Change coming for MV Police chief

Maple Valley Police chief Michelle Bennett will soon be trading in her city uniform for the green and tan of a King County Sheriff Department deputy again.

Promotion returns Bennett to Sheriff Department; she plans to come back

Maple Valley Police chief Michelle Bennett will soon be trading in her city uniform for the green and tan of a King County Sheriff Department deputy again.

Bennett is on the verge of being promoted to captain and moving into a position overseeing daily operations of the 135 or so deputies at Precinct 3 in Maple Valley.

“It’s all about personal growth,” Bennett said. “I can learn new skills there. The sheriff (Sue Rahr) wants all of her new captains to spend their probationary year in an operations position.”

The date for Bennett’s promotion hasn’t been decided, but the expectation is that it will happen this summer.

City manager Anthony Hemstad said Maple Valley, which contracts with the county for police services, is making preparations so that Bennett can come back and serve as the city’s chief after a probation year at the precinct. Up until recently, the city could only hire a sergeant as its police chief, but with its population just creeping over 20,000, it can now bring on a captain to fill that position.

“Michelle is doing a wonderful job. When people are doing a wonderful job, we like to keep them around,” Hemstad said.

When she took the captain’s test in March 2007, Bennett said, she knew that the city would eventually be able to take on a captain as police chief.

Bennett’s situation is a bit unique, as she is swapping places with Scott Somers, who is the operations captain at Precinct 3 now. He will come to Maple Valley and serve as its chief for a year.

Hemstad met with Rahr a few weeks ago to talk to her about setting this up.

“She would have been transferred elsewhere, so we came up with a compromise,” Hemstad said. “Michelle gets a chance to become more seasoned and gain experience in a larger operation, plus we get an experienced captain to serve in the interim.”

Bennett, Hemstad continued, has “really become invested in this community, and that’s something we appreciate.”

While Bennett, who has nearly 18 years with the Sheriff Department, is working at Precinct 3, she will oversee daily operations of 135 patrol deputies and report directly to the precinct commander, Major Dave Germani. She will also be working with the administrative captain, who oversees the detectives who work out of Precinct 3.

Deputies will report to their respective shift sergeants, Germani explained, and those sergeants will report to Bennett.

The deputies patrol about 740 square miles, which includes several contract departments – from Sammamish to the Muckleshoot Reservation to North Bend – and unincorporated areas as far west as Federal Way.

There are about 250,000 people living within the precinct.

“We interact with the community,” Germani said. “We also initiate and monitor problem-solving projects. We get calls from the public, the ombudsman, city council members, city officials. We have to work collaboratively.”

Somers explained that “the operations captain is an important part of the major’s team. We provide leadership to our deputies. Small details matter. The three of us meet to decide how we’re going to set the tenor and the tone to accomplish the mission.”

Another thing Bennett will do as operations captain, in addition to handling the scheduling, training and customer service issues that arise, will be to cover for any of the contract city chiefs when they take time off. That will mean being on call and working with officials from the cities.

Covington is among the contract cities.

Somers described Bennett as “a very unique, first-level supervisor.” And he thinks this is a good opportunity for her.

“There’s a level of responsibility that takes time to grow into,” Somers said. “As a captain, you have a significant amount of experience.”

During the year she’s working in the precinct, Germani said, Bennett will be reviewed every three months. “Hopefully, by the time we send her back to Maple Valley, she’ll be worthy,” Germani said.

Bennett said she is excited to be able to bring back new skills and experience to the city in a year.

“My goal is to come back,” she said. “I’m involved in the community and I love it here.”

Staff writer Kris Hill can be reached at (425) 432-1209 (extension 5054) and