LAKE STEVENS — He’s a police chief with the gift of gab.
For nearly 25 years as an officer, Dan Lorentzen has been using friendly chit-chat to cut through tense situations. He may be an affable fellow, but he’s also steered the Lake Stevens Police Department through years of growing pains, internal discord and public scrutiny.
Lorentzen, 48, is leaving the department at the end of the month. It’s not a surprise. It’s common for new mayors to make changes in leadership. A reception is planned next week to honor Lorentzen, a local kid who grew up to be chief.
As a student at Lake Stevens High School in the 1980s, Lorentzen nickname was “O.P,” short for Ocean Pacific Apparel. Back then, he was known for donning the fashion brand’s neon-colored surf wear.
As a teen, one of his first jobs was cooking at the Boondockers drive-in, where police officers often gathered for meals.
“You just got to know officers when we were kids,” he said. “We got to interact with them a lot. Boondockers wasn’t in the city. Lake Stevens back in the day had nothing. It was before Frontier Village.”
Shows such as “Cops” made police work look exciting, but it wasn’t the only attraction, he said.
“You’re really able to make a difference in people’s lives,” he said. “I always enjoyed interacting with people. People look up to police officers to solve problems, and that’s really what we do, we’re problem solvers.”
Lorentzen joined the department in 1991. In those days, Lake Stevens sometimes operated with a part-time police force, with one officer off-duty but on call. The smaller departments in the area would barter with each other for needed equipment, maybe trade a radio for a set of tires.
Lorentzen saw many deaths and tragedies over the years, but he also can’t count how many times someone left a truck in drive on a boat launch on the lake. There’s not much to do in those situations but help fish it out of the drink, he said.
“Mainly it’s just working with people and being humble,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to laugh at yourself. Sometimes that’s all you can do. You’re human just like everybody else.”
After three chiefs and two decades, the top spot opened in the cop shop and suddenly Lorentzen was in charge.
He was reluctant to become chief, though, serving as an interim for more than a year. City leaders conducted multiple rounds of candidate interviews, but they kept coming back to Lorentzen. Policing isn’t his only public service. He’s also served as a fire commissioner, a sewer commissioner and the president of the local Lions Club.
At work, he always tried to remind himself that his reactions were the only thing he could control, he said. “Even people at their worst, they still deserve respect,” he said. “You work through those things.”
Former Lake Stevens chief John Gray is who promoted Lorentzen to sergeant. He knew the younger man could connect with others and make an unpopular decision when that was the right thing to do.
“The guy has amazing verbal skills. He can talk to anybody. He’s very disarming,” Gray said. “He’s always had that gift … He’s the guy who’s going to listen well, explain well and has the ability not to anger everybody in the room.”
Lorentzen and Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary came up together as local cops. Lorentzen has a knack for being honest, even when that means acknowledging problems, Trenary said.
“I’ve known him from the very start,” Trenary said. “He is still exactly the same guy. He is incredibly involved in the Lake Stevens community. I think his heart is absolutely Lake Stevens.”
Lorentzen has pushed for law enforcement agencies to work together around the region, regardless of boundaries, Trenary said. Lorentzen was among those who pushed for the creation of a multi-agency team focused on property crimes in north county.
“He should probably consider a life in politics,” Trenary said. “He can get just about everybody to laugh.”
Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman was a few years behind Lorentzen in high school, but they got to know each other through law enforcement. Templeman has another perspective on his fellow chief: He also lives in Lake Stevens. Lorentzen saw the need for change in the town’s police force, and he took action, Templeman said. At the same time, Lorentzen gives people respect to draw them in and get their support.
“I think Dan has the ability to bring humor to this profession, which we all need to get through some of the stuff that we deal with,” Templeman said. “But at the same time he can be serious and get things done.”
Lorentzen’s not sure what’s next for him. His favorite hobby is closed-track motorcycle racing, and he’s hoping to do that more now.
“I’m just taking a look and seeing what’s there,” he said. “I’ve been in this business a very long time. I really want to take some time and just relax. It’s going to be nice not to take the 2 a.m. phone calls.”
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; firstname.lastname@example.org.
A public reception for departing Lake Stevens Police Chief Dan Lorentzen is planned from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Feb. 26 at the Lake Stevens fire district conference center, 10518 18th Street SE. Speeches will start at 4 p.m.