Burien Police Chief Kimerer Comes From A Pedigreed Law Enforcement Family
by Jack Mayne
Scott Kimerer has been police chief in Burien for over eight years but few realize he comes from a pedigreed law enforcement family.
Both of his parents retired from the Seattle Police Department as assistant chiefs. His mother, Noreen Skagen, later became the first woman U.S. Marshal in Seattle and still later came out of retirement in Mill Creek to be interim chief of police while city officials sought a new chief.
His brother, Clark Kimerer, is a deputy Seattle police chief serving as the chief of staff overseeing the field support bureau, administrative section and the legal unit.
Scott Kimerer joined the King County Sheriff’s department at 21 and now in his 33rd, year, holds the rank of major. Burien contracts for its police service from King County and Kimerer is designated police chief and, as such, works for Burien City Manager Mike Martin.
All Burien officers are commissioned deputies who separately apply to be on the Burien force. When he hires a deputy for Burien, they must give a two-year commitment so they can learn the city and its priorities.
“I take direction from the city manager and City Council about what is important to them but they rely on my expertise and experience to know how to run the police department and what those priorities should be,” Kimerer says.
Despite the national concern over the illegal immigrant population, that is not considered an issue for the Burien officers. The Burien Police Department does not apprehend illegal aliens living in the area. It is not a priority or “even a function” of the department.
“Immigration status can be a useful tool for violent offenders that we have identified in the community,” he says. “But for the hard working families in Burien that may or may or may not be legal, that is not something we seek out or spend time enforcing.
“What we look for is that small percentage of people who are violent offenders – gang members for lack of a better identification,” the chief says. “They are the ones who are victimizing their culture – the decent citizens – and we can’t have that.”
Police do have a “cultural barrier with a lot of our diverse population that makes it difficult for us to get information that is necessary. They have had challenges in their own cultures dealing with the police. We are trying to break those down so they understand that we are helping people in the community. It becomes a challenge for us to deal with them, but they are not problematic, it’s just a challenge.”
Kimerer says the culturally diverse members of the community are a very small portion of Burien policing problems.
The bigger problem now is increasing burglary.
“It is the probably the most difficult crime to solve,” the chief says. “We do solve a great (number) of burglaries, but the unfortunate part is that a lot of people are victimized before we solve them. We can find one person, build a case against that person, most likely a juvenile, arrest them and prosecute them, but they may have victimized 20 or 30 people while we are doing that. That is 20 or 30 people who have had their life turned around because somebody broke into their house. Generally, one person is responsible for many burglaries, so by the time we catch them, our crime rate goes up.”
His department has not been weakened by the financial downturn because the Burien City Council has not cut the police budget.
Kimerer says he has 24 patrol officers, placing from four to six people at a time working the city’s streets. He still has four burglary detectives. Besides the six patrol officers on daytime streets, “I also have other units – I have burglary detectives out doing their cases, I have a special emphasis team and those people can be out,” he said.
The number of police on the city’s streets goes down at night and weekends, “but I could have anywhere from 10 to 12 people on the streets during the (week) day.”
Officers that are dedicated to the Burien Police Department, those who wear the Burien uniform or carry a Burien badge, stay in the city and only “very rarely” are they pulled out to do something outside the city. Sometimes they may be moved out for mutual aid agreements with other cities, but not often, he says.
“Burien gets a good benefit for what it is paying for policing,” he said. The city budgeted $9.8 million for 2011 and $10.1 million for 2012. He noted that while the King County Sheriff’s Department has experienced manpower and service cuts, Burien is paying for contracted service that remains at previous levels.
“Through all the economic difficulties of King County, Burien has done pretty well as far as maintaining levels of service in all areas,” the chief says, adding that about 50 percent of the Sheriff’s Department is under contract service to cities and other entities.
All the Burien officers are also sworn deputies in the King County Sheriff’s office but Kimerer selects each officer and hires them for the Burien department. Each must guarantee they will work in Burien for two years or more.
Other Sheriff’s officers in the region can always be called on to back up or cover a Burien problem, something other stand-alone police agencies cannot do without some difficulty, Kimerer says.
He says there are pockets in the city where gang violence and youth issues remain an issue. “It isn’t our biggest problem but it is a big concern.”
He says there are many benefits for Burien to be able to utilize the facilities of the King County department.
“There is a lot to be said for having a highly professional, well run, well established organization that you can draw resources from,” says Kimerer. “There are levels of expertise and experience that you are not necessarily going to get as your own police department because experienced people will gravitate to a major police agency.”
Kimerer, who lives in Edmonds (“it is not a bad commute”), has been coming to Burien for many years both a Sheriff’s officer and since as Burien chief.
He said he first came here when he was promoted to sergeant in the Sheriff’s department. He later left for a stint in the Metro Transit Police and returned to Burien when he was promoted to captain.
He was operations captain for the Southwest Precinct in Burien for about a year before becoming the interim chief and precinct commander when his predecessor retired.
The sheriff’s department was soon reorganized to make the Burien chief a fulltime job and shifted the precinct commander position to Sea-Tac where that person is also the chief of the Sea-Tac police department.