Controversial State Patrol chief resigns


Herald Writer

Washington State Patrol Chief Annette Sandberg, the first woman and the youngest person to lead a state police organization, resigned Monday.

The announcement drew mixed reviews: good wishes for her future and praise for her accomplishments, as well as some views blaming her for problems and low morale.

"I think the fact that she’s leaving is enough to satisfy my concerns," said Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island.

Haugen declined to specify her concerns about Sandberg.

"There’s no sense going back and dragging up old wounds," Haugen said. "I think there’s going to be a change in leadership, and that will be very good for the patrol.

"She certainly did do some pretty courageous and innovative things for the patrol."

Rep. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, who also is a patrol sergeant in southern Snohomish County, agreed that Sandberg has some notable achievements, including introducing promotional opportunities for women and minorities. But she also created problems, he said.

"I don’t like dancing on a person’s grave when they’re down, but this is probably a great day for the organization," Lovick said.

Speaking both as a legislator and a trooper, Lovick said: "She really tried to run the agency by intimidation, and the people who were around her didn’t appear to give her the advice she needed … She appeared to become vindictive near the end."

Morale is the lowest he’s seen in 27 years as a trooper, he said.

Sandberg began her career by shaking up the patrol. She vowed to get rid of the "good old boys network" and said there would be resignations, demotions and reassignments. She kept her word.

Lovick said he dislikes the way patrol personnel have been treated, saying there was almost a class system and an ‘us vs. them’ attitude — her administrative staff against those in the field.

Sandberg’s resignation is effective Jan. 1, but she agreed to remain longer if necessary.

She was unavailable for comment.

In September, Sandberg told district troopers in Marysville she wanted to end rumors of her departure. She said she was not looking for a job, and she had informed Gov. Gary Locke that she was happy to serve as long as he wished her to remain.

Jeff Weathersby, Locke’s deputy communications director, said there was no indication that Locke had asked Sandberg to step down.

"My understanding is she is resigning because she wants to do something else, and she felt it would be very difficult to be the head of the State Patrol and look for another job at the same time," Weathersby said.

A native of Moses Lake, Sandberg, 39, graduated from Central Washington University and joined the patrol in 1983. Then-Gov. Mike Lowry appointed her the patrol’s 16th chief in 1995, and Locke re-appointed her in 1997.

Patrol spokesman Capt. Eric Robertson said Sandberg accomplished a lot of things, including introducing a K9 program, working with other agencies to combat auto theft and implementing the collection of traffic-stop data. She is credited with providing national leadership in data collection to combat racial profiling allegations and developing a diverse work force.

Sandberg stirred more controversy recently in two personnel actions here in District 7.

Lt. Walt Fisch was placed on paid leave during an internal affairs investigation of unspecified allegations. The patrol first recommended firing him, then changed the recommendation to a 10-day suspension. Fisch is appealing.

His supervisor, Capt. Helmut Steele, was suddenly reassigned to Olympia and is also under investigation.

The state sheriff’s association has also had concerns about Sandberg, Snohomish County Sheriff Rick Bart said.

Under her leadership, the patrol has moved closer to becoming a state police organization instead of focusing on traffic enforcement and operating the state crime laboratory, he said.

For several years, sheriffs have been concerned about the patrol investigating homicides at highway rest stops and moving into community policing, areas better left to police and sheriffs, Bart said.

After numerous discussions, they finally got an agreement in writing about 18 months ago, he said.

Then the patrol got a grant to implement community-oriented policing, and "the line got blurry again," he said.

And Sandberg shifted accident investigation on county roads to the sheriff, something he’s had to absorb into his budget, he said.

"We still don’t do the fatal accidents. We’re still training for that," he said.

Sen. Jeralita "Jeri" Costa, D-Marysville, said Sandberg is leaving "at a time when there’s a lot of controversy. It was nice to have a woman in such a high-ranking position in what is normally considered a male-dominated field," she said.

"I wish her well and I hope the governor looks very carefully for her replacement," Costa said.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A big decision for Boeing’s next CEO: Is it time for a new plane?

As Boeing faces increased competition from Airbus, the company is expected to appoint a new CEO by the end of the year.

A Mukilteo Speedway sign hangs at an intersection along the road in Mukilteo. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Mukilteo Speedway name change is off to a bumpy start

The city’s initial crack at renaming the main drag got over 1,500 responses. Most want to keep the name.

Two workers walk past a train following a press event at the Lynnwood City Center Link Station on Friday, June 7, 2024, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Trains up and running on Lynnwood Link — but no passengers quite yet

Officials held an event at the Lynnwood station announcing the start of “pre-revenue” service. Passengers still have to wait till August.

Nedra Vranish, left, and Karen Thordarson, right browse colorful glass flowers at Fuse4U during Sorticulture on Friday, June 7, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
A promenade through Everett’s popular Sorticulture garden festival

Check out a gallery of the festival’s first day.

Left to right, Everett Pride board members Ashley Turner, Bryce Laake, and Kevin Daniels pose for a photo at South Fork Bakery in Everett, Washington on Sunday, May 26, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Second Everett Pride aims for even bigger rainbow of festivities

Organizers estimated about 3,000 people attended the first block party in Everett. This year, they’re aiming for 10,000.

School board members listen to public comment during a Marysville School Board meeting on Monday, June 3, 2024 in Marysville, Washington. Rinehardt is seated third from left. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Marysville school board president resigns amid turmoil

Wade Rinehardt’s resignation, announced at Monday’s school board meeting, continues a string of tumultuous news in the district.

A BNSF train crosses Grove St/72nd St, NE in Marysville, Washington on March 17, 2022. Marysville recently got funding for design work for an overcrossing at the intersection. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
BNSF owes nearly $400M to Washington tribe, judge rules

A federal judge ruled last year that the railroad trespassed as it sent trains carrying crude oil through the Swinomish Reservation.

The I-5, Highway 529 and the BNSF railroad bridges cross over Union Slough as the main roadways for north and southbound traffic between Everett and Marysville. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Highway 529 squeeze starts now between Everett, Marysville

Following a full closure for a night, starting late Sunday, Highway 529 will slim down to two lanes for months near the Snohomish River Bridge.

Everett Housing Authority is asking for city approval for its proposed development of 16 acres of land currently occupied by the vacant Baker Heights public housing development on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett inches closer to Park District affordable housing plan

Building heights — originally proposed at 15 stories tall — could be locked in with council approval in July.

The intersection of Larch Way, Logan Road and Locust Way on Wednesday, March 27, 2024 in Alderwood Manor, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Roundabout project to shut down major Bothell intersection for months

The $4.5 million project will rebuild the four-way stop at Larch and Locust ways. The detour will stretch for miles.

State Sen. Mark Mullet, left, and Attorney General Bob Ferguson, right, are both running as Democrats for governor in 2024. (Photos courtesy of Mullet and Ferguson campaigns)
Rival Democrats spar over fundraising in Washington governor’s race

Mark Mullet is questioning Bob Ferguson’s campaign finance connections with the state party. Ferguson says the claims are baseless.

A log truck rolled over into power lines on Monday, June 17, in Darrington. (Photo provided by Alexis Monical)
Log truck rolls into utility lines in Darrington, knocking out power

The truck rolled over Monday morning at the intersection of Highway 530 and Fullerton Avenue. About 750 addresses were without power.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.