TULALIP — Chris Sutter plans to spend as much time in the field as behind a desk.
“I want people to know we’re here to serve,” said Sutter, who took over the Tulalip Tribes Police Department on Sept. 24. He replaces Carlos Echevarria, who resigned as chief for personal reasons in December 2017.
Sutter oversees about 60 employees, including officers, dispatchers and Fish & Wildlife workers. About 4,800 people live on the Tulalip Indian Reservation west of Marysville, of which 2,600 are tribal members.
“A priority is to respect the customs, cultures and traditions of the Tulalip Tribes and have that sensitivity and awareness,” said Sutter, who is not a tribal member.
Sutter, 56, was assistant chief of police for 10 years in Vancouver. He was on the force there for 26 years total.
He plans to focus on enforcement and outreach, with patrol officers knocking on doors and introducing themselves, “getting out of their cars, walking and talking.”
He said pressing issues include the opioid crisis, crime prevention and building trust.
He wants to use the help and wisdom of elders.
“I’d like to find a way to get elders on ridealongs to neighborhoods and homes,” he said. “A nontribal officer may not have all the history and understanding of the culture.”
Helping people be safe, sometimes even from themselves, is what he loves about police work.
“I’ve talked many people out of harming themselves in different ways. I’ve helped many victims get out of abusive situations or exploitative situations. I’ve helped people feel safe in their own home or neighborhood,” he said.
Sutter grew up in Southern California, where he started his law enforcement career in 1986.
His wife, Sue Tso, was born and raised on a Navajo reservation. They have four children. The youngest is finishing her senior year of high school in Vancouver with his wife, who plans to move to Tulalip after graduation.