DUVALL–Although the recent retirement of longtime Police Chief Glenn Merryman came as a bit of a shock to the community, the preparation for the transition to a new leader has been going on for several years, according to interim Chief Carey Hert.
Hert, who has been with the department for 10 years, took over as interim chief on Jan. 1 after Merryman, who put in 29 years with the city, said his goodbyes.
The transition has gone well, Hert said last week.
“We spent the last six to seven years preparing for this,” he said. “It’s been smooth.”
And, just as the former chief’s policies put Duvall high on the “safest city lists” for both the county and state, his successor has already begun implementing his own plans for the agency. Hert emphasized that he will be focusing on creating a new perception of the department that will reflect the changing demographics of the city.
“Our community is younger than it once was, and more tech-savvy so we are going to be engaging more with the residents, becoming more transparent and providing more information to the public,” he explained. “Patrols have become more visible, since officers don’t have to go to Carnation, so we are getting a lot of positive feedback about that.”
But letting people know what’s going on is only a small part of his new job and Hert has plenty on his plate. “Drugs are always a challenge,” he said. “In order to deal with it properly, a dedicated full time officer is needed. But drugs are a problem in every community, including over the counter drugs. It makes for more crime, because people have to feed their addiction. And new challenges always emerge, such as Snohomish County closing off jail services to anyone outside the county. They are overcrowded, so we have had to search for services to the south, which can mean long drives.”
Hert oversees an office of 10 patrol officers and sergeants, records clerk Shelly Rowe and Sgt. Lori Batiot, a five-year veteran of the department who was recently recruited within the agency to become the new community police resource supervisor. One of her tasks was creating the department’s new Facebook page which is already very popular with local users of the social website.
Hert said the new community officer has also been attending homeowners’ association and Rotary Club and chamber meetings; that she is organizing a community outreach month and is currently working on a crime mapping website.
The DARE program, which has been ongoing at Cherry Valley Elementary and Eagle Rock, is continuing as well.
Facebook postings by the department just last week included updates on counterfeit bills being passed in town, information on teen use of drugs, warnings on current scams, a photo of stolen property and an engaging picture of Blitz, the narcotics detection canine. Residents are already sharing some of the police information on their Facebook pages.
Sgt. Batiot said the Facebook page grew fast in just the few days she had been posting items. “We already have 354 ‘friends,’” she said. “We want to focus on establishing better connections with the community and matching needs with resources. I also want to help residents set up block watch groups.”
Upcoming events the sergeant will be working on include a bike rodeo in May, Duvall Days on May 31st, and, for the first time, the city will participate in National Night Out on August 5, an event she is particularly upbeat about.
“The first year or two National Night Out here will be a central event and then expand into the neighborhoods,” she said. “The idea is for neighbors to meet neighbors; we already have a lot of people offering their assistance. It will be a nice end of summer event.”