Snohomish council considers hiring permanent police chief

Many think Capt. Robert Palmer is the best fit, but his salary would cost the city another $30,000.

Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Robert Palmer is the interim chief of police for the city of Snohomish. (Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office)

Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Robert Palmer is the interim chief of police for the city of Snohomish. (Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office)

SNOHOMISH — At its most recent meeting, the Snohomish City Council was asked to consider changes to its contract with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, to allow the city to hire Capt. Robert Palmer.

Palmer took over a few months ago, following a tense night in downtown Snohomish.

He attended the Snohomish City Council meeting Tuesday night dressed in a black uniform, in case he was sworn in that night. Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney was there for the same reason. Police services in Snohomish are provided by the sheriff’s office, with the current contract valid until the end of 2021.

Ultimately, the council decided not to make any decisions yet. Changes to the contract included adding $30,000 to the city budget to hire Palmer as a captain, to pay a total of about $200,000 a year for salary and benefits, according to city records.

The city council could avoid that extra cost if it hired another lieutenant instead, paying about $170,000 for salary and benefits. Council members also wanted to look closer at language in the contract. They’re scheduled to continue the discussion during the next regular meeting on Sept. 15.

Palmer has been the interim police chief since June. At the time, former chief Lt. Keith Rogers was assigned to another position within the sheriff’s office after hundreds of people gathered on First Street, some with guns. Many called for his resignation.

On Tuesday, councilmember Judith Kuleta asked Palmer how he would handle a situation similar to the gathering at the end of May, if it were to happen again.

He said he would follow the law and use available resources within the county and state.

“That’s the best thumbnail sketch I can give you,” he said. “It depends on what’s going on.”

Councilmember Tom Merrill asked if there were any lieutenants in the sheriff’s office who could take over the role, to avoid paying the $30,000.

“Honest answer is certainly, yeah,” Palmer replied. “There are great people who work for the sheriff’s office and they’re certainly capable of coming in and administering the Snohomish contract.”

Soon after, virtual attendees were allowed to speak during public comment. Some pointed out they don’t agree with sheriff Fortney’s leadership, and don’t know if they trust his recommendation to hire Palmer.

Merrill shared the same concern. He also has not yet had a chance to sit down and talk with Palmer, and he hopes to do so before making a decision, he said.

State Rep. John Lovick called in during public comment. Lovick, a Democrat, serves the 44th Legislative District. His opponent in the upcoming general election is Snohomish Mayor John Kartak.

Before Lovick was appointed to the House of Representatives, he served as sheriff and county executive in Snohomish County.

“I think this man is an absolute class act,” he said of Palmer. “When I say class act, I think about some of the interactions I’ve had with him over my career. He’s the kind of leader I would want if I lived in your wonderful city.”

Palmer has been with the sheriff’s office for 32 years, including in roles as a detective investigating homicides, crimes against children, narcotics and sex offenders.

Councilmember Steve Dana said the idea of spending $30,000 makes him “wince a little bit” but that he’s comfortable paying the money, because he believes Palmer is the best choice.

He also pointed out that if people don’t trust Fortney’s judgment, they may want to listen to Lovick.

“You just heard a ringing endorsement from Rep. Lovick regarding the qualities and the merits of the man,” Dana said. “… We all have some questions about maybe the philosophy of people in the sheriff’s office and other elected offices. I think in this particular case we are looking for a guy with impeccable character and impeccable qualifications.”

By the Tuesday meeting, Palmer was only days from ending his 90-day position as the city’s interim police chief. Fortney gave permission for him to stay in that temporary role as the council continues to deliberate.

After more than an hour of discussion, the council voted to continue the conversation at its next regular meeting.

Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192;; Twitter: @stephrdavey.

Talk to us

More in Local News

After escaping on Wednesday, an emu named Sarah has been safely returned to AJ's Acre, a farm located near the Alexander Road and the Mukilteo Speedway. (AJ's Acre)
An escaped emu is returned to its farm in Mukilteo

Missing since Wednesday, the female bird was noticed by a neighbor and safely recovered Saturday.

Erin Staadecker (left-right) Jael Weinburg and Kaylee Allen with Rosie formed the Edmonds firm Creative Dementia Collective. The company helps memory care patients and care-givers by providing art, music and other creative therapies. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
This startup offers artful therapy for dementia patients

Creative Dementia Collective uses art and music to help them — and their caregivers.

The Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine is prepared for injection Friday at Angel of the Winds Arena. (Snohomish Health District) 20210305
New vaccination site opens at Angel of the Winds Arena

Meanwhile, supply is still an issue now that teachers and child care workers are seeking shots.

Broadway closed after ‘small explosive device’ is found

The Everett Police Department bomb squad responded and “rendered it inert.”

People experiencing homelessness along Smith Avenue would need to find a new area to live if the Everett City Council passes a no-sit, no-lie ordinance. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Public speaks out against Everett’s ‘no-sit, no-lie’ proposal

The ordinance would target homeless people near the site of a proposed village of small shelter dwellings.

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112
Inslee: The president made me speed up teacher vaccinations

Here’s what’s happening on Day 54 of the 2021 session of the Washington Legislature.

A Boeing 787 operated by All Nippon Airways taxis under a rainbow created by fire trucks at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Monday, Oct. 1, 2012, in Seattle, during an official welcome ceremony after it landed on the first day of service for the aircraft on ANA's Seattle-Tokyo route. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Last Everett-built Boeing 787 rolls off the assembly line

Production of the once-hot Dreamliner is being consolidated at the company’s South Carolina plant.

Darlene Tanis sorts through book titles Thursday morning at the Everett Library on March 4, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Shrinking the ‘digital divide,’ area libraries slowly reopen

This week, services such as computer and Wi-Fi use — and even book-browsing — were reinstated.

Everett woman, 20, charged after allegedly stabbing roommate

Multiple surgeries saved the injured woman’s life after she was stabbed in the heart and a lung.

Most Read