changes at the top.

The city in November hired former Granite Falls police chief Dennis Taylor as second in command.

Taylor, 51, also previously worked for the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office for 15 years, leaving as a sergeant to serve in Granite Falls. Taylor is heading up the police department’s long-term planning and will serve as the department spokesman.

Taylor was hired as an interim commander, though the job could become permanent, City Administrator Jan Berg said.

In addition, the city is seeking applicants for a lieutenant’s position to oversee a new Division of Professional Standards, among other duties. The lieutenant will investigate misconduct allegations and community complaints. The recruiting timeline for the position has been extended into late February, Berg said.

The changes are part of an overhaul at the 26-officer police department that began after a series of misconduct investigations drew public scrutiny in 2012 and 2013.

The department has been without a permanent chief since the former chief resigned in fall 2012. The city also is embroiled in at least three lawsuits related to police matters, two of which were filed by people on the force.

Mayor Vern Little has described the department’s overhaul as a priority for this year.

Lake Stevens Cmdr. Dan Lorentzen has been serving as the interim chief. After several rounds of interviews with potential police chiefs bore no fruit last year, the mayor asked for time to consider his options before again seeking applicants.

Taylor was one of those who applied for the chief’s job, Berg said. City officials liked that he had experience in long-term planning.

“It was just good timing that he was free,” she said. “When he interviewed for the chief job, it was very clear he has strong leadership skills.”

Taylor was fired from Granite Falls in October by former mayor Haroon Saleem, who did not seek re-election. Saleem was controversial as a public figure, and many in Granite Falls were upset over Taylor’s departure.

The Granite Falls City Council later decided to outsource police services to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. The contract is set to begin in March. On Monday, sheriff’s Sgt. David Bowman began serving as the Granite Falls police chief.

In Lake Stevens, Taylor already has been part of the efforts to move forward, Berg said.

A controversial Lake Stevens officer was fired Dec. 31 after he was the focus of at least seven internal investigations. The city in 2013 also adopted new policies, including those governing officer discipline.

City officials recently conducted an internal survey of police employees to find out what they believe is needed next, Berg said.

The police department on Tuesday also asked people to take two online surveys to gauge public sentiment.

The surveys are available at www.surveymonkey.com/s/KSTRRZ7 and www.surveymonkey.com/s/Q5KGZDH.

A memo shared by the city this week shows current goals at the police department include working on “philosophy, culture and guiding principles.”

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

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