Lt. Nathan Alanis, the new Snohomish police chief, outside of the Sultan Police Department on Monday, Aug. 28, 2023, in Sultan, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Lt. Nathan Alanis, the new Snohomish police chief, outside of the Sultan Police Department on Monday, Aug. 28, 2023, in Sultan, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

New Snohomish police chief will patrol his hometown

“It’s important that we all hold each other accountable,” said Lt. Nathan Alanis, who has served as police chief in Brier and Sultan.

SNOHOMISH — Lt. Nathan Alanis knows he’s not “big and intimidating.”

So from the start of his career as a police officer, he knew “I can’t just come in and start talking down to people.”

That’s not his style, anyway.

“I don’t get paid bonus points for being a jerk” to people who commit crimes, he said.

On Friday, Alanis will bring his measured approach to the Snohomish Police Department when he takes over as chief. He’ll replace Chief Mike Martin, who served about two months before leaving to serve as a captain for the sheriff’s office.

“We are grateful for Lt. Martin’s service to Snohomish and wish him the best with his promotion,” Mayor Linda Redmon said in a statement, adding Alanis “has tremendous passion for our community and high expectations for public safety and community engagement.”

Alanis, 41, has spent 16 years working for the county sheriff’s office, which has a contract with Snohomish to police the city.

He didn’t grow up dreaming of being a cop. Entering college at Western Washington University, “I was the typical 18-year-old, didn’t really know what he was gonna do,” Alanis said.

Just about everyone in his family worked in the tech industry, so that’s what he set out to do at first.

But “it wasn’t for me,” Alanis said. “And I just knew that right away.”

He wanted a job that would let him interact with people. That’s how he came to consider working in law enforcement. After doing a ride-along with a friend who worked as a deputy in Snohomish County, he was hooked. Since he was from Duvall, Alanis applied for jobs in both King and Snohomish counties. The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office offered him a spot first. He took it.

When the King County office called to offer him a job, he turned it down.

“I love the area,” he said. “This is where I’ve stayed and made home.”

Over the years, he has worked in a range of roles at the sheriff’s office, which have taken him all over the county. One of those roles was as a detective in the special investigations unit, a branch that deals with sexual assaults and crimes against children.

People would ask him, “Why would you want to investigate that stuff?”

Alanis’ answer was that if his loved ones were victims of these kinds of crimes, “I would want someone like me investigating it, someone that’s gonna care.”

His philosophy was to start from a place of believing what victims told him and investigating from there.

“If something doesn’t add up, you try and clarify,” he said. “And sometimes there’s a reason why.”

Victims might be reluctant to get family members in trouble, for example, or may worry they’ll be in trouble themselves.

“We all have heard those horror stories in the news” where police don’t believe a sexual assault happened, Alanis said. He didn’t want to be that kind of cop.

After his stint as a detective, Alanis continued rising through the ranks. He spent four years as an administrative sergeant in the city of Snohomish. And he has already served as a police chief twice, once as interim chief in Brier and once as police chief in Sultan.

Promoting public trust in police is important to him. He’s a proponent of body cameras, which he says are “very beneficial on both sides.”

Listening to people is also a key part of trust for Alanis.

Police, he said, “sometimes create our own problems” when they don’t communicate clearly or respectfully.

“When you try and empathize with people,” it makes a big difference, Alanis said. Among fellow police officers, “it’s important that we all hold each other accountable.”

Outside of work, he’s a dad to his 11-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter. His family lives just outside Snohomish. Last year, he coached fifth grade boy’s basketball.

He’s looking forward to serving as police chief in the city he lives in.

Snohomish is “just so different than anything else that we have in the county,” Alanis said. “It’s just that small town feel. That’s the thing I’m really looking forward to.”

Sophia Gates: 425-339-3035;; Twitter: @SophiaSGates.

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