At its Sept. 15 meeting, the City Council accepted a contract amendment negotiated with the Snohomish County Sheriffs Office. The change in language allows a captain to become chief, previously detailed to be filled by a lieutenant.
Chief Palmer will be sworn in as the permanent police chief soon after the contract is finalized.
At its Sept. 1 meeting, the city council requested for the contract to allow for either a captain or lieutenant as chief, in addition to retaining final decision when determining a police chief.
After negotiations between city attorneys and the sheriff’s office, the Council was pleased to retain final decision, but because of union policies, the contract must specify either a captain or a lieutenant, not both.
The revised contract means the city will have to pay Palmer an additional $30,000 due to his higher rank as captain. Although at previous meetings the Council was hesitant on the cost, hesitations were quieted following a quarterly review of the budget.
According to city administrator Steve Schuller, law enforcement is currently $710,000 under budget per the last quarterly review. The expenditures through the first 18 months of the 24-month law enforcement budget were expected to reach $5.83 million, or 75% of the full $7.77 million budget.
The actual expenditure so far is $5.13 million, Schuller said during an August City Council budget workshop.
Although money was involved in the decision, it wasn’t the sole deciding factor on whether to select Palmer as the permanent police chief. Council members and residents spoke highly of Palmer and his ability to police the community. The council mentioned a big concern, in times of civil unrest, is having the experience to lead a department and connect with citizens.
Councilman Tom Merrill said during the meeting that Snohomish has been in the headlines locally, nationally, and even in British Columbia, Canada.
“We’ve been on the front page for hosting protests, (...) we have been on the front page for giving tacit approval to people like Bob the barber (at the Stag barbershop) to act out in violation of the Governor’s orders, which has attracted First Amendment gun-toters (...) We have been on the front page for the BLM protests, and we’ve had the experience of having armed vigilantes party in our town,” Merrill said.
Merrill went on to add that this civil unrest will not likely stop anytime soon, and whoever the chief is will have to deal with this. He believes this is not the time to have a “rookie lieutenant” fill the role of chief, he said.
Council members said Palmer has displayed such skills that prove he can effectively fill the role. The Council also accounted for the fact Palmer has been acting as chief since June and is familiar with the community.
With the contract set to expire this January, continuity was also in question. Chief Palmer told the council he has a five-year plan for his retirement and has no ambitions to do police work elsewhere after he retires from the sheriff’s office.
“His home is here, he has raised his children here, He’s talked to me about his love of this community and his desire to give back to it,” Merrill said. “So, if he were to leave it would be something that is unforeseen at this point.”
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