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Tulalip Police Chief Scott Smith outlines goals
TULALIP I know its sound corny and hokey, but its true, said Tulalip Police Chief Scott Smith, 51, who took over the helm of the reservation police force about two months ago.
I wanted to be a police officer since the fourth grade, Smith continued. I never changed my mind, never wavered.
What was it that inspired him so? Might it have been a parent or some other relative who worked in law enforcement? Actually, it was the classic TV show, Adam 12.
I watched it religiously, Smith said, adding he was fascinated by the range of situations the TV officers found themselves in, by the variety of people with which they interacted.
Also, I thought, theyre the good guys, Smith said. Thats really a value I still hold today. Were the good guys. Weve got to have a mind for community service.
Scott officially went on the job in Tulalip Jan. 2 after 28 years with the Mountlake Terrace Police Department. He was chief there for the last eight years.
As much as I thoroughly enjoyed that community and my fellow employees, you have to be honest with yourself, Smith said.
In short, Smith added he felt he needed a change, a new challenge.
I didnt want to get complacent, I didnt want to get bored and I felt those things coming on, he said.
In a way, Smith has come full circle in his career. Although he spent most of his time in uniform with the Mountlake department, he got his start with a tribal unit.
Smith sees several challenges facing the Tulalip department, though some are about to get easier due to the cooperation of Snohomish County Sheriff John Lovick and some pending changes in state law.
We dont have the same opportunities as other police forces, Smith said. Its not effective and its not efficient.
Essentially, as long the officers involved meet certain requirements, Lovick is willing to deputize some of Smiths officers. When that happens, those officers will have, for the first time, the right to arrest and, if needed, book into Snohomish County jail non-Natives suspected of wrongdoing on tribal lands.
At the same time, state legislators have approved a bill sponsored by state Rep. John McCoy, D-Everett. The bill also allows, under certain conditions, for tribal police to deal with non-Natives suspects caught on reservations.
While hes pleased with the removal of some statutory problems, Smith said there still are plenty of issues facing him as he moves forward. Most importantly in his mind, is learning the culture and history of the Tulalip Tribes.
I have to be mindful of that culture at all times and not assume anything, Smith said.
As Smith learns more about his surroundings, he notes his immediate surroundings could stand some improvement.
As police departments go, this one is a baby, Smith said, adding the unit was founded by the Tribe six years ago. Prior to that, Tulalip officials relied on the Snohomish County Sheriff.
Sitting at the intersection of Waterworks Road and Marine Drive, Smith said the departments current headquarters never was meant to be their permanent home.
But Smith also doesnt figure he and his unit will be moving anytime soon, noting Tulalips leaders are focused on at least two other building projects, including a new administrative center. Nevertheless, Smith wants to see some improvements in some of the departments equipment.
The communication system is in dire need of replacement, he said.
Hitting on another type of communications, Smith said he hopes to form and strengthen some bonds between the Tribal police and other local law enforcement groups.
There are a number of partnerships that need to be formed, or perhaps that were strained in the past, Smith said.
He may have somewhat of an inside track in connecting with other departments, serving on the executive board of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, a position of which Smith seems obviously proud.
Currently, the Tulalip department consists of 25 officers and 16 support staffers, Smith said. He plans to add four new positions to the unit, which is responsible for patrolling and keeping the peace throughout the roughly 22,000 acres of the Tulalip Reservation.
Smith said he always will support his officers, as long they act professionally.
But this department is going be completely transparent, Smith said. If we make a mistake, youll hear it from my lips first.