Michelle Bennett during a public meet-and-greet with Edmonds police chief finalists on Aug. 4. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Michelle Bennett during a public meet-and-greet with Edmonds police chief finalists on Aug. 4. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Edmonds mayor chooses interim police chief for permanent job

Michelle Bennett “really knocked it out of the park” during the hiring process, the City Council president said.

EDMONDS — Mayor Mike Nelson selected acting police chief Michelle Bennett as the city’s permanent chief Thursday.

“Oh my gosh — we had a good group of candidates but she really knocked it out of the park,” said City Council President Susan Paine. “I really appreciate all of her leadership and thoughtfulness in addressing community issues. She really has stepped up into a job she had no guarantee for.”

The City Council is to vote to confirm the mayor’s pick during next Tuesday’s council meeting.

Councilmember Diane Buckshnis said she’s very excited about Bennett’s appointment.

“I’ve heard just remarkably good stuff about her and I think that’s wonderful,” she said.

Bennett, who has three decades of service under her belt, stepped into the interim police chief role in March after acting chief Jim Lawless left for a position in Marysville.

Lawless had been named a finalist in the city’s search to replace longtime Chief Al Compaan, but Mayor Mike Nelson instead appointed Sherman Pruitt, chief of police for the Sauk-Suiattle tribe near Darrington.

The decision was later reversed because Pruitt did not disclose that he had applied for a position with the Lake Stevens Police Department and was rejected following a background check, according to a letter from the mayor retracting the offer.

In early August, Bennett told The Daily Herald that stepping into the role was a welcome challenge.

“To me, the challenge is interesting,” Bennett said. “Because, you have all the right pieces — with these great people — and now structuring it in this new legislative world … that’s exciting to be able to do that from the ground up, to do it with the input from great people and to be innovative.”

Paine said she is excited to see what Bennett can do with the department.

After serving in various leadership capacities at the King County Sheriff’s Office since 1990 — including chief of police for the city of Maple Valley and, later, for the city of Sammamish — Bennett has returned to the department where she got her start as a cadet.

Her appointment is “kind of full circle going back to where I started law enforcement,” Bennett said during a public meet-and-greet.

During her tenure at the King County Sheriff’s Office, she helped draft the department’s body camera and in-car camera policies, started community coalitions and supported partnerships between schools, law enforcement and nonprofits to address opioid use.

While serving as Edmonds’ interim chief, Bennett has helped the department implement new policies related to state House Bills 1310 and 1054, which established new use-of-force standards and limited the use of vehicle pursuits and neck restraints.

“She really does understand 21st century policing,” Paine said.

Bennett has a bachelor’s degree in law and justice, a master’s of science in psychology/organizational development and behavior, and a doctorate in education. She has taught courses in criminal justice at Shoreline Community College, Highline Community College, Northwest College in Kirkland and Central Washington University.

Bennett was identified as a finalist in a national search conducted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Candidates were evaluated on their communication, interpersonal insight, problem solving, judgment, decisiveness, planning and delegation.

The finalists participated in public interviews with City Council members and met the public.

“Since stepping into the role of Acting Police Chief, Ms. Bennett has displayed her community-minded approach to policing that reflects our Edmonds values of safety, care, and compassion,” Mayor Nelson said in a written statement.

The mayor did not return a Daily Herald reporter’s phone call Thursday.

Isabella Breda: 425-339-3192; isabella.breda@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @BredaIsabella.

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