By Alec Dietz | Lynnwood Times
Almost 30 years ago, Jim Nelson never thought he’d be in this position.
Sitting in a room full of hundreds of applicants, Lynnwood Police Department’s new Chief of Police never thought he’d be one of a handful of people accepted into the local police academies.
“I remember looking around the room, and that was my moment, like this is never going to happen,” he said. “I need to start thinking about what the next step is.”
Nelson would not hear back from the Lynnwood Police Department until a year and a half later. While working in Everett, LDP notified Nelson to interview for the police academy. Nelson is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and prior to moving to Washington state, he worked as a pilot in Alaska.
After the first few interviews, Nelson was nearly convinced he wasn’t going to make it. He checked his answering machine frequently during lunch breaks. Finally, after returning from work one day, he saw the red light on his answering machine.
“Here it is,” Nelson remembered. “They said, ‘we’d like to aim for a polygraph,’ I think it was the next day. There was polygraph, background investigation, psychological investigation, and all these things crammed in.”
The rest, Nelson says, was history.
Once he got through the academy, he began his law enforcement career as a patrol officer, and continued to climb the command structure as a detective, sergeant, sergeant with the South Snohomish County Narcotics Task Force, commander of investigations, and commander of detention at the Lynnwood Municipal Jail.
Four years into his tenure as Deputy Chief, Nelson is now the Police Chief of the same police department that hired him all those years ago. He’s the first internal hire for Lynnwood Police Department Chief of Police since 1975.
But his approach hasn’t changed since he arrived in Lynnwood.
“I’m not a status quo person,” Nelson said. “I want to look at opportunities for us to improve our product and opportunities for officers to grow and how to serve our officers better. All those things are really important.”
With an emphasis on community engagement, which Nelson said has been one of the largest impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had on LPD, Nelson is looking into options to continue building connection with the community he serves.
“That’s something for the past four years we’ve really been working on, really been emphasizing that, all the way down to the patrol officer level, Nelson said. “How do we get them engaged?”
“They’re so busy on calls, a lot of times during the day they’re just moving from call to call to call to call. But how do we find those moments where they’re not … just swinging by the park, or just stopping in a neighborhood, or stopping into a business and just having that brief interaction.”
Nelson outlined the several community engagements that LPD has every year, including the Cops and Clergy program, Coffee with a Cop, the Cops and Kids camp, have been cancelled because of COVID-19 restrictions.
On top of that, dealing with the budget and still finishing up some of his Deputy Chief duties, Nelson emphasized officer wellness. An avid hiker and lover of anything related to the outdoors, Chief Nelson understands the need to get away from work from time-to-time.
“I really encourage people to take them time off, and when they take their time off, I tell them — you know, the tendency is take your work phone with you and check your emails — leave that at home. You’re on your vacation,” Nelson said.
But more than anything, Nelson likes to stay busy. Whether it’s hiking local trails with his daughter, working at the police station, or engaging with the community, the newly sworn-in Chief of Police wants Lynnwood residents to know that he’s going to do everything he can to continue to serve the community.
Standing up for officer wellness, working on the new Community Justice Center renovation, and stepping into his new role as Police Chief are just part of the equation. “We really have a great community in Lynnwood, and we really enjoy being part of it,” Nelson said. “It’s a partnership. Communication is a two-way street, and so it’s our goal to continue to improve that. I know there’s always work to be done for sure. My goal is to do that work and do what we can to improve our service overall.”