Sheriff plans to move city police chief

Maple Valley Police Chief Michelle Bennett has accepted a reassignment to a different post within the King County Sheriff’s Office.

Maple Valley Police Chief Michelle Bennett has accepted a reassignment to a different post within the King County Sheriff’s Office.

Bennett has been with the Maple Valley Police Department — a department that is staffed through a contract between the city and Sheriff’s Office — most of the last decade.

She was named chief in Maple Valley in 2004 when she was a sergeant. After becoming a captain in 2008 she completed her probationary year at the rank with Precinct 3, then resumed the post of chief in Maple Valley in 2009.

“There are some retirements and movements within the sheriff’s department which is our parent agency,” Bennett explained.

Those changes, she added, mean that there will be opportunities for her to continue to diversify her experience.

“For 10 years it has been an awesome place, I’ve loved it,” Bennett said of Maple Valley. “It’s hard to leave. I really love this job, but I also need to follow the advice for some professional growth and opportunities.”

The shuffling within the sheriff’s office is still ongoing, and therefore Bennett said she doesn’t yet know where she is going or the specific timeline.

“She’s been an asset to the city and has done a great job for us and we’re going to miss her,” Councilwoman Linda Johnson said.

The greatest thing about working in Maple Valley, Bennett said, is the people and the community.

“It (Maple Valley) is amazing,” Bennett said. “It’s the most community-focused community that I’ve ever worked in or lived in. I’ve appreciated that part. You know your neighbors.”

Bennett has been with the sheriff’s office since 1990, according to her biography on the city website. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in law and justice in 1996, a Master of Science in psychology/organizational development and behavior in 1999, and a doctorate in education with an emphasis in curriculum and instruction in 2008. Her experience within the sheriff’s office is wide ranging and includes roles as a school resource officer and teaching at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Academy.

City Manager David Johnston said the city and the sheriff’s office would proceed with an application and interview process to find Maple Valley’s next chief of police.

“I would assume we would know sometime in the next couple of weeks, as the sheriff further assesses how he wants to place his captains,” Johnston said. “I assume what will happen, and this has been the standard procedure whenever we have had a vacancy, there probably will be an open process within the sheriff’s office captains. If they are interested in being our chief of police then we will have an internal process to interview applicants, then the sheriff and I would work together to appoint a chief that meets his and the city’s goals.”

Johnston went on to say that finding Bennett’s replacement could take a month or more. He also noted that Bennett will not be reassigned until the new chief is selected.

“It will be one day is her last day and the next day will be the first day for the new one,” Johnston said.

Maple Valley Deputy Mayor Sean Kelly said that he believes Bennett’s leadership of the Maple Valley Police Department has greatly contributed to the city being recognized as among the safest cities in Washington, and as one of the best places to raise kids.

“The partnerships Chief Bennett has formed with the Tahoma School District have been recognized at the national, state and local level and because of her leadership the Tahoma School District is advanced when it comes to safety protocols in our schools,” Kelly said. “She will be greatly missed in the Maple Valley community but we’re excited for her future endeavors.”

Councilwoman Victoria Jonas agreed that Bennett will be missed and has served the city well.

“Throughout police Chief Bennett’s tenure with our city, she has always personified the King County Sheriff’s Office core values of ‘leadership, integrity, service, and teamwork.,” Jonas wrote in a statement. “As Chief Bennett leaves our fine city, I would say loud and proud; Chief Bennett – mission accomplished!’”

Bennett said the decision to take a reassignment was tough.

“I’m very, very invested in the community for sure,” Bennett said. “It definitely isn’t a decision made lightly, but for professional growth I think it is important to vary what you do and get some more experiences.”