Cooper owes island a firm commitment

"We can walk away from our jobs at any time.Impressment and indentured servitude having gone out with the 19th century, we're pretty much free to jump ship at any time, assuming we can find someone new to take us on.To that extent, we have no problem with Police Chief Bill Cooper's recent pursuit of the Top Cop job in Federal Way. Citing frustration with his regular commute to the island from Olympia - his house has failed to sell, after a year and a half on the market - Cooper dusted off his resume and went through an intensive application and interview process close to home. And, as reported elsewhere in this issue, he didn't get the job. But with the source of Cooper's frustration unchanged - his apparent inability to resettle in the vicinity of Bainbridge - Mayor Dwight Sutton and other city officials need to ask themselves: Should this arrangement continue at all?An effective Bainbridge Police demands stability at the top - to say nothing of the huge commitment of time and resources that goes into locating and selecting a new department head when one moves on.Cooper has repeatedly professed his fondness for his job and the Bainbridge community. And we believe he has raised the caliber and professionalism of the department. Others may disagree; no doubt his frankness and no-nonsense demeanor rankle some who would prefer to see the rural island patrolled by a Barney Fife brigade. But it's apparent to us that he's rallied most citizens to his corner.In thinking about this, we looked back on our own comments of two years ago, when the search for a new chief got under way. Amongst the criteria we suggested was an enthusiasm for joining the cultural life of the island. We drew on our experience with Cooper's predecessor, longtime chief John Sutton, who was a fixture at the Rotary Auction, the Grand Old Fourth and other events. Whether he was selling junk sofas or playing trombone in his Dixieland band, Sutton's proximity to the island - he and his wife lived near Poulsbo - allowed him to weave himself into the local fabric.While he maintained different standards for the department, Sutton illustrated one of the great intangibles of public service: One earns the trust of a community by becoming part of it. With his Federal Way prospects having fallen through, Cooper says he's not going to be actively looking for a new job, and we take him at his word. But he also says that if a new position comes up closer to home, he'll look into it.That's not much of a commitment.Who knows when another post will turn up in the I-5 corridor - perhaps the new Federal Way chief will fail and that job come open again. Cooper earned the enthusiastic support of the police officer's guild for that position, and would certainly be the favorite again.If Cooper wants to stay with Bainbridge Island, fine. Frankly, we hope he does. But he owes the city more than vague assurances of his professional and personal intentions.Anything less leaves the city and the public adrift with Cooper himself, always wondering whether he'll sign on with the next galley that sails by. "

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