SWINOMISH INDIAN TRIBAL COMMUNITY — Swinomish Police Chief Lou D’Amelio has resigned his position after almost four years as head of the department.
“It’s been a good run for 3 1/2 years,” he said.
D’Amelio, who came to the Swinomish department in November 2016 after a 25-year career with the Anacortes Police Department, said he was leaving to explore other options, possibly outside of law enforcement.
“I’ve had a 30-year career in police work that I’m really proud of,” D’Amelio said. “I’m looking forward to whatever the next adventure might be. But I didn’t want this chapter to close without saying ‘Thank you’ to the tribe.”
His last day on the job was Aug. 12, he said.
D’Amelio took the reins of the department after a period of tumult, becoming its fourth chief in about a two-year period. Of his three predecessors, one was relieved of duty less than a year into his tenure and another was indicted on federal embezzlement charges. Rick Balam, who was brought on to lead the department in between those two, retired as chief for a second time in late 2015.
Bringing stability and unity to the department is one of the things D’Amelio said he was most proud of during his tenure.
“When I came on they were kind of disbanded and there was a real lack of direction,” he said. “It’s a really good team of people. I would stand them shoulder to shoulder with any others in the county.” The Swinomish Police Department is accredited by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs and have general police authority over enrolled and non-enrolled subjects under state law.
D’Amelio said he was also proud of the department’s work to improve its marine unit — already this year the unit has saved five people and responded to two fires — and the work Lt. Earl Cowan has done to create an unmanned aerial unit.
“That’s been really great,” D’Amelio said. “I’m so appreciative of the team of people. That’s where the real work is getting done.”
While he has no firm career plans for the future yet, D’Amelio said he will continue teaching criminal justice at Skagit Valley College. He has taught there and as part of the college’s Park Ranger Law Enforcement Academy for about a decade.
Representatives of the Swinomish tribe could not be reached for comment. But a former colleague, Anacortes police Capt. Dave Floyd, called D’Amelio a “detail-oriented guy” who was at the forefront of change at the Anacortes department.
D’Amelio joined the department in November 1991 shortly after graduating from California State University, Long Beach, with degrees in public policy administration and criminal justice. He started as a patrol officer, was promoted in 1994 to sergeant, and in 2013 became captain of the investigations and training division with additional responsibility for accreditation and professional standards.
“He came in at a time when the police department was looking to transition,” Floyd said. “The direction the department wanted to go at the time was (hiring officers) who were a little less familiar, who didn’t have a lot of ties here to influence decisions they would make in an official capacity. So he was at the beginning of that generation, along with Chief (John) Small, who came about at the same time. They were right at the forefront of that transformation into the department that we are today, that has a great reputation among the community and we get a high level of confidence that we are doing things the right way.”