Snohomish Police Department, Part 4: In the News

Snohomish Police Department, 2009.

The City of Snohomish has been parked at the edge of history for the past several months, and a three hour limit is about to go into effect. It’s expected that the city council will vote to change how we pay our police and that the municipal entity known as the Snohomish Police Department will begin the next chapter in its 123-year history.

So. I have begun the process of putting together a thumbnail history of the department up to this point. Scrolling through pages of old news on the library’s microfilm reader has turned up a historian’s candy store of stories. Allow me to tease you with a few headlines.

September 3, 1970, in the Tribune: “Boyd seeks $250,000.” The story begins: “Snohomish Police Chief Clarence Boyd has filed a complaint with the clerk of the Superior Court […] Three men city council members signed a formal complaint against Boyd following a motion made and passed unanimously at the June 2 council meeting….”

Chief Boyd is pictured on the left in the photograph above, he served 22 years as the Chief. On November 1, 1973, he was given an editorial send-off in the Tribune: “He did his job under difficult circumstances. Almost every year was ‘Retire the Chief Year’ in Snohomish.”

October 4, 1951, in the Tribune: “Police Chief Adams Removed From Post By Mayor Nickerman Following Protest Made On Punch Boards, Traffic Arrests.” Fascinating to imagine, the chief was dismissed in the council meeting and Robert Twitchell was appointed on the spot. (Twitchell went on to serve as County Sheriff.)

Readers who were in attendance at this meeting are encouraged to contact me.

Here’s a possible scene from a period movie, published by the Tribune, December 30, 1910: “Desperado Fights Duel With Marshal.” Marshal Roy Norton, pictured above, found the desperado, a Mike Donnelly, at the shooting gallery in the basement of the California Wine House on First. Donnelly fired a shot at Norton that passed through his uniform just grazing his stomach. Chief Norton got off two shots toward Donnelly, who fired again. None of the bullets hit their mark and the action moved outside, up Avenue A. (To be continued in the thumbnail history.)

Marshal Wm. Brown
Published in 'The Sun' 1891

My favorite story so far is from the second year of our incorporation as the City of Snohomish when our first Marshall just about takes down the young city government. In the August 29, 1891, issue of The Eye, a headline shouts: “A Brown Study.” A sub-head teases: “ Lively Times in the City Council.” And a second sub-head explains: “The Ordinance Says the Money Belongs to the Chief of Police — Attempts to Convict Brown Regardless of Law — Resignation of City Attorney Coleman.”

Wait, there’s more, September 19, 1891: “The Ludicrousness of It!” The middle of the second paragraph reads: “According to the best light now shed upon the scene, the city has two chiefs of police….”

To be continued.

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Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, November 16, 2011.

Snohomish Police Department, Part 3: O. D. Morse

Beth Greenlee, born to Orrin and Maud Morse in 1929, may have trouble remembering the day of the week these days, but there is no hesitation in her telling of the time when her father, who was the city Marshall, unlocked the door of the gun room on the lower level of Snohomish City Hall to proudly show his young daughters the department’s latest acquisition of a “Tommy gun.”

“The layout of the building is unchanged,” Beth said, as we entered through the double doors at 1009 First. On the left was the City Clerk’s and Waterworks office. Across the hall was Mr. Knapp’s office, who was the city attorney. Straight ahead was where the council met, and the Police Court.

Today, this room is the Mariposa Day Spa, featuring an “intimate setting overlooking the Snohomish River,” according to its website.

On the lower floor, the door straight ahead was to the gun room, “and they had quite a collection!” To the right was the door to her dad’s office. “There was a roll-top desk against one wall and spittoons on the floor,” remembers Beth as a young girl. “And there was a big old safe, that has to be somewhere in town.”

Alongside the desk was one cell that was usually for women. “And behind his desk, you would open a door and there were cells on both sides and in the center, so it was like a ‘U’ — and that’s where people would come to …” Beth searches for a word with a polite chuckle, “rest.” Mentioned several times in our conversation, was Beth’s memory of her father bringing the prisoners breakfast.

The windowless room was the new city marshall’s office and “drunk-tank.” O. D. Morse, as he was known, and who was appointed Marshall only three years earlier, moved in August 1927.

The cells were removed long ago, but it was our police station/office for over 50 years. It’s now a private apartment.

Beth and her younger sister Billie would often hang-out at the city hall waiting for a ride home from their dad. Once, O.D. was bringing in a drunk who fought back on the way down the stairs, “and my little sister jumped up on his back and just beat the hell out of him,” as Beth tells it. “She couldn’t have been more than eight years old, just a little thing … she was always a rascal,” Beth adds.

O.D Morse served as city Marshall for 19 years, until 1943, the longest leadership of the Snohomish Police Department. Somewhere along the way his title changed to Chief of Police, so it could be said, he lead the way to creating a modern police force in Snohomish.

Except for his assistant, “Bicycle Jim” (officer Jim Wright), didn’t drive but could bike fast enough to pull over people driving cars! Let’s save that story for another time.

He looks stern, Beth agreed, “but he was a sweetheart.” He could walk into the middle of a ferocious fistfight and within minutes have the men shaking hands. According to his daughter Beth, O. D. never used the “Tommy gun.”

Beth: “…it was like living in a monastery sometimes.”

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Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, October 19, 2011.

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.

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

Snohomish Police Department

When discussing the future of the Snohomish Police Department, let’s be clear about its past — the department is not 150 years old.  Looking for the beginning of a paper trail establishing our Police Department has lead me to the unexpected discovery that legally, the entity called “The Snohomish Police Department”  is only 38 years old.

Ironically, we are marking the 150th anniversary of the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office this year, since  it was established by the Washington Territory Legislature with the formation of the county on January 14, 1861.  The office provided county wide policing services, such as it was in a place with around 50 white men, and at least that many guns. Those were the days of deputizing citizens who provided law enforcement with an emotional interpretation that inspired popular western movies and TV shows.

The clearing in the woods on the north bank of the Snohomish River that quickly developed into a viable town was not called “Snohomish” until 1871-72, when the Fergusons, then the Sinclairs laid out their claims with streets and avenues joined at Union Street.  It’s easy to imagine that the new town had its own Marshall, as the population of loggers and saloons increased, but there is no record to point to, nor reliable news coverage to help us out here.

Early Snohomish as the county seat, was home base for the Sheriff, an elected office since 1863. The famous Benjamin Stretch was first elected in 1867, then re-elected every two years, serving until 1875 when W. B. Stevens became the first full time Snohomish County Deputy Sheriff.

It seems we must wait until our town first incorporates as the Village of Snohomish in 1888 for a written record concerning police matters.  At an early meeting of the Village Board of Trustees held in April, 1888,  it is recorded: “On motion of H. Blackman, Chas. M. Jordan was appointed Marshal of the Village of Snohomish with Salary at $20 per month and $2 for each arrest made.”  (This record has been inaccurately published that Blackman was the first policeman, a certain conflict of interest with his position as a Trustee.)

And Ordinance #8, approved on May 10, 1888, by E. C. Ferguson, Chairman, ordained in Section 2: “The night watchman shall be on duty from eight o’clock P.M. until six o’clock A.M. of each and every night during his term of office, unless excused by the Chairman of the Board of Trustees.”  The pay was $50 per month, but only $1 per arrest.

All of these fine, handwritten details were set aside with statehood in 1889; and the carefully watched-over sleeping citizens of Snohomish woke up and voted to incorporate as a third class city, rejecting Ferguson’s wish to remain a village.  And if that wasn’t insult enough to our city father, Ferguson went on to lose the election as Mayor of the new City of Snohomish to Hyrcanus Blackman.

The ordinance count begins again, (we are currently at #2218) and Ordinance #3 establishes a “Police Force” that in addition to a Marshall, “shall consist of one captain if the City Council shall determine, and such members of police officers not exceeding five as the City Council may from time to time determine.”  The ordinance was approved in July, 1890 and in October the city purchased a lot on Avenue A and built the complex of buildings pictured in this month’s historic image, primarily to house the city’s first  fire engine and prisoners in the new jail. No mention of a “police department” in the weekly newspaper, The Eye.

The facility was serving way beyond its expiration date when the July 21, 1927 issue of the Snohomish County Tribune announced the move to “new civic homes.” One is pictured as this month’s Now image, the former fire station, and the second new home was the City Hall at 1009 First, now called the “City Mall.”  The article notes that the jail is already in use but still no mention of the “Police Department” or “Force.”  Yet the label “Police Dept.” is used in official documents throughout the years without any ordinance establishing it, or amending Ordinance #3 that authorized a “Police Force”  of only five policemen?

In 1964, Ordinance #3 was repealed, but  nine  years went by before Ordinance #1250 was approved and published November 22, 1973, finally establishing the “Snohomish Police Department” — 38 years ago.

Next month we will feature Police Department personnel, Then and Now. Please contact me with your stories and pictures of Snohomish policeman past and present.



Engine House and Jail, circa 1900

Courtesy of the Snohomish Historical Society Archives
(Click to Enlarge)

Firehouse Center, 2011
(Click to Enlarge)

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Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, August 17, 2011.