Townsend confirmed as Poulsbo police chief

Alan Townsend was approved as the new police chief for Poulsbo during a March 6 City Council meeting. - Photo by City of Port Orchard
Alan Townsend was approved as the new police chief for Poulsbo during a March 6 City Council meeting.
— image credit: Photo by City of Port Orchard

POULSBO — Poulsbo City Council approved the mayor’s nomination for police chief March 6.

“I'm looking forward to getting started,” Alan Townsend said to the council. “I appreciate the support of staff and elected people. I look forward to leading your police department very soon.”

Townsend, a Bangor resident who is currently the police chief of Port Orchard, will be paid $117,975 a year, a slight decrease from his current $126,000 a year. His contract includes something new for department heads — a three-month severance package if he is terminated.

Mayor Becky Erickson said more municipal employees are asking for this kind of “assurance” because of the fluctuation of elected officials. For example, she said, staff want to make sure they won’t be fired upon election of a new mayor.

Townsend’s contract also includes an end date of Dec. 31, 2015, an agreement that “will automatically renew thereafter in annual increments unless the City gives notice of its intent not to renew.”

Townsend was unavailable for comment Thursday. He succeeds Dennis Swiney, who retired in January and returned to his hometown of Visalia, Calif. Deputy Chief Robert Wright has been acting chief.

Prior to Port Orchard, Townsend was with the Lincoln, Neb., Police Department. He has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Nebraska, a master’s degree in criminal justice administration from Boston University, and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy.

Townsend emerged Feb. 5 as a surprise candidate for Poulsbo police chief; he had served on a panel that interviewed other contenders for the job. Those candidates met the public in an open house Jan. 30 at City Hall.

On Feb. 5, Erickson issued a press release announcing that Townsend was now a candidate and that an open house would be scheduled for the next day in City Hall so residents could meet him. On Feb. 7, she admitted she was leaning toward Townsend and hoped to make a decision by the weekend. She had to hold off on making an announcement until completion of background checks, which she said took longer than she thought.

Townsend said that while participating as a panelist “I was really impressed with City Hall and how it operates. There was an opportunity there and I decided to give it a try. It would be a new challenge for me.”

He said in an interview at the time, “I had a conversation with the mayor and she asked if I’d be interested in [applying]. It was a mutual thing. Both of us saw there was some interest. I was highly impressed with what I saw, the way the council and mayor and department heads interacted. It was refreshing.”

City Clerk Jill Boltz said Townsend applied for the job through The Prothman Company, the recruitment firm retained by the city, and underwent the same scrutiny as the other candidates. “It’s a very thorough process … We are definitely doing our due diligence,” she said in an earlier interview.At the time she announced Townsend’s candidacy, Erickson talked of the advantages to hiring him.

“It would be a seamless transition. He knows a lot of things about our community, he lives in Bangor, six or seven minutes from Poulsbo. He’s really a remarkable man and a great police chief.”

The other candidates considered for chief: Robert Griffiths, former police chief of Cordova, Alaska; Stephen MacKinnon, former police chief of Santa Paula, Calif.; Stephen Mauer, a lieutenant with the Lakewood Police Department;  Julius “Phil” Schenck, acting police chief of Sunnyside; and C. Stephen Sutton, a division commander with the Washington State Patrol.

What made Townsend stand out?

“He has a huge reputation throughout the county,” Erickson said. “He is one of the most highly thought-of first responders in the county. He has very good people skills. He relates and reacts to people very well. As a law enforcement officer, that’s a critical piece that’s often overlooked.”

After Townsend’s candidacy was announced, Port Orchard Mayor Tim Matthes issued a statement about his police chief’s interest in leaving for Poulsbo.

“I am very impressed with his professionalism and dedication to our police department. I am not surprised that he is on the short list of qualified candidates for Poulsbo police chief. If he is selected and accepts that position, he will be close to his home and family. There is no doubt he will be hard for Port Orchard to replace. ”

In a post on the North Kitsap Herald’s Facebook page, former Port Orchard mayor Lary Coppola said that on Townsend’s watch crime in Port Orchard went down 60 percent “and, more importantly, violent crime was reduced by 45 percent. Not many police departments can say that.”


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