Mukilteo’s police chief aims to be team player

MUKILTEO — Rex Caldwell is settling in as Mukilteo’s new police chief.

Caldwell, 51, of Brier, was sworn in back in January. He spent his first few months learning everything he could about Mukilteo and the police depar

tment.

One of his biggest goals has been building connections, he said. He wants to make Mukilteo police more of a regional player in law enforcement. He also wants to build partnerships between the police department and the community, including its schools and businesses.

He’s not planning any big changes at the department, he said. The last chief left a good foundation, and he wants to build on that.

“We’ve got a really good, solid bunch of cops,” he said.

Over the last few months, Caldwell has spent a lot of time meeting with school officials.

There’s talk of forming a safety group to meet regularly, he said. That way, police and school leaders don’t just convene after something bad happens. The safety group could target issues such as drugs and gangs in schools.

He’s also been reaching out to the business community. He’s been going to the Mukilteo Chamber of Commerce meetings and listening to businesses’ concerns, such as scrap metal thefts.

This is the first time that businesses in Mukilteo have received so much attention from the city’s top cop, said Shannon McCarty, executive director of the chamber.

The new chief has been approachable and available, she said. It’s a refreshing change from years past.

She even dug around in the chamber’s basement to find Caldwell a Mukilteo coffee mug to take to meetings.

“Having him be present and seem to take an interest is important, especially when the economic part of the community really has been hard hit,” she said. “He’s really trying to make an effort.”

Inside the police department, Caldwell plans to give the officers more training opportunities, he said.

Smaller agencies always struggle to retain officers, who can be lured away by bigger departments. Training patrol officers in advanced police work, such as investigating crime scenes and car crashes, is one way to advance them in a department with only a couple of detectives’ spots, he said.

Caldwell also is asking the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs for an outside review of the department’s management and organizational structure, he said. He wants to create a five-year strategic plan for the department.

Before coming to Mukilteo, Caldwell was a police captain in Kirkland and a commander at the state law enforcement academy.

The city is happy with Caldwell as its police chief, Mukilteo Mayor Joe Marine said.

Caldwell is helping the city’s police officers get better connected in Snohomish County and the region, he said.

One of Marine’s first goals as mayor was for the police department and the schools to spend more time working together.

That’s one of the places where Caldwell has shone, Marine said.

“Things are going great,” Marine said. “I think he’s doing an excellent job.”

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

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