Snohomish Police Department, Part 2: Mike Lively

Mike pictured in city promotional flyer.

Mike Lively’s body is betraying his name these days. Heavy doses of chemotherapy for his testicular cancer resulted in serious bone death.

“I’m all metal from here to here,” Mike explains, pointing to his thighs on up to his chest. “I need to sit down,” he reminds me, before answering another question. Once comfortable, his memory is quick and the stories come easy, bouncing between touching and humorous, but always informative.

“I became a cop because I didn’t like cops,” Mike states, explaining that while he appreciated law enforcement, he never met a cop that he liked or respected. Mike graduated in 1965 from Snohomish High and spent four years in the Air Force where he served all over the US, Japan, even a thankfully short shift in Vietnam loading planes with returning wounded and dead servicemen.

Although he earned an Associate Degree in engineering, Mike found himself accepting a job offer with the Snohomish Police force in 1974. He was challenged to become a better cop than those he had experienced.

Mike comparing new and old uniforms, then Snohomish as a “war zone” in the 70s with fellow officer Terry Gilfillan.

Around the time that Jim Pettersen was appointed chief, Mike was working on a second degree from Everett Community College, this time in law enforcement. Looking back over his two dozen years with the department, it was under Pettersen’s leadership, Mike feels, that Snohomish developed into the best small-town police force in the county. “Everyone worked together,” Mike said.

When Pettersen had to resign three years later because he decided against moving to Snohomish, as required at the time, Mike was appointed acting chief. Mike served nearly two years in that position, a statewide record he was told.

Mike on the change in policing attitude.

Mike also assumed care of Pettersen’s collection of the department’s history, including photographs, records, and he added more memorabilia. The collection was stored in a room off the department’s office in the basement of City Hall. Sometime after the appointment of Patrick Murphy as chief in 1983, Mike found the room empty. He was told that collection had been tossed out by the order of the chief.

Over his 13 years as police chief, Murphy is credited with the growth of the department to its current size and location in a renovated bank building on Maple Street. Mike hints at an alternative appraisal of Murphy’s leadership but begs off any further questions because of ongoing relationships with Murphy’s family.

Murphy resigned in 1996 to accept a Snohomish County Council appointment as sheriff. “That was always his dream,” according to his daughter Tennille Murphy of Seattle as quoted by the press upon her father’s early death at age 54 in 2006.

Mike agreed to take on the chief’s job for at least three years, but he had to step back due to his struggle with testicular cancer, which by now had spread throughout his body, with only one month to go.

Plus, the new city manager, Bill McDonald, was pushing Mike to retire in order to fill the position with McDonald’s choice. Between this pressure and the growing pain, Mike finally made an appointment to submit his official resignation. McDonald was not in his office at the appointed time and left no word of his whereabouts. It was not the first meeting that McDonald had brushed-off — but it was the last. Mike placed his badge and gun in his patrol car, locked it, and gave the keys to a colleague with instructions to give them to the city manager when he returned to his office.

mike lively
Mike in 2011 at his home.
When word finally arrived from McDonald, he accused Mike of abandoning his post. But by that time Mike had voluntarily committed himself to a hospital. Between his physical pain and the emotional pain of a broken marriage, “I had lost the will to live,” Mike told me in a follow-up phone call.

Then he had to go. Mike was helping a neighbor clear her land with his impressively equipped John Deere tractor, where he would get to sit down.

Mike on the difference between local and county policing.

Mike on the benefit of investigative power with the county agency.

. . .

Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, September 21, 2011.

One thought on “Snohomish Police Department, Part 2: Mike Lively”

  1. SO sorry to hear about Mike he was a good friend in Hi School and always a friend after.

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