Snohomish Police Chief Keith Rogers, who is being reassigned by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.

Snohomish Police Chief Keith Rogers, who is being reassigned by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.

After public outcry, Snohomish police chief is reassigned

Keith Rogers characterized a gathering of armed vigilanties as festive. He will remain a lieutenant.

SNOHOMISH — Snohomish Police Chief Keith Rogers is being reassigned amid public calls for his resignation, the city of Snohomish and Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office announced Monday.

Rogers is in the process of being reassigned, said sheriff’s spokesperson Courtney O’Keefe. He will stay on as a lieutenant with the sheriff’s office.

The chief has become the target of scathing criticism in the past week after he referred to a hundred armed vigilantes gathering in Snohomish on May 31 as a festive night of tailgating and celebratory pleasantries. Among those gathered on First Street in the historic downtown were a man waving a Confederate flag and people flaunting patches of a hate group’s coded insignia on tactical gear. They had arrived for the supposed purpose of protecting the small city’s local boutiques from alleged leftist looting threats that never materialized.

During two public Snohomish City Council meetings, Rogers and Mayor John Kartak faced hours of heated comments from residents, including calls for their resignations. They were accused of allowing a gun-carrying crowd to publicly drink alcohol, intimidate citizens and tarnish the city’s reputation.

Rogers’ role as Snohomish police chief will be filled by sheriff’s Capt. Robert Palmer on an interim basis, for about 90 days. Palmer has been with the sheriff’s office for 32 years, including roles as a detective investigating homicides, crimes against children, narcotics and sex offenders. He also was an administrative sergeant for the Stanwood Police Department from 2005 to 2009, a special operations commander from 2009 to 2013 and the South Precinct commander from 2013 to 2016. He received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration and management in 2012 from Kaplan University.

“I am confident that Captain Palmer will serve and lead the residents of the City of Snohomish through this difficult time in our history,” Sheriff Adam Fortney said in a statement.

Fortney said he felt Rogers’ reassignment was in the best interest of the community and the agency, and that he looked forward to the lieutenant’s growth and leadership.

How the chief’s position will be filled permanently has not been decided yet, said O’Keefe. That’s a discussion that’s happening with the city of Snohomish, which contracts its police services to the sheriff’s office.

Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Robert Palmer, who is the interim chief of police for the city of Snohomish. (Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office)

Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Robert Palmer, who is the interim chief of police for the city of Snohomish. (Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office)

O’Keefe confirmed that current events played a role in the joint decision between the city and the sheriff’s office, but discussions surrounding the position had already been under way. That’s because Rogers is next in line to be promoted to the rank of captain, she said.

He is not necessarily guaranteed the promotion. There currently isn’t an opening for the position.

As recently as Saturday, Mayor Kartak defended the city’s chief on Facebook and characterized the hours of public comment criticizing them as “an organized and focused attack on our community, on our police chief, and on myself.” He defended Rogers, saying he was being disrespected and “crucified” by “people who only wish to cause harm and pain.”

In Monday’s statement, Kartak took a more measured approach. He applauded Rogers’ work with the city, crediting him for creating the first community outreach officer in the city and increasing the department’s focus on homeless outreach and the opioid epidemic.

“Chief Rogers has provided outstanding leadership and exemplary service to the City of Snohomish and will be deeply missed,” Kartak said in the statement.

Zachariah Bryan: 425-339-3431; zbryan@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @zachariahtb.

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