A Tenino woman is questioning whether Tenino’s new interim police chief is certified to do the job, as the city moves forward with finding a new permanent chief.
At last week’s Tenino City Council meeting, Julie Graham claimed interim police chief Russ Ellis is not currently certified to serve as a law enforcement officer in any state, calling into question what the new chief can legally do in his role.
Graham said she asked Ellis when he was last certified for law enforcement work, and he said 2002. She also said Mayor Bret Brodersen had admitted to her that he was aware that the interim chief is not certified. Broderson could not be reached for comment.
“To me that indicates a lack of judgment in terms of the quality in terms of the person we hired to be the interim chief,” Graham stated to the council.
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This is not the first time Ellis has been criticized for his experience.
A state audit showed Ellis, who was briefly police chief in Ruston, was paid about $1,000 for time he did not work in 2001 after reporting falsified time sheets; however, no charges were filed.
The state auditor did report that Ellis did not follow proper procedures for safeguarding and handling evidence while in Ruston.
Ellis recently told The Olympian he inherited a mess left by his predecessor and later resigned because of a change in the city’s administration.
Tenino’s police department has been plagued with hardships in the past year and is currently down to one officer. Typically, a full staff for the department would include three full-time officers, a full-time police chief and a part-time administrator.
Ken Jones, with the Civil Service Commission, told the council progress is being made in the search for a new police chief. Currently, the city has six applicants for the position, and is also collecting applications for officers.
“This is good; we are making progress,” Jones said. “It’s been slow, but we are going to get there.”
A board has been selected to help with the hiring of the police chief and includes citizens, businesses, a law enforcement representative and a school board representative.
Jones told the council the citizens on the board were drawn by lot and the businesses were randomly drawn from the registered business licenses in the city.
Despite the police department staffing, city attorney Erin Hillier said residents should not be discouraged from reporting suspicious activity in the community.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, a resident had reported questionable activity in the campgrounds at the city park. She said she did not report her concerns to the Police Department because of the lack of officers and started patrolling the park herself.
Hillier said the only way to fight crime activity in the community with a limited police force is to bring suspicions to light.
“Don’t be afraid to report whatever you see,” Hillier said. “You are not allowing the Police Department to do its job if they don’t have the knowledge and the information.”