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Poulsbo Police Chief Swiney will retire March 31
POULSBO — Poulsbo Police Chief Dennis Swiney will retire March 31, after five years as chief and some 35 years as a law enforcement officer.
Swiney told Mayor Becky Erickson on Sept. 20 he planned to retire; the city announced the retirement Sept. 26. Erickson said Swiney agreed to stay on the job until a new chief is hired and to allow for a transition period.
Swiney, who earns $112,823 a year as chief, said he wants to spend more time with his three children and five grandchildren in Visalia, Calif., where he served as assistant chief before joining the Poulsbo Police Department on Nov. 21, 2007. His grandchildren were born since he’s lived in Poulsbo.
Swiney said he had “mixed emotions” about leaving the department. “The final decision leans toward family and grandkids,” he said.
Erickson described a visit to Swiney’s office: “You see his pictures of his family, pictures of all of his children and grandchildren,” she said. “He wants to be close to his grandbabies.”
Swiney and his wife, Sandy, plan to keep a home in Poulsbo but will primarily reside in Visalia. He said he and his wife will “take some time to readjust our lives,” and he doesn’t rule out getting a new job in the future. “I’m way too young and have too much energy to retire,” he said.
The mayor said a hiring committee, composed of City Council members and law enforcement officers, will be appointed. Erickson has the authority to hire the chief, but she said she’ll bring the council into the decision-making process.
“It will be very transparent, very professional,” Erickson said of the recruitment and hiring process. “We are going to have a recruitment and an open and transparent process, a process that is open to the police force and the citizens of Poulsbo.” She hopes to have a new chief hired while Swiney is here to ensure a smooth and orderly transition.
Swiney was 51 when he left Visalia — a city of 117,000 people and 136 sworn police officers — for Poulsbo, which had 7,500 residents and a force of 18 sworn officers and three support staff. Today, Poulsbo has a population of 9,500 and a force of 16 sworn officers and three police clerks. Poulsbo’s reserve deputy ranks have dwindled from 20 to three in that time.
Swiney’s tenure was never a quiet one. He joined the department as a Poulsbo detective was being investigated for allegedly misusing police databases and harassing women; the allegations were investigated by the Bremerton Police Department. The detective, Grant Romaine, resigned a month after Swiney took office, then unsuccessfully sued Poulsbo in federal court for $10 million, alleging wrongful termination.
In response to the Romaine case, Swiney began random periodic computer-usage audits.
In 2008, Swiney hired a former colleague from Visalia as the city’s first deputy chief. Shawn Delaney, who had served as a Visalia Police lieutenant, resigned as deputy chief two years later when the city faced employee cutbacks. The position remained vacant until November 2011, when Bremerton Police Sgt. Wendy Davis became deputy chief.
In 2010, Swiney brought Ken Bailey onboard as the department’s first chaplain, to provide support in times of crisis, and be a liaison to the community and a friend to officers.
In 2011, the department moved to City Hall from its station on Hostmark Street. The city reached a new contract with the Poulsbo Police Officers Association, ending a two-year stalemate. A former police clerk was arrested for stealing two guns from evidence; the guns had been scheduled to be destroyed. The thefts prompted an investigation by the state Auditor’s Office and a change in how evidence handling, storage and accounting.
February was a trying month. On Feb. 8, Poulsbo police officers shot and killed a Poulsbo man who was armed with a handgun at the Les Schwab Tire Center on Viking Avenue. The county Prosecuting Attorney’s Office determined the shooting was justified. On Feb. 17, police arrested a man who tried to rob the Timberland Bank on Viking Avenue.
On Feb. 21, a Poulsbo man was arrested for allegedly shooting and killing another man in the latter’s apartment. On Feb. 26, a Bremerton man was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a forest near Snider Park.
On Feb. 28, a woman was run over by a car and killed in the parking lot at First Lutheran Church on 4th Street. Witnesses blamed the foul weather, slippery road surface and lack of lighting, and police ruled it an accident.
“He helped the city when it had some hills to climb,” Erickson said. “This winter, we had a rough time. The performance of the police department and how it handled such crises — I’m proud of how they handled themselves. They’re a well-trained, well-organized organization and it’s a lot to Chief Swiney’s credit we are where we are.”
She added, “He’s what I call a big-city cop. That kind of professionalism, thoroughness and dedication really stood well for the city.”
Swiney said of the tragedies, “We train for those things, but it’s very trying on the organization, on the community and on the involved families. But that’s what we do. That’s why we go through the testing and the training. It’s saddening for us to be involved in those things, but we’re professionals and we do what is expected of us to do.”
Swiney counted among his accomplishments: Establishing a contemporary policy manual that is updated twice a year; adopting the Community-Oriented Policing and Problem Solving program, or COPS; and revamping what is now Volunteers in Police Service, or VIPs. These trained police volunteers, who are not sworn officers, assist the department by enforcing parking laws, doing vacation checks of homes, providing crowd and parking control during events, and providing a presence in the community.
As part of the COPS program, officers are assigned to specific areas of the city to build familiarity between officers and residents. The city is divided into districts for easier tracking of complaints and other data. And National Night Out, an annual community event, brings residents, police, businesses, civic groups and neighborhood organizations together to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness;generate participation in local anticrime programs, strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships, and send a message that neighborhoods are organized against crime.
“I always enjoyed coming to work. I always felt we had direction and goals in mind,” Swiney said. “Things are going well and I appreciate the support of the city and the community.”
CHIEF'S ANNOUNCEMENT TO HIS DEPARTMENT
Swiney issued the following announcement to his department, Sept. 25:
It is with mixed emotions that I announce my retirement from the City of Poulsbo.
No Police Department can succeed by itself. I have had the good fortune to work with the great organization and outstanding staff of the City of Poulsbo and Poulsbo Police Department. In addition to the hard work of our personnel, the support I’ve received from the Local Government, the Business Community and Citizenry cannot be over stated. The Mayor and City Council have been unwavering in their level of commitment to see the Police Department succeed, even throughout extraordinarily difficult economic times.
I am honored to have been your Chief and am humbled by your support. Your enthusiasm and dedication to the safety of the citizens of Poulsbo fill me with pride. The examples of bravery and sacrifice you’ve displayed will always be my inspiration. Never forget you perform one of the noblest professions in the world and the people of Poulsbo respect you for it.
The Mayor has asked that I remain on staff and be a part of the selection process as well as work with the recruiting firm. Therefore, my retirement date will be effective March 31, 2013.
Dennis L. Swiney
CHIEF OF POLICE