After a law enforcement career spanning 45 years and serving as Lynnwood’s police chief for more than two decades, Chief Steven Jensen retired Tuesday. A final sendoff was held in a room packed with Jensen’s friends, family and colleagues from numerous departments, who all wished him the best but lamented that he was leaving Lynnwood.
Jensen served as Lynnwood’s police chief for 21 years. The average tenure of police chiefs in large cities, according to several police associations, is between 2.5 and 3 years.
“Lynnwood has been blessed these 21 years with stability and continuity,” Former City Council President Loren Simmonds said. “I am happy for Chief Jensen, but I am sorry for this community.”
Jensen became Lynnwood’s Chief of Police in March 1995 under former Mayor Tina Roberts-Martinez. Roberts-Martinez said she was impressed at the experiences he gained at the Oakland Police Department handling situations like fires, riots and a major earthquake.
“I saw he had the experience and expertise and qualifications I was looking for and he never disappointed me,” Roberts-Martinez said.
Among Jensen’s many accomplishments during his tenure, he began the Lynnwood Police Department’s many volunteer programs: Volunteers in Public Safety (VIPS), Citizens Patrol and the Police Explorers. Several members of each group attended Tuesday’s celebration, and many speakers mentioned it as a point of pride.
Others said they were grateful to work for a chief who they knew prioritized law enforcement and serving the community.
“I could fight crime and know that you would stand behind me,” former Sgt. T.J. Brooks said. He also recently retired nearly two weeks ago.
When executives would meet, Deputy Chief Jim Nelson said Jensen was always quick to ask how changes would affect service to the community.
“You always asked what this would do to the patrol officer,” Nelson said.
Edmonds Police Chief Al Compaan said Jensen was a mentor for him when he suddenly became chief after the former chief passed away unexpectedly. He presented a folded piece of paper labelled a “Certificate of Appreciation” to Jensen, poking a bit of fun at him by commending him for creating a traffic unit that stops everyone before they reach Edmonds, testing traffic cameras for all of the neighboring cities, taking revenue from neighboring cities and being an all around good guy.
The certificate had been folded up and tucked into Compaan’s breast pocket. When he pulled it out and unfolded it, Jensen laughed and said Compaan knows that he’s “not a collector of plaques.”
Jensen was humble.
“When I got here, I knew I was in the right place when I met those folks and they were so professional and confident,” Jensen said of city and police department staff. “I was so honored to be selected.”
Jensen leaves Lynnwood on Friday for his home in Scotsdale, Ariz. He has owned the house since 2008 and now plans to spend most of his time there, though he says he will come back to Lynnwood occasionally.
As for Lynnwood, Mayor Nicola Smith says the process to find a new chief will be long. Smith said she considers Jensen to be a “sage” for the city. If she ever wanted to change a policy, for example, she could speak with Jensen and he could give her background on why the policy was initially put into place and what it was meant to accomplish. He also taught her a lot about police culture, she said.
For now, Deputy Chief Bryan Stanifer will serve as acting chief of police while the city works to find a permanent chief. No timeline is set for that to happen, and Smith said she would not be surprised if it took about a year, though it could take less time or even longer.
“We really want to make sure we find the right person,” she said.
–Story and photos by Natalie Covate