Vancouver police names new assistant chief

Mike Lester had held job on an interim basis

By Emily Gillespie, Columbian breaking news reporter


photoMike Lester

As part of an effort to reorganize the agency, new Vancouver Police Chief James McElvain has appointed Mike Lester to the rank of assistant chief.

Lester has been acting as operations bureau assistant chief since October 2012, when Assistant Chief Chris Sutter became interim police chief following the resignation of Cliff Cook.

Lester now permanently holds the position after his official appointment on April 16; he is set to be sworn in to the job at a private event at police headquarters Thursday.

The agency traditionally has two assistant chiefs, so the appointment restores the status quo.

Sutter has resumed his previous position as operations support bureau assistant chief, which oversees units such as investigations, special operations, backgrounds and finance. The operations bureau, on the other hand, includes units such as patrol, school resource officers and neighborhood police officers.

Lester, 48, worked at the La Grande (Ore.) Police Department for three years before he was hired by the Vancouver Police Department in 1992. During his years at the Vancouver department, Lester has had a variety of assignments including patrol, professional standards, drug task force and investigations. Prior to his role as interim assistant chief, Lester served as the tactical services commander.

“Assistant Chief Lester’s experience, tenure with the department and support through the initial stages of reorganization have demonstrated the qualities of leadership and backing I expect at the executive level,” McElvain said in a press release. “There is still more heavy lifting to do, and Mike is the right person to have on my team as we continue to make organizational adjustments.”

Lester said that although he has held the job on an interim basis for the past 18 months, he looks forward to assisting McElvain as he assumes his new role as police chief.

“It’s an exciting time and I certainly look forward to the challenge,” he said. “The new chief has been a breath of fresh air. I’ve enjoyed working for him and am excited to continue on with the relationship.”