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Police chief candidate interviewer is now a candidate for the job

Port Orchard Police Chief Alan Townsend is a candidate for the job of Poulsbo police chief. - Port Orchard Independent
Port Orchard Police Chief Alan Townsend is a candidate for the job of Poulsbo police chief.
— image credit: Port Orchard Independent

POULSBO — A panelist who interviewed candidates for Poulsbo police chief is now a candidate for the job.

Mayor Becky Erickson announced Tuesday that Port Orchard Police Chief Alan Townsend is a “top candidate” and that the recruitment process had been extended. He was scheduled to be interviewed by a panel Tuesday at Poulsbo City Hall. A public reception to meet Townsend has been scheduled for Feb. 6, 6-6:45 p.m., in the City Hall Council Chambers, 200 NE Moe St.

Townsend, who lives near Bangor, told the Port Orchard Independent Tuesday that he had participated in the city’s selection process for a new police chief and “I was really impressed with City Hall and how it operates. There was an opportunity there and I decided to give it a try. It would be a new challenge for me.”

Townsend’s candidacy was announced by Erickson’s office six days after a public reception for five other candidates who survived the whittling of an application pool of more than 30. Those candidates — Robert Griffiths of Cordova, Alaska, Stephen MacKinnon of Santa Paula, Calif., Stephen Mauer of Lakewood, Julius “Phil” Schenck of Sunnyside, and C. Stephen Sutton of Gig Harbor — had been interviewed by three panels of interviewers. The five met the public in a City Hall reception Jan. 30 and had one-on-one interviews with the mayor Jan. 31.

City Clerk Jill Boltz said the addition of Townsend is not a reflection on those candidates.

“The top five is now a top six,” she said.

She said Townsend’s candidacy is “something that arose” last week. She said he applied for the job through The Prothman Company, the recruitment firm retained by the city, and will undergo the same scrutiny as the other candidates. “It’s a very thorough process … We are definitely doing our due diligence,” she said.

Townsend interviewed other police chief candidates as a member of the technical panel, consisting of residents and law enforcement. Two other panels are comprised of department heads, City Council members and the mayor.

Townsend said he didn’t know he’d become a candidate when he participated as a panelist. “I had a conversation with the mayor and she asked if I’d be interested in doing that,” he said. “It was a mutual thing. Both of us saw there was some interest. I was highly impressed with what I saw, the way the council and mayor and department heads interacted. It was refreshing.”

He said of his own interview, “I suspect that I’m not going to see the same questions” asked of the other candidates. “The mayor’s got to do what she feels comfortable with. If I’m not not the right fit for them, that’s fine too.”

Port Orchard Mayor Tim Matthes issued a statement Tuesday about his police chief's interest in leaving for Poulsbo.

"Chief Alan Townsend is well respected in our community. I have had a great working relationship these past 12 months with him," Matthes said.

"I am very impressed with his professionalism and dedication to our police department. I am not surprised that he is on the short list of qualified candidates for Poulsbo police chief. If he is selected and accepts that position, he will be close to his home and family. There is no doubt he will be hard for Port Orchard to replace. The City of Port Orchard is interested to see what decisions will be made by the City of Poulsbo and Chief Townsend."

Townsend, 47, has been Port Orchard’s chief of police since 1999 and earns $126,000 a year. Prior to that, he was with the Lincoln, Neb., Police Department, where he began his career in law enforcement, for almost 10 years. He has a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from the University of Nebraska, a master's degree in criminal justice administration from Boston University, and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy.

Townsend had surgery in 2011 for colon cancer. Since then, he said, there has been no sign of the disease in checkups conducted every six months.

Boltz said she worked with Townsend in Port Orchard — she was administrative secretary and interim deputy clerk — until six years ago when she left for Poulsbo. “I really like him,” she said. “He’s very well rounded and well educated. He’s personable and very easy to work with.”

Boltz said of the other five candidates: “I thought they were a great group of people. I don’t envy the mayor’s position in having to make the decision.”

The new chief will succeed Dennis Swiney, who retired Jan. 15. He was paid $112,823 a year. Deputy Chief Robert Wright is acting chief. The department is budgeted for 10 officers, three sergeants, one detective, one deputy chief, one chief, and three clerks. Erickson said Jan. 30 is discussing hiring two additional officers — a K-9 officer and a school resource officer.

The other finalists

The other five candidates were similar in their views of Poulsbo and the department. All said they like the small-town feel here. Several said they want to build on the department’s system of community policing and bolster the department’s ranks by building a pool of reserve officers.

Erickson said she wants the next police chief to bring stability to the department, be committed to community outreach, and build on the department’s community policing; officers are assigned to specific neighborhoods to promote relationship-building between police and residents.

“I’d like the next chief to continue that program or develop something similar,” she said. “In a city of four square miles, residents should know who their cops are.”

Sutton, a division commander with the Washington State Patrol, was simultaneously a candidate for Bremerton police chief — a job that, by the weekend, had gone to former King County sheriff Steve Strachan. Asked which city he would choose if he got a phone call from both that night, Sutton was cautious. But his wife, Pam, was sold on Poulsbo.

“I would rather he be here,” she said. “I love a small town, where you can walk down the street and see people you know.”

Sutton has been with the Washington State Patrol since 1988 and has been a captain since 2005. He is division commander for the Investigative Assistance Division. He has a bachelor’s degree in public administration from the University of Mississippi, a master’s degree in leadership from City University, and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy.

Schenck, acting police chief of Sunnyside and deputy chief since 2000, talked about how information-led policing — the multi-agency sharing of information through technology — helped reduce residential burglaries 72 percent, auto theft 45 percent, vandalism 60 percent, and violent crimes 30 percent.

Schenck went on a ride along with a Poulsbo officer and spent a day in the department. “It’s a nice town. People here seem to like their community,” he said. He’s been a resident of Sunnyside for 23 years and said Poulsbo would be his last career stop “until after my 6-year-old graduates.” Schenck has a bachelor’s degree in military science from Central Washington University, a master of business administration from City University, and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy.

Griffiths was police chief of Cordova, Alaska, from 2011-13. Prior to that, he was executive director of the Alaska Association of Chiefs of Police for three years.

His career in law enforcement began in 1975 as a deputy sheriff for the Jackson County, Ore., Sheriff’s Office. He then joined the Anchorage Police Department, where he served from 1984-2001.

Griffiths was director of the National Law Enforcement & Corrections Technology Center Northwest for eight years. He has a bachelor’s degree in criminology from Southern Oregon University and a master’s degree in organizational business management from the University of LaVerne in California.

MacKinnon of Avondale, Ariz., was most recently police chief of Santa Paula, Calif., a position he held for nearly seven years. He was police chief of Avondale from 2001-04, Salem, N.H. from 1994-2001, and Exeter, N.H. from 1990-94. He worked for the U.S. Department of State in the United Nations International Policing Task Force in 2004.

MacKinnon has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Northeastern University, a master’s degree in public administration from City University, and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy.

Mauer has been a lieutenant with the Lakewood Police Department since 2006 and has been with the department since 2004. He has 27 years of law enforcement experience and served in Puyallup for 10 years and Fife for nine.

Mauer has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Washington State University and a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Chapman University.

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