MARYSVILLE Marysvilles new police chief is Rick Smith, a veteran precinct commander of the Vancouver, Wash., Police Department.
Smith was hired to replace former chief Robert Carden who left the city in April of last year to head the Visalia, Calif., Police Department. Smiths hire completes the second search for a new chief, after the city failed to come to terms with a finalist last fall, Denise Turner of the King County Sheriffs Department.
As commander of Vancouvers east precinct, Smith had about 80 sworn officers under his command and previously led that departments SWAT team, work place violence committee and the field force, a more sophisticated riot squad with increased duties.
Smith spent six years with the Los Angeles County Sheriff working in custody and patrol and transferred to Vancouver in 1994. He patrolled the streets for two and a half years before wearing sergeants stripes for three years and served as a lieutenant for two years. Smith finished five years as a commander with a one-year stint as an acting chief. His staff assignments included the investigations and tactical operations divisions.
Smith will start his new job on March 5, when Marysville Mayor Dennis Kendall can strike a thick black line through the top item of his to-do list.
Im just happy to have him here finally, Kendall sighed.
Im very excited to be here, Smith said.
His first goal will be to talk to as many officers and commanders as possible, and based on what hes heard already Smith said developing the talents of the department personnel will be a top priority, right after changing the command structure.
Kendall said early on in the two searches for a new chief that he wanted a candidate with experience in a city that has faced major growth, as Marysville will likely double in population over the next decade. Vancouver achieved that feat overnight in 1997 when the city of 72,000 annexed an area of equal population, for a total of 144,000 souls. From 1994 to 1997 the city had a previous growth spurt, growing from 60,000 to 72,000, and the 1997 annexation was the largest in state history. Smith said he has plenty of lessons to share about that experience.
Vancouver did some things right, such as contracting with the local county to handle much of the new real estate. But the city planners didnt adequately forecast the need for infrastructure such as courts and jails. Pointing to a map of the city limits and its Urban Growth Area where it will likely expand to, Smith waved his hand briskly.
Its all an opportunity, he said.
His former boss, Mitch Barker, is the acting police chief of the Vancouver Police Department and he said Smith was a perfect fit for Marysville. Barker did a little matchmaking, recommending the city contact his East Precinct commander.
I think he is just primed to do it, Barker said.
Smith works long hours, and has an intense work style but tries to have fun with things yet always holds people accountable. While not directly involved with negotiations with Vancouvers three police unions, Smith is well-regarded by the departments rank-and-file, Barker said. Vancouver has 204 commissioned officers, with 30 sergeants, 10 lieutenants and five commanders. In addition there are 35 civilian employees for a city of 153,000.
Rick is as collaborative as people will let him be, Barker said. If I wanted to butt heads with anybody, he wouldnt be the one I would pick.
Thats not likely, according to Jim Maples, president of the Marysville Police Officers Association. Smith was the rank-and-files first pick from the initial job interviews and that hasnt changed.
I think this guy brings it in, Maples said after the six finalists were interviewed in December. He was even more effusive after the appointment Feb. 12.
I think that were pleased with the decision, Maples said. We obviously have some high expectations of him coming in.
Maples said his peers have a to-do list of four items for the new chief to work on.
First, he should know Washington labor law; thats a dig at some current and previous commanders.
Second: The union wants an overhaul of the command structure drastic change was Maples term. Currently under the police chief is a triumvirate of commanders of equal rank with divided responsibilities. Officers in the past have said they have to wait a week to get a decision from one of the commanders, as they are all afraid of stepping on each others toes. A weekly kibitz is needed to arrive at a consensus, line-level officers have said. Carden admitted that had he stayed he would have shifted to an assistant chief set up. Smith acknowledged that organizational structure would be one of the first things he looked at; first he wants to get buy-in and input from the personnel.
The third union issue is staffing. No more $30,000 consultants telling officers how to do their jobs, said Maples, noting that sergeants are doing many administrative tasks that dilute their effectiveness while limiting their training and professional development.
We want to see a change in that, he said.
The fourth issue is an upgrade in the public safety building. Maples said the department has been put off because of a new building that might be built some day and some day isnt happening. The department is bursting at the seams.
Weve asked for four years, Maples said.
The new chief has a great opportunity but the officers dont want a short-termer who is padding his resume for another career leap. Half of the department officers have college degrees yet they feel as if the commanders only talk to them because they have to, Maples said.
Its as if weve been lost, and having this person come in, is it going to be this lighting bolt that we are going to see or is it just somebody whos coming in to build their resume? Maples asked. Were looking for somebody to come in here and rock and roll, to give us some direction.
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