Welcoming the Change | New Climate, less crime, smaller town greet New Snoqualmie Police Chief

January 2017 marks the month the Snoqualmie Police Department moves back to normal – back to business as usual. A new chief now sits in the back corner office. Interim, and once longtime police chief, Jim Schaffer heads back into retirement after manning the helm for six months while the city found a permanent replacement.

That new chief is Perry Phipps, who was sworn in at the January 10th city council meeting. He comes to Snoqualmie by way of Visalia, CA – a much bigger city with a larger police department. To say the move to the Snoqualmie Valley – and the much smaller Snoqualmie Police Department – is a change for Chief Phipps and his wife might be an understatement, but he said it’s a change they’re embracing.

As Phipps looked out his office window, commenting that he didn’t understand how it could be snowing when it was almost 40 degrees, he mentioned how hot Visalia can get…115 degrees and sometimes only cooling to 95 degrees at night. Visalia sits in the San Joaquin Valley of Central California – one of the world’ biggest agricultural areas – about 50 miles west of the Sequoia National Forest. Visalia also gets a lot of fog. Phipps said often you can’t even see the nearby mountain ranges – a stark contrast to his new office window that has great views of the Cascade foothills.

A 30-year law enforcement veteran, Chief Phipps served Visalia for more than 20 years. Before that he started his career in Carpinteria, CA, just outside Santa Barbara. He brings bigger city AND small town police department experience to his new city, which sits in contrast to Visalia when it comes to crime. Phipps commented that Visalia has crime – bigger crime and more of it – as well as gang issues. His old department often could not respond to every call and now he is charge of a department whose motto is “no call too small” – a policy made possible by police staffing levels, which the city says helps keep Snoqualmie’s crime rate low.

When asked if there’s anything he wants to change within his new department, Phipps said no, not really. He complemented SPD and it’s dedicated officers, explaining his role isn’t to be a vehicle for change. He said he’ll spend some time auditing, possibly making a few changes, but they would probably be minor and go unnoticed by most.

Phipps said he was overwhelmed by the welcome he has received from the entire department. He said it takes a special type of officer to serve in a small town environment and SPD is filled with officers dedicated to the community.

One immediate task at hand, though, is hiring. In addition to hiring two new officers funded by the city’s recently passed levy lid lift, the department is still down two officers and until those positions are filled, overtime and extra shifts will meet patrol demands required to maintain city police service levels.

Phipps said just like in California, the job market is tight and finding qualified officers is not easy, but he said the department recently identified two candidates. One of his first tasks is to evaluate these possible new officers.  After that they will look at the officer expansion funded by recent levy.

In discussing the North Bend Police contract, Phipps reiterated that the Snoqualmie Police Department, in service of North Bend, does not diminish police service levels within Snoqualmie. He said they are still the Snqualmie Police Department. Each city has its own dedicated officers and policing levels. Phipps added that this contract set up – a city police department serving another nearby city – is quite common and has the benefit that if a major situation arose, each city has more officers to quickly call upon.

As for adjusting to a new home, complete with a new landscape and climate, Chief Phipps said he and his wife are settling into small town Snoqualmie life. Even with the sticker shock of local home prices, he said they chose to reside close to work, wanting to immerse themselves in and understand their new community.

So far the new chief says it’s going great and that warm reception he received at work is the same he’s receiving in the community – both in Snoqualmie and North Bend.

I walked into the Snoqualmie Police Station a bit nervous to meet the new chief, thinking to myself, “Shake his hand and say nice to meet you, Chief Phipps.” My nerves calmed quickly when a kind man in khakis greeted me in the hallway, shook my hand and said, “Hi, I’m Perry.”

Welcome to the Snoqualmie Valley, Chief Phipps.

[This article was edited to clarify information made in the original version.]

Chief Phipps at Snoqualmie City Council Meeting, 1/10/17. Photo: City of Snoqualmie

 

Snoqualmie Mayor Larson swearing in new SPD Chief Perry Phipps. 1/10/17. Photo: City of Snoqualmie

 

 

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