With a new mayor unveiling a hand-picked cast of characters at City Hall and heads rolling among SPD’s top brass as an interim chief hopes to hang onto his job by proving Seattle policing reforms are taking hold, the East Precinct has made a quieter change at the top.
A 33-year veteran of the force, Captain Mike Edwards now leads the precinct covering Capitol Hill and the Central District replacing Captain Ron Wilson who has retired after his own 37 years as a police in Seattle.
CHS found out about Wilson’s sudden departure and the change Tuesday morning when we noticed two SPD officers on foot patrol walking E Pike and had a brief chat. The foot beat is a short term “emphasis patrol” we’re told, but it could be the kind of popular development for the department Edwards will be perfectly timed to take credit for. We’d say go for it, by the way — East Precinct foot patrols are a consistent request when CHS surveys readers about improving Capitol Hill public safety. By Tuesday afternoon, SPD’s new Capt. Edwards bio was posted:
Captain Mike Edwards began his police career with the Seattle Police Department April 16, 1980. In his previous assignment as a Captain he commanded the Education & Training Section.
As a Lieutenant he held assignments as the Investigations Procedures Committee Commander, Narcotics Commander, and the Special Assignments Commander which included the Fraud/Forgery Unit, Auto Theft Unit, Pawnshop Detail, Major Crimes Task Force and Electronic Crimes Squad. As a sergeant he was assigned to the North Emphasis Team, North Precinct Nora Sector, East Precinct George Sector, West Precinct David Sector and Traffic Section. As an officer he was a Narcotics Detective, SWAT member and worked East, West and North Precincts in patrol. He served 13 years on the Board of Directors of the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild with 6 of those years as the Guild President.
Captain Mike Edwards is the son of a career Air Force parent and has traveled extensively both domestically and abroad with his family during his father’s 26 year military service. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from the University of Texas but is the proud father of a UW Husky graduate.
Edwards says the foot patrol CHS found Tuesday is nothing new and that changes will come slowly as he acclimates to the new role and transitions out of leading the department’s training.
“Once we start getting new personnel, then there will be more noticeable changes,” Edwards said of his plans and expected influx of new academy graduates as SPD ramps up hiring.
Edwards will lead his first precinct after a career with SPD that also saw him serve as president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild from 1996 to 2002. The often controversial union was busy responding to things like SPD’s actions at the Pioneer Square Mardi Gras riot during Edwards’ tenure. In 2002, The Stranger called Edwards “a strong voice for the rank-and-file union” in the wake of controversy over the Mardi Gras violence. Current guild president Sgt. Rich O’Neill has announced he is stepping down after leading the union through one if its roughest periods following the Department of Justice’s consent decree over SPD’s use of force and treatment of minorities.
Like many among SPD’s senior ranks, Edwards has played a role in designing and implementing the department’s response to the DOJ actions. A Federal monitor cited Edwards’ work as training captain for SPD’s weekly Use of Force Review Board meetings as “admirable” in a recent report on the department’s reforms.
Mike, meanwhile, isn’t the only Edwards with more than 30 years on Seattle’s police force. His older brother William Edwards serves as director of parking enforcement.
Mike Edwards takes over an East Precinct with a diverse set of public safety challenges. The gentrified and gentrifying northern Central District’s former “open air drug markets” are now being readied for mixed-use development while the southern stretches of the precinct still face many of the old school challenges of race, poverty, class and crime. Capitol Hill, in the meanwhile, is morphing into a landscape with criminal habits and patterns more like the downtown core.
Capt. Wilson, the man Edwards replaces, moved into the command of East Precinct in summer of 2012. CHS talked with him about his new job with the smell of pepper spray still in the air following a Pride weekend clash with protesters on E Madison. He leaves after just under 18 months in the job.
Edwards will find himself with a relative wealth of resources and opportunities compared to his predecessor. For one, the fight over reforms has hopefully calmed to a dull roar. But greater will be more boots on the ground as funding has been earmarked for hiring new cops and focusing greater public safety effort on the city’s core.
“In large measure, we’re in this very unique period of time,” Edwards said. “Having gone through a lot of changes, there’s some level of stability.” He was talking about Capitol Hill and the neighborhoods that make up the East Precinct. But he also could just as easily have been talking about the department he’s been part of for more than 30 years.
This post has been updated to correct information regarding William Edwards’ history with SPD.