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Tribes hire MLT chief to lead Tulalip Police Department

New Tulalip Police Chief Scott Smith, left, is sworn in by Tulalip Tribes Chairman Mel Sheldon, Jr., right at tribal headquarters. -
New Tulalip Police Chief Scott Smith, left, is sworn in by Tulalip Tribes Chairman Mel Sheldon, Jr., right at tribal headquarters.
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TULALIP The Tulalip Tribes announced the selection of their new police chief to replace the retired Jay Goss.
Scott Smith is the current Mountlake Terrace Police chief who narrowly missed out on leading the Marysville Police Department earlier this year. Smith was one of six finalists for the Marysville post, losing out to current Marysville chief Rick Smith.
A 27-year veteran of law enforcement, Smith will start his new job on Jan. 2. leading the tribal police who patrol the 22,000-acre reservation in conjunction with the Snohomish County Sheriffs office. That sometimes cumbersome relationship is one of the many challenges Smith looks forward to facing as he leads the Tulalip department.
The 51-year-old is not a Native American but started his career with the Lower Elwah Police Department near Port Angeles and rose to the top of a field of 21 prospective candidates. For the current job, Smith served for seven years as the top cop at MLT and felt he was looking for an opportunity to challenge himself and learn more while staying in law enforcement. He was contacted by a headhunter pitching the tribal job earlier this year and submitted his resume. After three interviews with the tribal directors and a group of community members he was quickly hired.
Theres just all kinds of possibilities, Smith said on the phone earlier this week. Im getting jazzed just talking about it. I want to start tomorrow.
He said taking over after Goss will be a breeze, saluting the work of the veteran chief who put the department on the map as a professional organization, improving the training and qualifications of the officers. Smith said he wants to build on Gosss foundation by getting the Tulalip department accredited by the state of Washington, which would make them the first tribal department in the state to achieve that recognition. He will also look at the current
command structure and opportunities to improve the use of technology in police work. He will sit down and talk to every single officer to get to know them and listen to their ideas.
They are a fairly young, excited group of officers, Smith said. Fortunately for me I get to take on what Jay has built.
The complex issues of shared jurisdiction could pose a problem to another cop. Not Smith. For example, most tribal members live off the Rez, and most residents are not Tulalips. The Snohomish County Sheriffs office and the Tulalip Police Department will respond to an incident based on which agency has an officer closer to an emergency, but if tribal people are involved the Tulalips will handle it, if non-tribals are involved, the sheriff will. There are different laws and courts involved, meaning a steep learning curve for the Portland, Ore. native. Thats just fine, he said.
It gives me a chance to see another side of police work that other police officers dont get to see, Smith said.
Smith endorsed incoming sheriff John Lovick, and worked on his election campaign, and Lovick was present for his swearing in at tribal headquarters, so Smith said their two departments will get along just fine.
That partnership with him is going to be very beneficial for the community, Smith said. I know we can resolve whatever past differences there were.
Smith was saluted by his former boss John Turner, who served twice as Marysville Police Chief, and as chief of the MLT PD. Smith succeeded Turner, who recommended his protege for the job when he retired in 2000. Turner noted that he promoted Smith from sergeant to commander in 1990, and then got to pin the gold shield on his top aide a decade later.
Its quite an honor to be able to pin the badge on the new chief. He will serve the Tulalips really, really well, Turner said.
Smith will also be a good fit for Marysville since he knows most of the officers in that department, according to Turner, who now leads the City of Snohomish Police Department.
He will be very visible in the community, he said.
As a manager Smith delegates wisely, listens well to others and takes their concerns very seriously and gives them great consideration, Turner added. When Turner picked Smith to be one of his top lieutenants in the billet that is now a deputy chief slot, it was because the commander was close to the troops and good with the public, he said. Thats what you need in a chief.
During Smiths 27 years as a cop, he taught criminal justice for the Edmonds School District for nine years, and he still teaches at the ITT institute. He is a member of the executive board for the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs and has trained at the FBI National Academy, the Northwest Law Enforcement Executive Command College and the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission. He has a bachelors degree from Central Washington University.
Hiring Smith capped a six-month search for a leader to replace Goss, a well-liked and highly respected leader on the Rez. Tribal Board member and interim Tulalip Police Chief Marlin Fryberg said Smiths law enforcement pedigree was top notch and there was no doubt he could lead the department well. Fryberg noted a big question was how well Smith would fit in with the people on the reservation and by the second round of interviews with the board it was clear that those concerns were met.
Tribal chairman Mel Sheldon, Jr. said leading the Tulalip Police Department is a complex task and that Smith will do fine in the role.
Its a job of many hats but Im sure he will be up to the task, Sheldon wrote in an email.

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