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WSP Veteran Named New Lake Forest Park Police Chief

C. Stephen Sutton was unanimously selected to replace retired Chief Dennis Peterson, effective March 27.

Lake Forest Park Mayor Mary Jane Goss announced her selection of C. Stephen Sutton as the new Police Chief, and the City Council unanimously approved the appointment at its regular meeting on March 14, 2013, the city said in a press release Friday morning..

Sutton will replace retired Police Chief Dennis Peterson, Sutton had applied for other top jobs recently as well, including as Poulsbo Police Chief , and as Bremerton Police Chief, where he also competed with former King County Sheriff Steve Strachan, who won that post in February.

Goss said in the release that Sutton’s recognized leadership and collaborative communication style are key strengths that led her to select him as the top candidate:   “His record of relationship building, problem solving and innovation are what is needed in Lake Forest Park’s next Police Chief.” 

According to Lake Forest Park, Sutton, 47, is a 25-year veteran with the Washington State Patrol.  He currently is the Investigative Assistance Division Commander where he leads an array of investigative support functions such as Narcotics, High-Tech Crimes, Missing/Exploited Children’s Task Force, Organized Crime Intelligence Unit, and SWAT.  Previously, Sutton was the WSP District 8 Commander, responsible for Patrol operations and nearly 100 law enforcement personnel covering seven counties on the Olympic Peninsula.  Sutton’s educational background includes a BA of Public Administration from University of Mississippi, a MA in Leadership from City University, and a graduate certificate in Criminal Justice from the FBI National Academy.

“I am honored to be selected as Lake Forest Park’s next Chief of Police,” the news release quoted Sutton as saying.  “I look forward to serving in a community like Lake Forest Park where the foundation of professional police services is already in place and I can continue to lead a team of dedicated professionals in a city that cares about public safety.”

Goss began recruiting for a new Police Chief in November following the retirement announcement of Chief Dennis Peterson.  Since Peterson’s retirement in January, the police department has been led by Interim Chief Kent Baxter, on executive loan from the King County Sheriff’s Office.

Baxter hands off the Chief’s job to Sutton on March 27, and will retire from King County on April 1.

The City retained Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs to conduct the nation-wide search.  Out of 10 applicants, five finalist candidates were invited to City Hall for interviews by the Mayor, members of City Council, City Administrator, Leadership Team, police department employees, neighboring cities’ Police Chiefs, and a Public Advisory Panel made up of community members. 

“The Lake Forest Park Police Guild appreciated the opportunity to participate in the selection process for our new chief, “said Jackson Beard, president of the Lake Forest Park Police Guild.  “We look forward to welcoming Chief Sutton to the City and working with him to make our police department an even greater organization than it already is.”

Goss said in the release that Sutton was rated highly by the stakeholders participating in the selection process, who also identified his organizational skills, experience and problem-oriented policing approach as important qualities for the next Police Chief.

Chief Sutton will assume command of police department accredited under Washington State Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, which requires police departments to operate under industry best practices and standards.  The Lake Forest Park police department has a total of 22 employees.

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