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Kent seeking new police chief

Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke hopes to hire a new police chief to replace outgoing Chief Steve Strachan within the next couple of months.

Deputy chief Mike Painter will serve as interim chief starting Jan. 3 until a replacement is hired.

“We’re reviewing all of the applications and we will start the interviews in January,” Cooke said in a Dec. 17 phone interview. “We’ll probably have someone in the next couple of months.”

Cooke will search outside as well as from within the department for a new chief. Painter has opted not to be in the running for the permanent chief job.

Strachan is leaving Kent to become the chief deputy to King County Sheriff Sue Rahr. Cooke hired Strachan in 2006 from Lakeville, Minn., where he was the police chief.

Cooke said she will use a citizen advisory committee as well as an internal advisory committee of police and city employees to help with her selection.

“I don’t want to say yet, it depends on the interviews,” Cooke said of a specific hiring date. “I do not want to set expectations prematurely. It could depend on how much notice a new hire has to give.”

Cooke hired Strachan from outside the department in 2006. Strachan said he expected challenges as an outsider in 2006.

“You don’t know the back stories of everybody and it takes a while to get a feel,” Strachan said last week. “But it was very interesting to me after 20 years with another agency how quickly I became part of the Kent Police Department. I found the officers and the community to be incredibly friendly and accepting.”

The transition to become accepted as the new chief went quite smoothly for Strachan.

“Everyone was very open and it was not very difficult,” he said. “Anyone who lives or works in Kent knows we are an embracing community.”

Strachan said several challenges face the department, including how to better serve the immigrant communities.

“We’ve made some progress,” Strachan said. “But we need to be finding ways for not only the police but city government to reach out to the immigrant communities. The more I learn about recent immigrants is that they feel very isolated. In the next 10 years, there needs to be people from the immigrant communities working here. We have to get there.”

The department also has had a number commanders retire over the last two years and others move up to those positions.

“But they are very well prepared and will become effective very quickly,” Strachan said.

Kent Police eventually will need a new and larger facility than its current site behind City Hall.

“I wish we could have made more progress on a new facility,” Strachan said. “It’s nobody’s fault. The mayor and Council are committed to a new building for us.”

Any plans for new facilities, however, came to a halt when the recession hit and city revenues dropped.

“It’s a long-term issue,” Strachan said. “But it’s something that needs to be addressed at some point.”

SALARIES

Outgoing Kent Police Chief Steve Strachan makes $151,044 a year, putting him at the top of Kent’s salary range for a police chief. The minimum in that range is $107,856.

Strachan will make $153,343 a year in his new position as chief criminal deputy with the King County Sheriff’s Office.

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