Recently named Edmonds police chief is out before he begins

Mayor Mike Nelson said the city council-confirmed candidate omitted information on his application.

Sherman Pruitt

Sherman Pruitt

EDMONDS — Sherman Pruitt will not be the next police chief in Edmonds after all, Mayor Mike Nelson announced Tuesday.

Last week, the Edmonds City Council voted 4-3 to confirm Pruitt’s nomination to lead the city’s police department, with dozens of residents and some council members calling for the mayor to reconsider his nomination.

But on Monday, the city received new information, Nelson said in a news release, that Pruitt omitted “relevant” details about his past from his application materials. The statement did not describe the excluded information.

“I simply cannot ignore such an omission, even for a strong candidate like Chief Pruitt,” Nelson said in a news release. “So, unfortunately, the city will not be able to move forward with Chief Pruitt.”

Pruitt, who would have been the city’s first Black chief, was chosen over interim police chief James Lawless, a 33-year veteran of law enforcement. Nelson said he wants “a department that is a stronger, more transparent, accountable, and a safer space for Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color in our community.”

A nationwide search for the city’s next chief will start next year, Nelson said. Earlier this fall, the city opened up a month-long search that yielded 16 candidates. Twelve were deemed qualified and three were chosen as finalists, including Pruitt and Lawless.

Nelson said that Pruitt described the omission from his application as a mistake and the result of forgetfulness, according to the city news release. The inclusion of all relevant information was a requirement of candidates for police chief, according to city code.

Pruitt previously served as the chief of police and director of emergency management services for the Sauk-Suiattle Tribe near Darrington. He’s also served as interim chief of the Tulalip Police Department.

“Chief Pruitt would have brought many great qualities to our police department, so I am very disappointed by this outcome,” Nelson wrote. “But if the City were to overlook this omission, it would create a precedent that is not in the best interest of the City for satisfying its legal requirement to do a thorough background check for all law enforcement applicants.”

Nelson acknowledged that the appointment of Pruitt became controversial. He dismissed public criticism of the candidate, saying it was based on false or misconstrued information.

“Frankly, I was disappointed when the process of selecting a new chief became so personal, emotional, and antagonistic,” the mayor’s statement said. “I hope that I never see a repeat of anything like it.”

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