Dale Green was confirmed last week as the new chief of police for the Aberdeen Police Department, stepping up from the interim role.
The position may be a new one for Green, but the department is not — Green has been a part of the APD for more than a quarter of a century, beginning as an Explorer with the department in 1996 and climbing now to the very top of the ladder.
The Daily World sat down with Green on Monday to talk with the new chief.
Editor’s Note: Comments have been edited for style and clarity
Q: Did you envision being chief of police when you started with the department?
A: I think when I joined (the Explorers), I was looking for something to do. Once I came on as an Explorer, I said, I love this. This is something I wanted to do.
I’ve been incredibly lucky with my promotions and assignments. We just have an amazing group of people. Everything I’ve done here has been the result of teamwork.
Q: What are some of the classes and qualifications you’re bringing to the seat?
A: I went to the FBI National Academy in spring. It’s like the top 1% of law enforcement. The state of Washington sends four students every session, only 16 students every year. I put in my application every year.
I have a lot of experience with critical incidents. I was the commander of the (Crisis Response Unit) for a few years. I was an apprehension dog handler. I don’t know if leadership is totally innate, like you’re born with it, but I feel it’s a product of experiences too.
As a chief, each rank I go up, I become more patient.
Q: Will we be seeing shifts in the leadership and promotions?
A: We need to get some sergeants and some lieutenants. We want people who want to step up and do the right thing.
We’re four cops down now. Optimistically, we’re going to get full manpower and get those promotions. It’s hard to stay right at where we need to be at, 38 officers for the whole department.
We have one officer retiring this Friday. Our deputy chief is retiring sometime in the next 3-4 months. That brings us down another slot. It’s never-ending.
Q: Is the department experiencing staffing difficulties?
A: I think (hiring has) slowly trended down in the last 5-10 years. When I tested in ‘96, there were 80 applicants. Today there’s one applicant. I don’t think there’s very many agencies around here that are fully staffed.
The generation between 20 and 25, it’s very different. It’s a challenge to find people who want to come out and serve.
I think our schedule in general is attractive for people who want days off. Our benefits are great. We’re really trying to appeal to that.
Q: Has the department had to make major changes in the face of intense scrutiny of policing?
A: We were pretty much going down the straight and narrow anyway. A lot of best practices, we were already following.
The department is finishing up recertification with the Washington Association Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, Green said.
(The certification process) was a lot of work. Becky Ellis, our admin coordinator, did amazing work. She’s done the bulk of the work.
Q: A new station for the department has been a priority for a while. What’s the status of that?
A: This station was built in the mid-80s. One of the challenges specifically is the downtown was built on fill. Our building is sort of sinking. I’m not a contractor but when the building is sinking it pulls on the plumbing and stuff. We have problems weekly with the plumbing in the jail.
(The process is) in the very early stages. I think the fire department is a little ahead of us. We’re sensitive to that.
Q: Homelessness is an issue many people are exceedingly vocal about. What’s the department doing about that?
A: The county is responsible for putting together a cold-weather shelter. We can’t enforce the sit-lie ordinance without an available shelter. Same for the camping ordinance.
Our concern is it’s not healthy for them, it’s not safe for them. They need somewhere to go, stay dry, get some food.
Q: How is the department handling the changes to vehicle pursuits?
A: It kind of goes in spurts. There are a few people that are problematic. We can’t pursue vehicles except for a few violent offenses.
We’ll try tracking them down and see where they go. We’ve been incredibly fortunate with surveillance. It’s one more step that we need to do when we’re understaffed and overworked. Pursuits are dangerous anyway.
Our challenge is our calls are up 11%. That’s 36,000 calls a year. There’s not a lot of time. They’re just slamming busy all the time. They can do a little more on night shift.
Q: Are there any big changes coming up?
A: I think (Chief Steve Schumate) really set us up to continue on. The challenge for us is when a new case law comes out.
It’s a really tragic situation we’re seeing. Drug abuse has exploded over the last few years. Unintended consequences — I think that’s the term the legislators used.
We absolutely support progressive change. Societies change, the needs of the people change. But first and foremost you have to look out for the victims.
Q: What are your priorities for the department for the next five years?
A: I think getting new police officers that want to serve. We’re not at a crisis level with four officers. But if we’re ever at 7-8 officers down, we’re going to start talking about what services we’re gonna cut.
I really think getting people to get into this profession, that’s what we gotta do.
I think we have a tremendous amount of community support. Our legislators in Grays Harbor worked super hard for us. When COVID was really ramped up I don’t think I’d had so many people say thanks. We’re all part of this big giant community.