With more than 30 years of law enforcement experience, Perry Phipps of Visalia, Calif., began his work as Snoqualmie’s new Chief of Police on Monday, Jan. 9; he was officially sworn-in at the Snoqualmie City Council meeting Tuesday, Jan. 10.
Before moving to Snoqualmie, Phipps was the captain of the Visalia Police Department, an organization with more than 200 employees that served a city of 130,000 people. Phipps holds a bachelor’s degree in management and organizational development and a master’s degree in leadership and organizational studies.
A lifelong Californian, Phipps recently moved to Snoqualmie after deciding he wanted a change of pace in his life, and to progress in his career.
“I didn’t have much exposure outside California,” he said. “Ultimately my eyes were opened when I did venture out. Also, my wife had lived up in Washington State for a short time and wanted to come back.”
When Phipps and his wife found the listing for a chief position in Snoqualmie, they did some research into the area and decided it would be a good fit for them.
“When I looked into it, it intrigued me. I did some research on it and thought maybe it would be good for me. I applied and here I am today,” he said. “It was not and is not an easy move, but what has made it easier is the beauty of it and the people up here have been very welcoming.”
First taking an interest in law enforcement as a child growing up in the San Francisco Bay area, Phipps began his work as an officer in 1984, in the small city of Carpinteria, before moving to Visalia two years later. During his time in Visalia, he was able to experience the many facets of a larger-scale police department in a variety of units and teams.
“You name it I probably did it. I did canine for several years, I also did the DUI enforcement team, I did investigations, I went out and did undercover dope buys and stuff like that. I ran the gang unit, I ran SWAT for many years. I’ve done all that side of it,” he said. “Then as I went up the chain I had more exposure to more areas of the department. Budget, fleet, records, dispatch, you name it.”
In 2011, he was promoted to captain, and took charge of operations in records, dispatch and investigations. He also worked with some of the youth groups and school resource officers. His work with youth would become a main project for Phipps after an accident in 1991 that left him unable to return to standard police work for months.
“I’ve been in some critical incidents in my life, and through those critical incidents you learn what priorities and values there are in life and what’s important in life, and that’s not necessarily the chair you’re sitting in,” Phipps said.
“I was in a house explosion, a man was in the house, he had filled it with propane, and when (I) and three other officers went in to ventilate the house and get him out of there, the house blew up. Out of that, I received significant burns, causing me to go to the burn unit for quite some time, skin grafts, the whole thing you go through. I was out of work for 25 months, but I did go back to patrol, that was an ultimate goal of mine. A lot of people didn’t think I would ever come back, but I did.”
After that experience, Phipps had the time to work on forming the Police Activities League, a program designed to help at-risk youth interact with officers on a more human level through activities like sports or camp.
Phipps said these experiences helped develop his ability to listen to others and learn, something he feels is important to fitting in to the city and police department of Snoqualmie.
“You can’t come into a place and make it yours. The ultimate focus is that you fit in, you come to a place and you fit in and you make those observations on what’s needed, what are the priorities and then you make those decisions,” he said. “What I’ve seen, I’m very happy about. Good officers, this is a good department with good facilities, equipment, and people here.”
Phipps is also thankful that interim Police Chief Jim Schaffer is working with him during the transition, which he says has helped him tremendously.
Phipps has already completed an examination of operational elements, including department size, shifts and facilities, which he said were all good. He was also glad to hear that the city had already identified a need for dedicated investigators in the department.