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Poulsbo police chief departing early, deputy chief appointed acting chief

Deputy Chief Bob Wright being sworn in by Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson in November. - Megan Stephenson / Herald
Deputy Chief Bob Wright being sworn in by Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson in November.
— image credit: Megan Stephenson / Herald

POULSBO — Poulsbo’s police chief is homeless — in Poulsbo, anyway.

Dennis Swiney is still chief of police, but he’s spending most of his time in Visalia, Calif., his hometown to which he will return upon retirement.

Swiney (pronounced Swee-nee) had earlier announced he would retire and leave the department March 31, but on Friday the mayor announced Swiney bumped that date up to Jan. 15. Swiney’s house reportedly sold sooner than he thought it would — on Nov. 20, according to the Kitsap County Assessor’s website. Swiney’s wife, Sandy, has returned to Visalia and their furniture and belongings have been moved there, Deputy Chief Bob Wright said.

Since mid-November, Swiney has been on vacation 23 days and on sick leave three days, city HR director Deanna Kingery said. When Swiney’s returned, he’s had to get a hotel room at his expense, Wright said.

When he announced his retirement in September, Swiney said he and his wife planned to keep a home in Poulsbo. “His relatives own a place in town, but that place is leased out,” Wright said, adding, “So he’s homeless, I guess.”

Wright said Swiney is expected in Poulsbo next weekend. Wright becomes acting chief on Jan. 16 and will serve until a new chief is hired. Mayor Becky Erickson said 33 candidates had applied for the position by Jan. 3; the application closing date is Jan. 6. Residents can meet the finalists at a reception on Jan. 30, 5:30 p.m. in the Poulsbo City Council Chambers. Interviews with the finalists will take place on Jan. 31.

Wright hadn’t decided Friday whether he would apply to be chief.

Erickson said she had no problem with Swiney moving his departure date up by two months.

“When he first approached me [about retiring], I’m the one who asked him to stay longer because I wanted continuity until the new chief was hired,” she said. But then Wendy Davis stepped down as deputy chief after one year and was succeeded by Wright, who’s been with Poulsbo PD for 23 years. Now, “I’m feeling more comfortable in letting him go,” Erickson said of Swiney. “He wanted to leave at the end of December. He stayed longer at my request.”

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.

Kingery said Swiney received 200 hours, or five weeks, of vacation time a year. He had 69 hours of vacation time left  as of Dec. 31 and will be able to cash out any vacation time he doesn’t take.

Although Swiney is a short-timer on vacation in another state, he’s still ultimately responsible for the department, Kingery said. She said he checks in regularly and, on Friday, she talked to him on the phone. “He has a bad cold,” she said.

Wright’s pay will be increased 3 percent while he serves as acting chief, Kingery said, and will revert back to his current salary when he returns to deputy chief duties.

The Poulsbo Police Department has 10 officers, three sergeants, one detective, one deputy chief, one chief, and three clerks. Besides the chief’s absence and Wright filling in as acting chief, one sergeant is doing light duty.

“We’re definitely feeling tight-staffed,” Wright said. “As you know, we took some personnel cuts a few years ago. With change in the economy, I have full faith we’ll be restoring some of that. Our officers are doing a lot more with a lot less, and that’s not the preferential way to do it.”

The City Council is scheduled Jan. 9 to discuss allocating funds for an additional police officer. According to the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division website, in 2009 U.S. cities with populations of less than 10,000 reported an average of 3.5 officers for every 1,000 residents. Of cities with populations of 10,000 to 24,999 population, that average drops to 1.9 officers for every 1,000 residents. Poulsbo’s officer-to-resident ratio is currently 1.6 officers per 1,000.

 

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