The new top cops: Snoqualmie Police Chief Steve McCulley, Captain Nick Almquist share plans

New captain Nick Almquist, left, and new chief Steve McCulley will lead Snoqualmie Police Department into a new era.  - Seth Truscott/Staff Photo
New captain Nick Almquist, left, and new chief Steve McCulley will lead Snoqualmie Police Department into a new era.
— image credit: Seth Truscott/Staff Photo

Steve McCulley’s two decades as a Valley resident, parent, and police officer had a culmination Sunday, July 1, when he officially took the reins of the Snoqualmie Police Department as chief.

Handpicked for this moment two years ago this August when he was hired as captain, McCulley replaced the newly retired Jim Schaffer, the personable officer who saw Snoqualmie through more than two decades of massive population growth.

Now, McCulley oversees the department as Snoqualmie reaches its full growth, and will add officers, expand the department and increase its presence in schools.

Before he was a city police captain, McCulley was an assistant division commander for Washington State Patrol’s Homeland Security Division, overseeing the state bomb team, counter-terrorism and the massive state ferry system.

He traded that for a different, lower-key community beat, and says Snoqualmie and his North Bend hometown remain very safe places to live. Snoqualmie is still growing, and that will mean changes to the force.

First on the list is a school resource officer. Snoqualmie used to have two school cops, federally funded. Those grants dried up nearly a decade ago. McCulley, who’s put both his children through Valley schools, seeks money to put a school officer back in place.

“Everybody’s touched by the schools in one way or the other,” McCulley said. “We know how important it is.”

Valley roots

McCulley, 50, grew up in Monroe, and his first experience of the Valley was as a State Trooper in the early 1990s, patrolling from the Tiger Mountain summit to the Pass.

“It was quieter around here,” he said. “Snoqualmie and North Bend were still very small. It was a great place to live.”

He and wife Lynn moved here, loved it, and moved away once, briefly, before returning for good.

“We had committed to our kids—wherever we ended up, we wouldn’t move,” McCulley said.

Both he and Lynn have been involved with schools, and McCulley is a member of the Snoqualmie Valley Rotary Club.

The city of Snoqualmie emphasizes that its department heads get involved in the community, and McCulley, who was tapped to join by a neighbor, said Rotary offers a great avenue for that, among other local leaders.

New captain

As McCulley becomes chief, Nick Almquist, a Redmond police traffic lieutenant, is taking the chief’s old job as captain.

The Monroe resident says he was looking for an advancement opportunity to aid his career goals. Almquist was born, raised and educated in Spokane. He is a veteran of the United State Air National Guard, where he served as a security police officer. He served in Moscow, Idaho, as a patrol officer and was the city’s first D.A.R.E. officer, in 1990, before going to Redmond.

Almquist says his role is clear, and chemistry is good between himself and his predecessor.

For the last year, Almquist has been a high school youth leader at Cascade Community Church in Monroe.

“It’s been fun and challenging,” he said.

The new captain has already come up with an idea from that experience. He wants to partner with the Snoqualmie YMCA for a Youth Activities Program, connecting young people with police. It’ll make for a positive early experience, making young people, tomorrow’s adults, have better dealings with officers.

“We both have the same sense of humor and philosophy about what we want to do here,” McCulley said.

“I know his job intimately,” the chief added, describing the department’s planned succession plan. “I know the challenge, the things I started and wanted to complete… it’s going to work well.”

Force changes

McCulley doesn’t expect any big changes in the department from Schaffer’s approach.

“Jim established a foundation with the officers,” he said. Both past and present chiefs stressed involvement—getting beyond the desk and squad car to interact with residents young and old—as part of what McCulley describes as a balanced approach to policing.

“We really have nothing unless we have the support and confidence of the community,” McCulley said. “We’re definitely going to carry that on and expand where we can.”

McCulley said the city will soon begin a citizen survey on the department. He wants to know what residents think is working, where improvements can be made, and what priorities need to be.

As the Ridge nears full build-out, Snoqualmie Police Department may add more a few more full-time officers.

“We’re at the point now where we need an investigator,” the chief said. Now, officers handle their own investigations, or turn over major cases to the cooperative Major Crimes Task Force of which Snoqualmie is a part. While officers have developed universal skill sets, a dedicated investigator would strengthen the force.

“We really look at providing a balanced police model: Education when you can provide it, enforcement when you need to, and community involvement,” McCulley said. “It pays off in a lot of dividends… We can’t do anything without (residents’) support and confidence.”

• You can follow the Snoqualmie Police Department here.

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