Assistant Chief Chris Sutter named interim Vancouver Police chief

By Andrea Damewood, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: September 4, 2012, 6:08 PM

 

Vancouver’s interim police chief will come from within the department, despite earlier promises from the city manager that someone from outside the embattled agency would take over for the short term.

Police Chief Cliff Cook said in July he would leave after five years at the helm of Vancouver’s force. City Manager Eric Holmes said then he wanted to find “fresh leadership” and would seek a temporary chief outside the department.

Instead, Assistant Chief Chris Sutter will assume the role — an open-ended assignment as Holmes starts his hunt for a permanent chief. Cook’s final day was Aug. 31.

“I had every intention of it being somebody from the outside, but I wasn’t able to find a candidate who met my needs,” Holmes said Tuesday.

Holmes said he reviewed a “half dozen candidates” — many of them retired from local agencies — and none fit the bill. Holmes said he was hoping to find someone who had experience being a chief in a similar-sized department (Vancouver has about 180 sworn officers); is from a state with similar labor laws; is qualified to be an officer; and could provide an open-ended commitment.

Still, Holmes said he would be working to find “a fresh kind of independent perspective to look at the department to identify blind spots that may have emerged over the last number of years.”

The city may work with the International City/County Management Association’s Center for Public Safety or independent consultants to get that perspective.

Cook’s tenure has been marked by controversy, including a number of high-profile lawsuits and scandals, as well as a vote of no-confidence against his leadership by the rank and file.

Sutter was hired in 1992 and has been promoted from officer to his current role as assistant chief, a position he’s held the last four years. Sutter worked in patrol, investigations, internal affairs, and as detective sergeant in the Child Abuse Center (now known as the Children’s Justice Center.) He has served as commander for patrol, administration and special operations.

“I am committed to using crime analysis and technology to help identify criminal trends and problems,” Sutter said in a statement released Tuesday by the city. “I plan to continue to target and reduce crime. And I remain committed to VPD’s Community Policing philosophy to build citizen involvement and partnership on programs such as Neighbors on Watch and other crime prevention efforts.”

Holmes said Sutter’s pay will be raised while he serves as interim chief and that the two were planning a meeting Tuesday afternoon to discuss salary. Sutter’s total compensation in 2011 was $128,575; Cook earned $138,420 in 2011.

A call to Vancouver Police Guild President Jeff Kipp for comment wasn’t returned Tuesday.

Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542; http://www.twitter.com/col_cityhall; andrea.damewood@columbian.com.