New Police Chief Scott Behrbaum plans to follow same strategies

April 22, 2014

By Peter Clark

Newly confirmed Police Chief Scott Behrbaum does not expect to make a lot of changes to the department anytime soon.

After serving 17 years with the Issaquah Police Department, and the past seven of those as patrol commander under retired Chief Paul Ayers, Behrbaum said he believes in the ongoing direction of the department.

By Greg Farrar Issaquah Police Cmdr. Scott Behrbaum shakes the hands of City Council members April 7. The council voted unanimously to confirm his appointment by Mayor Fred Butler as the department’s new chief, taking effect April 16 after retiring Chief Paul Ayers’ last day.

By Greg Farrar
Issaquah Police Cmdr. Scott Behrbaum shakes the hands of City Council members April 7. The council voted unanimously to confirm his appointment by Mayor Fred Butler as the department’s new chief, taking effect April 16 after retiring Chief Paul Ayers’ last day.

“I’m excited for the appointment,” he said. “I’m really proud of our department and the positive impact it has established in our community.”

Behrbaum has risen through the ranks and taken on various roles, including crime prevention officer and narcotics officer, and was the first school resource officer at Issaquah High School.

“This is where I started my law enforcement career,” he said. “I’ve been there through five other chiefs.”

Because of his long tenure in the city, he has watched it dramatically change.

“We’ve seen a doubling of our community,” Behrbaum said, pointing out the expansion has not changed the primary goals of the department. “Our department is still going to focus on its core competency, and make sure to keep the quality of life and quality contact with community members.”

He also recognizes that Issaquah will continue to change.

“We want to be nimble and adaptive to the needs to the community,” he said. “The highlands is a microcosm of what the future of Issaquah could look like. We’re definitely studying the impact up there with the community.”

He said the department would continue to develop better department teamwork within the city. Already, the police department has partnered with many others to address traffic concerns and launch future programs.

The incoming chief said he agrees with the departing one about Issaquah’s largest issues related to crime — drugs and theft.

“Some of the drug issues are regionwide,” Behrbaum said. “It’s a complex problem in our community, and it’s not only a law enforcement issue. We’ve been looking really closely with some of those neighborhoods to address some of the issues, and soon there will be a community conversation about it.”

He said he plans to continue educating the public about car break-ins.

“We will still try to find ways to educate people, to take things out of their vehicles,” he said.

With the April 7 unanimous City Council confirmation, Behrbaum will enter the position beginning April 16.

“I share Scott’s vision for this city, one rooted in community policing,” Mayor Fred Butler said at the regular City Council meeting. “Over the years, he has also built strong relationships with our citizens, businesses, schools and regional partners.”

A panel conducted internal interviews for the new chief. Community members, city administrators, Butler and Councilman Tola Marts took part.

“This decision was a difficult one thanks to Chief Ayers’ commitment to training and succession planning among his staff,” Butler said. “I’m extremely proud of the 63 men and women who represent one of the most outstanding departments in the region.”

Marts also complimented the deep talent pool they interviewed.

“We had almost an almost an embarrassment of riches in terms of the quality of applicants we had before us,” he said at the council meeting. “We, as a city, have a strong commitment to peerless public safety. It’s one of our most, if not the most, important investment we make. The chief is a big part of that.”

Behrbaum’s plan for the department may not include any large changes, but it follows the path of change laid out in the past several years.

“Historically, policing has been a one-size-fits-all model, and we’re trying to break out of that mold,” he said. “Everyone has different needs and we’ve been working really hard to be as adaptive and innovative as possible. I have to give the staff credit. We have some really great people.”

He enters the position ready to lead that group.

“I’m excited about my new role,” Behrbaum said. “We’re going to provide that same high service, but we still encourage people to call us.”

 

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