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Chief Harris to step down: Redmond's top cop plans to retire March 31
Redmond Police Chief Steve Harris will retire March 31, after 28 years of leading the department.
He's been the third-longest-serving police chief in the state of Washington, with his tenure beginning in 1981. He's spent a total of 42 years in law enforcement.
The Redmond City Council will honor Harris at their 7:30 p.m. meeting on Tuesday, March 17.
At the time of this announcement on March 11, he was traveling to New York City, but called the Redmond Reporter between flights, to discuss his past, present and future.
Asked what drew him to a career in law enforcement, Harris said that growing up in New Jersey, he served as a lifeguard, worked closely with police and was recruited through those friends and associates.
"I knew very little about it, but had good mentors and trainers," he explained. From the very beginning, first serving with the Seaside Heights (N.J.) Police Department from 1967-70, he said he has "loved every job," whether it was patrolling the streets, doing undercover narcotics work, investigations or any aspect of crime fighting.
Harris was a Commander with the Arvada (Colo.) Police Department from 1970-81 and then came to Redmond to have an opportunity to serve as a chief.
"I still love it today," Harris proclaimed. "Although I'm retiring, I will probably get involved with other law enforcement agencies ... or could get involved in some type of business to information-share. I will leave that open as a possibility."
Repeatedly stating, "I don't like to hype myself — I have a great department, I'm very proud of hiring the right people," Harris added that "unique, sensational cases in Redmond are few, but we pursue them with all our energies."
Probably the highest-profile case in Redmond history, which received national attention, was the 1990 murder of Jami Sherer, he said. "That took a lot of diligence and hard work. The husband killed the wife and we never found the body but there was a lot of circumstantial evidence." Steven Sherer was convicted in 2000, in part because of the tenaciousness of Redmond detectives.
"Police are always eager to go to work. I'm really proud of the department at all levels. We're working on a homicide case now," said Harris, referring to the unsolved murder of software engineer Arpana Jinaga in her Redmond apartment after a 2008 Halloween party.
"It's 24/7, dangerous work," he acknowledged.
A TALE OF TWO CITIES
The biggest change Harris has seen as Redmond Police Chief, recalling the days when the City of Redmond still felt like a small town, "is that we're in active partnership with the private sector, surrounded by major industries such as Microsoft, Nintendo and UPS. We help them protect their business interests and they help us, too. We have a double city. Twelve to 14 hours a day we've got 100,000-plus people. At night, we have half that."
It's made working in Redmond both challenging and exciting, he said.
Among the many feathers in his cap, Harris instituted a Community Oriented Policing organizational philosophy in the City of Redmond, has served as president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), and worked directly with the United States Attorney General, members of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees and directors of federal agencies such as the FBI and ATF.
He's a past president of King County Police Chiefs Association — and as a member of the IACP's Private Sector Liaison Committee, has worked with local and national agencies to prevent and reduce school violence.
Harris also led the creation of a Fusion Center, headquartered at the Redmond Police Department, to combat auto theft by sharing regional information between crime analysts, other law enforcement officers and prosecutors.
"I'm not into the awards thing," Harris continued. But those he has garnered from the American Society of Industrial Security Puget Sound Chapter strike him as prime examples of how his department has increased cooperation between private and public sectors.
"ATTACK (Auto Theft Tactical Analysis Center of of King County) is probably one of the greatest things ever in Redmond, which came out of frustration and being determined to change that (high incidence of auto thefts) with partners and stakeholders," he said. "Every officer is getting interviews and evidence. We're not just report takers and we get tremendous results that way."
After Harris spearheaded ATTACK, the outcome has been dramatic.
Since its inception in 2005, auto theft has declined by 55 percent in Redmond and by 53 percent in King County. Last year, the legislature provided statewide grant funding for auto theft reduction and cited ATTACK as a best practice in the state.
On a more folksy level, in 1996, Good Housekeeping Magazine, famous for its "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval," named Redmond Police Department one of eight "Best Suburban Agencies in the United States."
We asked Harris how he'd be spending his newfound free time.
He laughed and responded, "Anyone who knows me, knows I'm very active in training hunting dogs and a bird hunter."
He and his wife will remain Redmond residents. His daughter and her family live in Sammamish, his son's family is in Jackson Hole, Wyo., his brother is in New Jersey and his father-in-law lives in Denver.
So he'll be making lots of travel plans, said Harris.
"No doubt, we'll stay busy. We're avid skiiers, too. I'm pretty active, won't let too much grass grow over my feet," he promised.
Praising Harris for his nearly three decades of service, Redmond Mayor John Marchione remarked, "Chief Harris' career is distinguished by his leadership, innovation and partnership efforts and his years of service to the city have built a strong public safety foundation for citizens. Under his leadership, the Redmond Police Department has long been an example for its professionalism and best practices locally and nationally, a legacy for which our community is very proud."
Marchione said he will announce plans next Wednesday, with regard to finding Redmond's next chief of police.