New Snohomish police chief has high hopes

SNOHOMISH — Same uniform, same patch, different badge.

The police force in Snohomish underwent major changes over the past few months.

The city in 2011 signed a contract to outsource police services to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. Debate over the issue raged for most of last year, leaving some with hard feelings over the loss of a city police department.

Three months into the contract — something the sheriff’s office likes to call a partnership — the Snohomish police force still is figuring out its new identity. Most of the changes have been internal. The differences may not be obvious to the community.

The transition has been smooth enough, police say, that people keep coming into the police station and approaching police officers in public to ask when the contract starts.

After only a few months, it’s difficult to say if all the controversy has passed, City Manager Larry Bauman said.

It helps that the new police chief in Snohomish, John Flood, is “personable, likable and accessible,” Bauman said.

Flood, 51, is a sheriff’s lieutenant who’s been with the sheriff’s office for 21 years. The contract with Snohomish is the sheriff’s biggest yet, and Flood wants to make the partnership a success, he said.

“The police department is gone,” he said. “What does exist now is the sheriff’s office in Snohomish. We’ll do business here in town as a police department.”

The Snohomish police officers who were hired on as sheriff’s deputies are being trained on sheriff’s policies and procedures, Flood said. That’s expected to take at least a few more months.

The former Snohomish officers and civilian staff who were hired on had some anxiety about what changes would be in store, Flood said.

Snohomish still has the same number of cops. The city’s contract was written for a specific level of service, with 18 deputies and three civilian staff working out of the same building that was the headquarters of the Snohomish Police Department.

Staffing is the same as it was before, with a supervisor and two deputies working at all times, Flood said.

The difference is that Snohomish now can draw more easily on big-city resources — like the SWAT team and detectives with specialized investigative skills.

Flood has worked nearly every assignment at the sheriff’s office, including SWAT, the dive team and the county drug task force.

He wanted to come to Snohomish, where he feels like he can make an impact and be part of the community.

So far, being chief is the best gig he’s had, he said.

“You’re able to do a lot more that is community-oriented than you ever could do out in unincorporated county,” he said.

Some of the five commissioned Snohomish officers who weren’t hired on by the county as deputies are challenging the decision. Those appeals are ongoing.

The hiring decisions were handled by the sheriff’s headquarters in downtown Everett, Flood said. Everyone still doing police work in Snohomish seems to understand that it was out of the city’s hands — and his, Flood said.

“Everyone felt bad that someone didn’t make the process,” he said.

As police chief, Flood now is helping coordinate police response to the town’s popular motorcycle show.

The Antique and Classic Motorcycle Show is returning to Snohomish after a four-year absence. The event’s planners left town over a dispute about policing costs.

The May 20 show will bring an economic boost to Snohomish, Flood said.

“My immediate goal is to make that a success for the city,” he said.

Flood also wants Snohomish deputies to be more visible in town. He wants them to get to know people through foot patrols and other kinds of community involvement.

“I want them to be known on First Street,” he said.

The bars on First Street for decades had a rowdy reputation, but Flood credits former police chief John Turner with taking “a stern hand” and addressing problems such as patrons fighting and over service.

Snohomish also made headlines last year for heroin-related arrests. Heroin still is a problem in the city, but that’s true everywhere, Flood said.

“Nobody is immune to the heroin problem,” he said.

There’s not much left to sort out in the police partnership, Bauman said. The city still is finalizing the look of the new police vehicles. People in Snohomish eventually will see the cops driving Chevy Caprices as they phase out the discontinued Ford Crown Victorias.

The new cars will be black-and-white instead of all-white, but they still will say “Snohomish.”

Flood is scheduled to present the first quarterly report on the new Snohomish police force at City Council on Tuesday night, Bauman said. The report likely will provide the first formal measure of police performance under the new contract.

Where to find police services

Those who live in city limits can go to the Snohomish Police Department, 230 Maple Ave., for non-emergency police services such as fingerprinting, applications for concealed pistol licenses and animal control.

People who don’t live in city limits still need to go to the sheriff’s headquarters at 3000 Rockefeller Ave., Everett. Some services also are available at the sheriff’s precinct in Sultan at 515 Main Street.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com

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