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Originally published Monday, March 30, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Retiring Redmond police chief leaves legacy of accomplishments

Retiring Redmond Police Chief Steve Harris thinks beyond the boundaries of Redmond. And that has made him successful in reducing crime throughout the region, his peers say.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Steve Harris strolls the long hallway inside the Redmond Police Department, pausing at a collection of framed photos of the department's past chiefs.

"Next week mine will be up there," Harris says.

Tuesday, Harris retires after 28 years as Redmond police chief and 42 years in law enforcement. He leaves a legacy of innovative ideas with positive effects — some beyond Redmond's borders — such as an auto-theft-reduction plan, his colleagues say.

He's applauded, too, for his skill in creating public-private partnerships to reduce crime at major businesses, and working to form an emergency-services center where the police, fire and public-works departments share information in times of severe storms or emergencies.

Harris, 63, says he intends to stay involved in law enforcement. He wants to help create more partnerships between the public and law enforcement and might work as a consultant, but he said the work would have to revolve around duck-hunting season.

That's such a passion that he and his wife of 44 years, Magi, bought a condo in Moses Lake, where Harris loves to spend frosty fall mornings with his dogs in a duck blind.

The rest of the time, Redmond — where he raised his now-grown son and daughter — will continue to be home.

During Harris' tenure in Redmond, Good Housekeeping magazine in 1996 called his department one of eight "Best Suburban Agencies in the United States." In 2006, the Criminal Justice Training Commission gave Harris the Community Partnership Award for fostering private- and public-sector partnerships. And that same year, the Puget Sound Chapter of the American Society of Industrial Security presented Harris with the Leadership Award for excellence in police administration and management.

Harris deflects credit to his bosses for allowing him the freedom to lead the way he saw fit. "We're a little different [in Redmond]. We realize you can't fight crime if we stay in the boundaries," Harris says. "I've worked for four mayors. They've let me get involved in things outside the department."

Harris' auto-theft-reduction task force, for example, involved police from King, Snohomish and Pierce counties sharing information. In 2005 in King County there were 17,694 auto thefts; in 2008 there were 8,349.

Boundaries

Pushing the boundaries of his job beyond Redmond benefited not only that city but the region, his colleagues say.

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Harris "enthusiastically sponsored the analytical team that focused our efforts on the most prolific car thieves in the county," King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said. "The fact that car thefts in King County dropped by more than half of what they were three years ago is a direct result of his willingness to lead the effort."

The emergency center Harris created was partially up during the December snowstorm.

It made it possible to dispatch police, firefighters and aid crews and have each department know what others were doing and which roads were closed. In the case of a major disaster, everyone from the city's finance officials to school administrators could work from the center.

Harris "has been a great public-safety partner," said Fire Chief Tim Fuller, who will lead the Police Department while the city looks for a new police chief. City leaders anticipate a national search.

Partners

Harris said he was most influenced in his career by now-retired University of Washington Police Chief Mike Shanahan, who taught him the value of being partners with the public in fighting crime.

So, armed with federal research theorizing there are benefits that aid in crime prevention when companies share information with law enforcement, Harris has worked with security personnel in Redmond businesses, including Microsoft. It's a growing trend in law enforcement nationally and in Washington. Redmond, specifically, has been applauded as a leader by a combination of law-enforcement and business groups.

Harris encouraged his commanding officers to read leadership books, and he devours them himself, practicing the principles of empowering his employees, giving praise and sharing the credit, when it happens.

The Redmond staff is well-trained, he said. So even with him retiring, he says, "this place should run just fine."

Nancy Bartley: 206-464-8522 or nbartley@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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