Three finalists named for new Kirkland chief of police

The city of Kirkland has narrowed the search for a new chief of police down to three finalists following former chief Eric Olsen’s retirement last September after 27 years of service, including eight years as chief.

Rod Covey

The city of Kirkland has narrowed the search for a new chief of police down to three finalists following former chief Eric Olsen’s retirement last September after 27 years of service, including eight years as chief.

After starting with 26 candidates, Kirkland City Manager Kurt Triplett said the final three are good fits for their department.

“All three of them had an energy, and I think an opportunity to bring real transformation to the department in a real positive way,” Triplett said.

The department is facing a range of issues, Triplett said, including tackling burglaries, traffic incidents, cyber crimes, an aging police force set to soon retire, recruitment and training and integrating possible technology like body cameras.

“We have an aging work force, and about a third of our folks could retire in the next few years,” he said. “We need a police chief who can really think about those things strategically and appropriately.”

The Kirkland City Council and a community board will conduct final interviews on March 17 and 18 with the three finalists.

The Reporter interviewed the three candidates for this article.

Cherie Harris

Operations captain with the Kirkland Police Department

Harris has 23 years of law enforcement experience, moving to the Kirkland department in 2012 after serving as the deputy chief for the Monroe Police Department.

She has experience managing patrol, traffic, K-9, SWAT, crisis negation and parking enforcement teams.

“I came here for the challenge,” Harris said. “It has a fantastic reputation of being very progressive, very professional, highly trained, a great group of men and women who work here.”

Planning for the future by both training new sergeants and lieutenants as well as recruiting new officers to replenish the department’s ranks are high on Harris’s priorities.

She said she would focus on investigating and combatting burglaries, which she said are the second most common calls they receive after traffic incidents.

The stability of city government and community interaction are also important, Harris said.

“The city is very stable,” she said. “You don’t see the political upheaval you often see in other places; there’s a plan in the city.”

Working to develop a five-year plan with the city and community are important to her future plans.

Even if she is not selected as the new police chief, Harris said she is honored to have been considered.

“I’m very committed to Kirkland; if I don’t get this job, I’m not going anywhere,” Harris said. “(I’m) very proud to work here, very honored to have the opportunity to apply for chief of police.”

Rod Covey

Deputy chief of operations bureau for the Port of Seattle Police Department

Covey has around 39 years of law enforcement experience, serving 32 of them with the Arizona Department of Public Safety where he filled leadership positions in the training academy, public safety, the Highway Patrol and the Agency Support Division. He is also a graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy.

Covey said his background makes him a good fit for the department’s needs.

“I think one of the things that makes me a good match for the organization is that my whole career has been about developing people,” he said. “I figured my experience and skill set is good for what the organization needs right now.”

Watching his daughter serve as an officer in Arizona has reinvigorated his leadership, he said, motivating him to develop staffing policies he hopes leaders in his daughter’s department would implement, focusing on care, attention and respect to officers’ concerns.

He said he also looks forward to developing a five year plan with the city and community to figure out how to best meet the community’s needs.

“The opportunity to be able to implement that and carry that out, that’s an ideal situation for any police chief,” Covey said.

With 99 police officers and more than 30 support personnel, Covey said the Kirkland Police Department is roughly the same size as his current department.

He has always been impressed with the Kirkland Police Department, Covey said, and hopes to help guide it in the future.

“I’m looking for a challenge, and an opportunity to work at another great agency,” he said.

Brian Harris

Retired assistant chief of the DeKalb County Police Department in Georgia

Brian Harris is a 28-year police veteran, and a 33-year veteran of the United States Army National Guard, serving as major general commanding Task Force 51, U.S. Army North and has been deployed to Iraq.

While serving in DeKalb County, he was in charge of 140 officers out of the 900 officer force, providing police service to some 140,000 of the county’s nearly 700,000 residents.

He worked in patrol, narcotics, property crimes, robbery-homicide and other criminal investigation units.

During his time in DeKalb, Brian Harris said he took a collaborative approach to tackling crime in the county, which covers the eastern portion of Atlanta. He said he developed relationships between community, county and city government, businesses and faith groups, a tactic which he said could be tailored and applied in Kirkland based on community input.

“A lot of guys, when they put into these jobs look at the department… first thing I looked at was the city government, what is the plan? What is the community’s buy into it,” Brian Harris said.

He said the quality of the police department and the community in Kirkland attracted him to apply for the position, especially after he did some training in the area in the 1980s.

“I think that as far as policies go, everything that I’ve read and seen, it’s an excellent department,” he said.

Harris said his experience managing Camp Taji in Iraq familiarized him with running large organizations.

Harris said he views his leadership in the strain of Abraham Lincoln’s philosophy of ‘Leadership by Wandering.’

“I’m actually just flattered and humbled that I’ve made the final list,” he said. “I’m very much a people person, I love interacting with people, I love cops, and I still think that after 28 years, I still see myself as a mentor and  leader and a teacher.”

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