Cooper tries for Federal Way job
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:17 PM
"Bainbridge Island Police Chief Bill Cooper is one of 20 applicants being considered for the top cop's job in Federal Way - a position that will likely be filled by year's end.Cooper, who has been Bainbridge's police chief since January 1999, says he doesn't want to leave the island. He may, however - because, in a sense, he was never here.Cooper, 49, who came to Bainbridge from Tumwater, still lives and commutes from his home in neighboring OIympia. He hasn't been able to sell his house there in its more than 16 months on the open market, and can't financially manage a move here until a sale happens.As a result, he has wearied of what has become a two-to-three-hour drive each way over an average of four days a week.My very, very strong position is that I don't want to leave here. I genuinely like Bainbridge Island, Cooper said. I'm not looking for another job, but I have been approached. What it would do that Bainbridge can't is get me closer to my family.I'm a human being, and I'm tired.City administration officials have been apprised of Cooper's possible move, but were unavailable for comment Friday.Two weeks ago, Cooper and his wife agreed they would respond to a solicitation to apply for the job in Federal Way, a 146-member force in a city of 80,000 - the sixth-largest in the state. Last week, he was notified that he had made the first cut, from 72 applicants to 20. In the next week, he'll submit a series of written essays to the screening committee. If he makes a further cut, he'll face a series of interviews/interrogations with Federal Way city staffers and community members.While the job represents a move up in prominence, it's the proximity to Olympia that appeals to Cooper most. He was also recently approached by the city of Kirkland to apply for its police chief's vacancy - also a move up - but turned it down because moving there would have done nothing to decrease his drive time.He made it clear, however, that it wouldn't break my heart if he didn't get the Federal Way job.I have literally everything a chief would wish for in this city, Cooper said. I have the freedom to do things my way, and nothing but support of the city manager and city council - an absolute rarity in this business. I am incredibly proud of this staff and organization.In Federal Way, where the last chief departed under shadowy scandal-tinged circumstances earlier this year, Cooper said there was a risk in seeking a job much more political than this one, he said. I need the freedom to do what needs to be done without political interference, he said. If I don't get it there, then I walk - simple as that.In his short tenure on Bainbridge, Cooper has completely reorganized the departmental hierarchy, sustaining relatively little turnover in the process. He has also presided over the expansion of the building and a comprehensive upgrade of officers' equipment, from computers to firearms to uniforms.The people here respect me, he said, and added with a chuckle: And I think most of them might even like me. "