With more than a quarter century with the department and two previous iterations as interim chief, Heath Layman has been confirmed as the permanent chief of the Cosmopolis Police Department.
With the building of a new police and municipal building scheduled for the near future and the same staffing challenges faced by many departments present in Cosmopolis, Layman’s moves into the top spot in an exciting time.
The Daily World sat down with Layman on Wednesday to discuss the new position and his vision for the future.
“I see my role as the guy who steers the ship of how we do policing,” Layman said. “I fully see the department as a community partner. Without community support, we’re ineffective.”
Layman said he’s excited to lead the department in the next few years.
“It’s exciting for me as a leader — even though it’s been rough to find people, it’s exciting to be in a new building with people that I picked coming to serve,” Layman said.
Local lad in the lead
“I’m born and raised out in the Willapa Valley,” Layman said. “I started in Pacific County for the Pacific County Sheriff’s Office.”
Layman said he came to the Cosmopolis Police Department in 1998 as a patrol officer, promoting to patrol sergeant in 2003 and to deputy chief in 2006.
“Not only has the profession changed, but the people are changing,” Layman said. “All the guys that I’ve worked with and served with, I’ve watched them retiring because I started young.”
In his time with the department, Layman did two stints as interim chief, though he didn’t seek to make the position permanent, citing his own lack of experience at the time.
When Chief Casey Stratton retired at the end of 2022, Layman took his third time as interim chief, and was confirmed permanently at a Cosmopolis City Council meeting last week.
“My intention is to be here for five and a half years as chief and leave it better than I found it,” Layman said. “I’m excited to think I’ll have people ready to step up into the position.”
A new home
While the department is currently cohabiting with the Cosmopolis Fire Department, Layman said he’s looking forward to the new combination municipal center/police department, which will hopefully break ground this summer.
Since the mid-2000s, the department has been operating out of a double-wide trailer donated by Weyerhaeuser, Layman said. The discussions to replace it have gone on about as long, Layman said.
“After the conversation started 18 years ago, I surrendered myself to, it’ll happen after I retire,” Layman said. “We’ve been in that double-wide trailer house since probably 2004, 2006. It was supposed to be a temporary facility for us while we figured something out; 16 years later, 18 years later, we’re moving forward.”
The department is currently operating out of the fire station next door while the process moves forward.
“The volunteer fire department has been phenomenal,” Layman said. “We’re squeezing out of the building. There’s lots of archived records and things we’re finding space for.”
The replacement, which holds both the municipal court and offices, as well as the police department, is designed to comply with modern state and federal regulations for police stations.
“(The trailer) wasn’t even (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant,” Layman said. “It’s more than necessary. As a community, we have to figure it out.”
A qualified department
Layman said his other priority is to make sure the department is staffed and trained at the best possible levels attainable with the current department budget.
“I have really awesome officers,” Layman said. “My hope is to promote one of my officers to the deputy chief position to share the load and supervise things when I’m gone. Then, we need to hire two patrol officers.”
Layman also emphasized close ties with other local departments.
“We try to keep our tools sharp by helping Aberdeen and Hoquiam when they request it. It’s a good partnership,” Layman said. “A lot of Aberdeen officers started with me. That was my first supervisory capacity, as a field training officer.”
A major focus of his career has been treating those he’s interacted with as human beings and with dignity, Layman said.
“We want to continue to want to partner with the community to serve the problems they have,” Layman said.
With the will to serve the community, Layman also wants to make sure his officers have the best training they can, so the Cosmopolis Police Department can be a versatile and modern force, able to help their neighbors in the community in a variety of ways.
“We can do more than write speeding tickets on First Street,” Layman joked.
Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or firstname.lastname@example.org.