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Bart works to improve famous Forks police force
By Joe Smillie
Filling the role of Chief Charlie Swan is a tall task, especially when you have to completely rebuild the Forks Police Department.
After almost a year overseeing law enforcement, Police Administrator Rick Bart updated the Forks Chamber of Commerce on the strategic plan he and his officers have assembled for the future of policing Forks at its luncheon meeting June 26.
“When I first came in, we had two people, then one, and no time for any training,” Bart said.
In the time since, the department has added four officers to bring the roster to five with a sixth set for an interview with the city’s civil service commission.
He also helped craft new rules with the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs to prevent larger departments from “stealing” officers trained by smaller departments, as happened last year with an officer trained in Forks then hired by the Tukwila Police Department.
That, along with a focus on recruiting officers with local ties, should stabilize the Forks department’s stable, he said.
Perhaps more importantly, though, is to allow them to fire off bullets in regular training exercises.
“Make it fun for people to be here and they won’t leave,” he said.
Another effort Bart has made to stabilize the local force is to increase the level of community involvement.
He has set up a reserve officer program, created a sergeant rank to allow officers to advance, is starting a youth cadet program and has helped establish four official neighborhood watch programs.
Bart also has formed a citizen advisory board to oversee police operations.
“That’s great input. It really keeps us reality based and keeps us humble,” he said.
A former Snohomish County sheriff who specialized in fighting methamphetamine use, Bart said he is focusing on dealing with the hard drug problem in the West End.
“Heroin is really bad and it’s really bad here in Forks,” Bart said.
Perhaps his largest obstacle to connecting with the public may be his appearance.
Tall, with a clean-shaven head, Bart bears almost no resemblance to Billy Burke, the actor who famously played Chief Swan in the “Twilight” movies.
A recent visitor to the police department asked to meet with Chief Swan, only to be disappointed when she was greeted by Bart.
“I wish I could do something about that,” Bart said with a smile. “Because she was really disappointed in me.”