Former K-9 officer, promoted to Lynnwood chief, has to-do list to tackle

Cole Langdon has been at the department for 27 years. He replaces Jim Nelson, a Lynnwood officer for three decades.

Cole Langdon (Lynnwood Police Department)
Cole Langdon (Photo provided by the Lynnwood Police Department)

Cole Langdon (Lynnwood Police Department) Cole Langdon (Photo provided by the Lynnwood Police Department)

LYNNWOOD — If not for a herniated disc at a spring football practice, Cole Langdon’s career path might have looked a little different.

Langdon, who grew up in Mountlake Terrace, was an offensive lineman at the University of Washington, but injured his back as a freshman during a spring practice. It effectively ended his football career, but set him off on another route.

At 19 years old, he applied for the cadet program at the Lynnwood Police Department. He’s been there ever since.

He took his position Monday as chief of Lynnwood police, where he’ll lead the city’s 55 officers. Langdon has served various positions since joining the department 27 years ago.

He replaced Jim Nelson, who had served as chief since August 2020.

Jim Nelson (City of Lynnwood)
Jim Nelson (Photo provided by the City of Lynnwood)

Jim Nelson (City of Lynnwood) Jim Nelson (Photo provided by the City of Lynnwood)

The Lynnwood City Council confirmed Langdon’s hiring during a hearing last week. The vote passed with six in favor and council member Josh Binda abstaining. Council members Jim Smith and Shirley Sutton shared anecdotes about Langdon’s impact on the community since he joined the force.

Smith said Langdon’s heart is in the city, and he even remembers him when he was a 19-year-old cadet, delivering newspapers to his house.

Council members George Hurst and Binda shared concerns about the internal hiring process. Binda said that he was confident in Langdon’s qualifications and ability to serve as chief, but believed other candidates should have been considered. According to Lynnwood municipal code, at least three candidates are required for the confirmation process, but only two within the department applied, according to city documents.

The new chief steps in amid construction of a new Community Justice Center, a sprawling, 12,750-square-foot facility with 84 beds and a mental health wing. The project was delayed because of public outrage when Tirhas Tesfatsion took her own life while incarcerated in the city jail.

As of this year, the Lynnwood police chief makes around $240,000 annually, according to city records.

Goodbye, after 30 years

Thirty years after joining the Lynnwood police department, Jim Nelson spent his last day in gratitude, mostly for the people that he’s met along the way.

“I had a couple goals when I started the job, and one of them was to leave with a smile on my face … and I’ve been successful in that,” Nelson said.

Nelson grew up in Minnesota, but spent his teenage years in Alaska. He was passionate about flying airplanes, and at 18, he spent a summer spotting fish over the waters of Bristol Bay.

He would sit in the backseat of a Cessna seaplane, observing sockeye salmon activity for fishing boats. He would sometimes sleep inside the cockpit of the plane as it rested on the Alaska waters.

“It was an unusual experience, being up in an uncontrolled airspace in a wild part of the world, with caribou running across the tundra,” Nelson said. “It was unlike anything I’ve done prior to that, or since.”

Jim Nelson in the early 2000s. (Photo provided by the Lynnwood Police Department)

Jim Nelson in the early 2000s. (Photo provided by the Lynnwood Police Department)

He initially came to Washington in the 1980s to attend a flying program at Everett Community College, but the classes were full. So he went a different route. After taking a few criminal justice classes, he took an interest in law enforcement.

Nelson joined the Marines, and when he returned to Washington, he applied to be a Lynnwood police officer. After getting the job, he never left.

At the time Nelson applied, it was a highly competitive position, with nearly 900 people at the police tests. Nelson said the current environment is “very different,” with only 20 to 30 people applying at a time to be Lynnwood police officers.

Before becoming chief, Nelson worked in the narcotics division and as commander of the municipal jail.

Nelson worked long hours while undercover in narcotics. During that time, he coached his son’s Little League team, and had to tell the other parents not to approach him if they saw him on the street, so they wouldn’t blow his cover.

“You’d be buying drugs from people who were armed, there was a lot of money at play,” Nelson said. “It’s dangerous work. My family had to endure that for six years.”

Inside the former Lynnwood jail, Nelson had his “eyes opened.” Being able to see the perspective of the frequently incarcerated made him feel closer to the community and colored the rest of his experience in law enforcement.

“I learned a lot about the way the system works from their aspect,” he said. “You get that moment of clarity from people in jail. Maybe they’re clean for the first time from drugs in a long time, where they are more willing to talk to you about things.”

He’s beginning another career with Public Safety Testing — a firm that helps law enforcement with the testing and recruitment process.

Nelson has three kids. The oldest was born the first year he was hired. Looking beyond, he wants to sail the waters off the coast of Alaska.

“I want to get back up there and share that with my wife,” Nelson said. “That’s the main thing I’m looking forward to.”

Welcome, Chief Langdon

After his career-ending injury, the newly appointed chief was searching for a sense of purpose. Langdon found it as a police officer.

“I’ve always held the police in high regard, but I had more of an interest in federal law enforcement,” he said. “But when I saw how much more interaction with the community there is with local law enforcement, I fell in love with it.”

Langdon spent 11 years with the K-9 unit, where he worked with two dogs — Tanner and Buddy. Tanner had to retire early, but Langdon adopted him soon after.

“K-9 is not something you want to force on somebody,” Langdon said. “I love dogs. The thing that drew me to K-9 was the dynamic of needing to practice and train to build this strong relationship with this really cool animal.”

Cole Langdon with his police dog Tanner in 2007. (Photo provided by the Lynnwood Police Department)

Cole Langdon with his police dog Tanner in 2007. (Photo provided by the Lynnwood Police Department)

He was eventually promoted to sergeant, where he supervised patrol squads.

Langdon served as part of the “Cops and Clergy” program, where police and faith leaders around the community held quarterly talks. He has helped to oversee the department’s experimentation with different de-escalation tactics. In April, the department debuted the StarChase program, an air canister attached to police vehicles that shoots a GPS tracking device at fleeing cars, potentially making police pursuits safer.

“De-escalation is nothing new to us, it’s good police work is what it is,” Langdon said. “Allowing things to calm down, slowing things down, has always been good police tactics.”

Langdon said he also plans to implement new “virtual reality based scenario training” within the department. The technology consists of virtual goggles and a camera system that can demonstrate different scenarios, such as a person with a weapon, and officers can practice different ways to solve the situation.

“Good police work is keeping the community safe,” Langdon said. “Improving the quality of life and their perception of safety — the key there is the partnership with the community.”

Another emphasis for the department will be managing the mental health of police officers and the daily anxieties that come with the job.

“There are tough aspects of the job, it’s difficult work, but if it was easy it would get boring pretty quick,” Langdon said. “I haven’t been bored a day in my life here.”

Jonathan Tall: 425-339-3486;; Twitter: @EDHJonTall.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Fraudulent 1999 Pokémon cards Iosif “Joe” Bondarchuk and Anthony Curcio sold to an undercover law enforcement purchaser in July 2023. (Photo provided by the DOJ USAO Southern District of New York)
Counterfeit Pokémon cards, a $2M scheme, and a getaway by inner tube

It was the latest stranger-than-fiction caper tied to ex-Monroe star athlete Anthony Curcio, accused of forging mint grades for rare cards.

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.

Suspected DUI crash injures trooper on I-5 north in Lynnwood

WSP spokesperson said two suspected impaired drivers have crashed into a state trooper in the past 24 hours.

Former President Donald Trump raises a fist as he walks to the courtroom after the jury had a question for the judge amid  deliberations in his criminal trial at the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, Wednesday, May 29, 2024. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)
Trump found guilty on all 34 counts in hush-money case

Twelve New Yorkers delivered their verdict in the case against Donald J. Trump. He was charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records in connection with a payment to a porn star.

The view of Mountain Loop Mine out the window of a second floor classroom at Fairmount Elementary on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
After months of controversy, mine’s Everett gravel yard is for sale

In April, a county judge ordered OMA Construction to stop all work, next door to Fairmount Elementary School. Now, the yard is on the market.

Traffic moves along Highway 526 in front of Boeing’s Everett Production Facility on Nov. 28, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Boeing agrees to pay over $11.5M in back pay to employees

Nearly 500 workers received back wages, in what Washington regulators call the largest-ever settlement of its kind in state history.

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 closure between Everett and Marysville delayed by weather

The key alternative route to I-5 was slated to be fully closed overnight Saturday. Now, June 8 is being circled as the date.

Benson Boone (Photo provided by AEG Presents)
Taylor Swift taps Monroe HS grad Benson Boone to open London show

Boone, 21, has become a global pop star since his “American Idol” stint in 2021. “Beautiful Things” is the biggest song in the world.

News logo for use with stories about Mill Creek in Snohomish County, WA.
Mill Creek man accused of crashing into taxi in Seattle, killing woman

King County prosecutors charged Aboubacarr Singhateh with vehicular homicide and three counts of vehicular assault.

Grayson Huff, left, a 4th grader at Pinewood Elementary, peeks around his sign during the Marysville School District budget presentation on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
State OKs Marysville plan with schools, jobs on chopping block

The revised plan would mean the loss of dozens of jobs and two schools — still to be identified — in a school district staring down a budget crunch.

The Trestle’s junction with I-5 is under evaluation (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Here’s your chance to give feedback on the US 2 trestle and its future

Often feel overwhelmed, vulnerable and on shaky ground? So is the trestle. A new $17 million study seeks solutions for the route east of Everett.

Rep. Suzanne DelBene and Mayor Kyoko Matsumoto Wright walk past a future apartment development during a tour and discussion with community leaders regarding the Mountlake Terrace Main Street Revitalization project on Tuesday, May 28, 2024, in Mountlake Terrace, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
As Mountlake Terrace grows, so does housing around light rail

City officials lauded a new apartment complex and accepted a $850,000 check, as Mountlake Terrace continues work on Town Center plan.

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.