After 20 years on the force and just over one year as chief, Auburn Police Chief Daniel O’Neil announced his retirement. He will step down from his position effective Oct. 7.
O’Neil did not say why he chose to retire, however he said it was the right decision for himself and his family, according to public information officer Kolby Crossley.
The city is actively seeking a replacement for O’Neil, who announced Sept. 17 he is retiring, according to the Auburn Police Department.
O’Neil was appointed interim chief of police in 2019 after Chief William Pierson “separated” from the department.
In May 2020, O’Neil was sworn in as chief. O’Neil led the department through a tumultuous period; three months after O’Neil was sworn in, Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson was charged with murder for the death of Jesse Sarey.
Despite the challenges he faced, O’Neil made several changes that improved the department, according to the Auburn Police.
O’Neil made changes to the department’s hiring processes which increased the racial diversity of the department from 10% when he started to 23% in under a year, according to police.
The 25-member Police Advisory Committee (PAC) was also created during O’Neil’s tenure as police chief, according to the Auburn Police. The PAC is made up of police officers and community members approved by the chief who represent specific demographics of Auburn.
O’Neil attended one last PAC meeting as police chief on Sept. 16. During the meeting O’Neil raised concerns about the new Health Through Housing hotel in Auburn, which will house around 100 people experiencing homelessness. O’Neil said he expects calls for service to rise in the area.
During the same meeting O’Neil also spoke about vaccine mandates and he worries that more police officers in Washington will quit due to vaccine mandates.
There’s currently no statewide vaccine mandate for local police officers in Washington, according to Gov. Jay Inslee’s orders.
O’Neil joined the Auburn Police in 1999 and worked the graveyard shift for three years before he was promoted to field training officer in 2003. In 2005, O’Neil became a generalist canine handler and worked with two different dogs for six years.
In 2010, O’Neil was promoted to the rank of sergeant and worked property crimes, special investigations and patrol. In 2017, O’Neil was promoted to the rank of commander. O’Neil has a master’s degree in public safety executive leadership from Saint Cloud University in Minnesota and a bachelor’s degree in criminology from Eastern Washington University, according to the Auburn Police Department.
The Auburn Police Department credits O’Neil with significantly improving the department’s culture by changing disciplinary policy, internal investigations and creating the PAC.