Lake Stevens steps up search for police chief

LAKE STEVENS — The city’s lingering search for a police chief could be over soon.

The mayor wants to hire a new chief “as soon as possible,” City Administrator Jan Berg said this week.

“We’re trying,” she said.

Another round of interviews, including a public meeting, is planned in the coming days.

The Lake Stevens Police Department has been without a permanent leader since November, when the former chief left under a cloud. Months after the departure, the city paid a $100,000 civil rights settlement related to officers’ bad behavior.

The city needs someone in the vital position to help lead Lake Stevens as it grows, Mayor Vern Little said Friday. The city’s population has roughly tripled in recent years and is now the fifth largest community in Snohomish County. He wants a chief who will get involved and listen to people’s concerns.

“They need to set a vision and set the standard for a bigger city,” he said. “We were so used to being 7,000 people for so long. It’s time for us to move forward.”

The mayor hopes to hire someone who has been a police chief elsewhere, he said. He also wants someone who is firm, fair and consistent.

“The police department needs to be, in my opinion, one of the most disciplined departments that there is, and we should lead by example,” Little said.

The police chief would oversee a department of about 28 employees and a budget of $4.9 million.

Last winter, city officials accepted roughly 20 applications for the position, which pays up to $121,500 a year.

They conducted interviews and held an open house with final candidates in April.

None of them panned out.

“We pursued all of the potentials on the first list, and the mayor just didn’t find the right fit for the community,” Berg said.

They reposted the job this summer. A similar number of candidates applied, Berg said. Some candidates live locally. Others hail from as far away as New York.

City leaders have set up panels made up of people from the community, city employees, the police guild and other local police chiefs to interview six finalists on Aug. 12, Berg said.

The candidates then will attend a City Council work session set for 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Aug. 12 at the Lake Stevens School District administration building, 12309 22nd St. NE.

The public is invited to observe as councilmembers ask the candidates questions.

The goal is to identify one or two final candidates after that, Berg said. The mayor will make the final call with input from the council.

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

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